BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO
Arie Pavlou, a graduate of the Cordon Bleu culinary and hospitality school in Paris, shows off a giant chicken-of-the-woods mushroom he found in Wading River recently. He said the mushroom weighed 30 pounds before he cut it up and sauteed it for risotto.
Last spring, a “coming soon” sign appeared outside the Comtesse Therese Bistro in Aquebogue promising that the restaurant, which has been in the works for five years, would be opening shortly. But since then, the doors to the North Fork’s first restaurant to be operated by a local vineyard owner have remained closed and the kitchen empty.
The operators now say opening day, held up for years by red tape, really is right around the corner. And if all goes according to plan, the 28-seat restaurant and tasting room will open by mid-September.
“I kept having to say, ‘No, it’s not open,” said the restaurant’s owner and namesake, Theresa Dilworth. She is also proprietor of Le Clos Therese vineyard on Union Avenue in Aquebogue, a few miles down Main Road from the bistro, which occupies an 1830’s farmhouse Ms. Dilworth has spent years renovating. “It’s going to be so great to tell people, yes, the bistro is open,” she said.
Ms. Dilworth and her husband, Mineo Shimuri, first proposed the restaurant in 2005 and nearly gave up on the project several times, she said.
Ms. Dilworth said they are now working on the finishing touches while they await approval from the board of health. Inside the restaurant, cherrywood tables, made by Ms. Dilworth and chef Arie Pavlou themselves, lie unassembled among stacks of paintings and antique-style chairs still wrapped in plastic. The walls are painted, molding has been put in place and gold-trimmed mirrors adorn the interior.
Mr. Pavlou, a graduate of the Cordon Bleu in Paris, described the menu as French Mediterranean, with entrees made mostly with local ingredients. He said it will be moderately priced.
Among the menu offerings will be locally caught fish and game and herbs grown at Ms. Dilworth’s Mattituck home and outside the restaurant, he said. “We’re truly a local establishment,” Mr. Pavlou added.
The restaurant’s decor is European inspired, Ms. Dilworth said. “We want it to be a charming place. We have to make up for being small by being good.”
The owner said there will be an emphasis on pairing food with her locally grown and produced wines.
“It’s definitely a place where wine and food are equally important,” Ms. Dilworth said.
Mr. Pavlou said it was sipping Ms. Dilworth’s wine that inspired him to go into business with her. “The quality of her wines, I can still remember,” he said.
The restaurant will offer wines made from grapes grown at Ms. Dilworth’s vineyard, Le Clos ThÃ rÃ