North Fork Chocolate Company opens downtown sweets boutique in Riverhead

The sign on the front door says “chocolate,” but that’s hardly the full story of what’s behind the counter at 309 East Main Street in Riverhead.

North Fork Chocolate Company’s newest location, which opened Monday, is a chocoholic’s delight. Scores of elegant squares, ovals and hearts of chocolate with various flavor profiles and textures are on display. Chef and co-owner Steve Amaral said he and his team source local and natural ingredients to create their unique offerings that go far beyond standard milk, dark and white chocolates. Some items are spicy, others savory and even boozy, thanks to local wineries and breweries.

But Mr. Amaral is up to much more in the new shop than just the chocolate he introduced to North Forkers nearly a decade ago. The chocolate makers’ original Aquebogue location shuttered its doors this winter after eight years and split into two. The first of these new locations, which opened at 8700 Main Road in Mattituck Feb. 1, offers ice cream and a grilled cheese waffle in addition to chocolates, the Riverhead spot, which boasts a larger kitchen, features a vegetarian lunch menu, including salads, bowls and wraps.

Fans of the chocolatier’s original Aquebogue shop will recognize favorites such as the vegan rib burrito with mango BBQ sauce, the falafel salad bowl and the avocado toast made with freshly baked focaccia bread. But several selections, including the grain bowl with roasted veggies, dried cranberries and pecans and the hydro oak leaf lettuce salad featuring Mecox Farm aged cheddar, are completely new.

While they run the flavor gamut, some of the hot, fresh vegetarian eats boast their own sort of sweet. The buttermilk naan flatbread made from a sourdough culture enters the oven with camembert, gorgonzola, chopped pistachio, rosemary, garlic, olive oil and black pepper, then gets topped with parmigiana Reggiano and caramelized figs.

“I just found them in a store. I had never heard of them before and I thought I had seen everything,” Mr. Amaral said of the candy-like fruit. “They go good with gorgonzola because gorgonzola is salty.”

When he’s not wearing his apron in the kitchen, Mr. Amaral pursues other artistic passions, including painting and ice sculpting, and several of his creations now hang in his Riverhead chocolate shop.

Whereas cooking is now his livelihood, he said painting and sculpting offer him “complete freedom.”

“You don’t have to like it because it’s an expression of myself,” he said of his artwork. “Cooking is also an expression of yourself, it’s also an art form, but you can’t just keep cooking and throwing the food away.”

Now that he and co-owner Ann Corley have settled into their second area location, Mr. Amaral said the rest of Long Island is in their sights. “We’re thinking about doing one new space a year for the next five years,” he said.