When perfecting a piece of barbecued meat, Rich Gherardi says one component will make or break a rack of baby back ribs or beef brisket — and it’s not the barbecue sauce or meat rub.
“When it comes to barbecue, to get the meat right, it’s all about temperature,” the owner of the new Cody’s BBQ and Grill on East Main Street in Riverhead said, just minutes before the restaurant was set to officially open Thursday.
Mr. Gherardi and his staff learned how to cook barbecue meats properly as well as barbecue sauce and rub recipes from Konrad Haskins of the BBQ Institute. Mr. Haskins travels the country teaching restaurant owners and amateurs the proper way to barbecue meats. But don’t refer to him as a consultant or chef, he goes by “pitmaster,” a title Mr. Gherardi and his staff can now claim.
Inside the new 140-seat downtown eatery, it’s hard to imagine that less than a year ago it housed the trouble-plagued Casa Rica restaurant and sports bar which shut down last year after it forfeited its liquor license.
“I couldn’t get rid of them,” Mr. Gherardi said of his former tenants.
Now the restaurant’s walls are adorned with cowboy and cowgirl murals, cacti and steer horns, giving it an authentic southwestern feel.
But Mr. Gherardi is also hoping to make it a sports pub with 10 flat screen televisions and beers like Pabst Blue Ribbon and Blue Moon on tap. The servers wear T-shirts and jeans and patrons will be listening to country music most days.
Mr. Gherardi also hopes to clear out a section of tables and host the restaurant’s first line dancing class Aug. 20.
He said the atmosphere will be one of the biggest draws to the new eatery.
“You can’t just make it on food these days,” said Mr. Gherardi, who previously ran Michael’s at the Boardwalk in the same location. He also owns Michael’s at Maidstone Park in Springs.
That’s not to say the food won’t stand on its own.
The new smoker can cook up to 110 racks of ribs at a time, Mr. Gherardi said. And after the visit from Mr. Haskins of the BBQ Institute, it seems the people in the kitchen know what they’re doing.
“It was like night and day how we were able to get [the smoker] to perform,” Mr. Gherardi said of Mr. Haskins’ tutorial.
The recipes and tutorial on how and when to apply meat rubs was also invaluable, the employees said
“It’s being incorporated in everything we put out,” said chef Bobby Sladky.
For chef Pete Tamburello, learning to “keep the meat moist” made all the difference.
Most entrees are in the $12 to $28 range and include traditional barbecue fare — pulled pork, St. Louis ribs and beef brisket are just a few of the selections. Some of those meats can cook for as long as 12 hours in the smoker, Mr. Gherardi said.
Homemade sauces will also be available for purchase for $7 a bottle. The restaurant will be open from 4 p.m. until 12 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday.