It’s friends and family night at PeraBell Food Bar East in Riverhead, which is still more than two weeks away from its grand opening, and co-owner John Peragine is manning the 7,000 pound pizza oven imported from Naples, Italy.
He has agreed to an interview, but before he can talk about the new eatery, one of Riverhead’s most-anticipated of 2015, he has to feed a very important customer.
“One second,” he says, as he lays out three slices of thin crust pizza for his mother, Julia.
Peragine, who along with one of his other partners Scott Campbell own both this location and PeraBell’s flagship Patchogue eatery (the moniker is a portmanteau of their last names), thinks downtown Riverhead is on the cusp of something great.
“When we started in Patchogue in , it had the same exact feeling,” Peragine said on Friday night. “They had the infrastructure. It was the right time. Two years later, it blew up.”
Two other new downtown restaurants, the Mediterreanean-themed Mazi as well as nearby Sonoma, are also expected to open soon. The new synergy among the three restaurants could provide an infusion of foot traffic and help ignite a vibrant nightlife that many in Riverhead have been hoping for.
“You’ve got a beautiful Main Street, a beautiful river,” Peragine said. “And there’s a good mixture of food in Riverhead.”
The interior of PeraBell, which was most recently Cody’s BBQ, has been totally revamped.
The walls have been painted a dark gray and reclaimed wood made by an Amish builder rims the entry ways and windows. The wall behind the bar is exposed brick and the lighting is minimal, giving it that popular urban industrial feel. A high-backed bench lines one wall in the dining room and several booths run along the other. Chalkboards advertise the specials.
The food served on Friday night, included several pies from the pizza oven — among them a four-cheese mushroom truffle and a clam pie — as well as sliders and tuna tartare.
“Our cuisine is American, definitely, but we’re all over the place,” Peragine said. “We don’t have any limits.”
Expect dishes that range from Italian- to- French- to- Asian-inspired, he said.
The beers on tap included many Long Island brews, including offerings form Crooked Ladder Brewing Co. and Long Ireland Beer Co. Expect several Long Island wines on the wine list, including Raphael’s merlot and chardeaux white blend.
The menu will be similar to the Patchogue location, which features inventive appetizers and a wide variety of entrees, many of which cost about $20 or less.
But those items served in Riverhead will have a North Fork flavor, of course.
“The specials are going to have more of a farm-to-table feel,” said Jim Klein, who was the chef at PeraBell in Patchogue and will now helm the kitchen in Riverhead.
As for the other new restaurants about to open in Riverhead, Peragine doesn’t consider the new businesses to be competition. Instead he’s hoping for a scene where restaurants can feed off of one another’s overflow.
“That’s how we did it in Patchogue,” he said. “The more the merrier.”
Expect a grand opening after July 4, he said.
See photos of the inside of the restaurant and its food on northforker.com.