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Health Care, Tech Growth Should Steer Long Island Economy In 2020, Experts Say

Hauppauge Industrial Association President Terri Alessi-Miceli addresses the 26th Annual Economic Summit on Feb. 12, 2020 as panelists look on.

Despite a few bumps, Long Island’s economy is doing well and should continue its smooth sailing through the end of this year, thanks in large part to growing health care and technology sectors, according to a panel of local business leaders. 

That was the consensus among panelists at the Hauppauge Industrial Association’s 26th Annual Economic Summit, which brought together more than 150 members of LI’s business community to discuss issues including the housing market, job growth, confidence ratings on Wednesday, when audit and tax firm AVZ also released its 2020 Economic Survey and Opinion Poll.

“Overall, I’m optimistic and I feel very good about the commercial and residential real estate markets on LI,” said Jim Coughlan, a principal at Tritec Real Estate, who stressed that mixed-use developments are a large part of the future on LI. But, he cautioned, “Big houses and taxes will be a challenge for many.” 

He stressed the need to provide housing choices that people want at all ages and that includes increased development of downtowns such as Farmingdale and Patchogue, that are attractive to both Millennials and seniors. 

As far as jobs and future job growth on the island, forum moderator Bob Quarte, managing partner at AVZ & Company and past HIA-LI president, noted that “by 2030, 1 of every 3 jobs nationwide will be remote.”

“Younger workers, especially Millennials, are generally looking for more of a work-life balance, with more flexible schedules and more free time,” he said. 

Among the highlights from the AVZ survey were that in addition to the health care and technology sectors showing the greatest growth potential, overall confidence in the LI economy dipped from 7.2 in 2018 to 6.8 in 2019. Confidence in the national economy also dipped from 7.5 in 2018 to 7.2 in 2019, despite strong economic indicators such as record low unemployment, a robust stock market, and increases in hourly wages. 

Rich Humann, president and CEO of H2M Architects + Engineers, spoke to how the technology sector plays a role.

“We’re still in an employee-centered labor market,” he said, noting that employees have an upper-hand due to a continued low unemployment rate near three percent, according to the New York State Department of Labor.  

His firm has nearly 300 remote employees, mainly due to physical space constraints at H2M’s offices in New York and New Jersey. 

Speaking to the island’s continued surge in health care jobs was Janine Logan, director of communications for the Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council. 

“Right now, 18 percent of the population on LI is 65-plus and that means that varied types of home care, wellness, and preventive care will continue to be viable areas of employment,” said Logan. 

She added that many jobs in health care don’t require degrees and can be obtained through training and/or certificates programs. Both Quarte and Logan also stressed the ever-increasing need for mental health/addiction treatment and geriatric specialist jobs. 

“Mental health is a growing issue in health care,” said Quarte, citing increasing suicide rates. 

Logan agreed, saying that jobs in mental health and addiction will continue to be in high demand. 

“Is going to college for everyone?” Quarte asked. “What about trade schools?”

Dr. John Nader, President of Farmingdale State College, said, “Not everyone needs a college degree, but everyone needs and education.” 

He spoke about the ranges of varied programs available at Farmingdale from engineering degrees to certificate programs. 

“There are many options to traditional degrees and more students are looking at micro credentials, like mini-degrees or certifications in specific topic areas or varied certificate programs in areas such as technology, criminal justice, or health care,” he said.

Other highlights from AVZ’s survey included findings that 43 percent of firms on LI had no issues finding skilled workers, 46 percent of firms increased their headcount;, 20 percent of firms gave salary increases of five to nine percent, more than 70 percent of those surveyed plan on working either full or part-time after they retired.

Herb and Olive Marketa: Freshest In Manhasset

L. to R.: George Vatakis and Julia Petropoulos recently opened Herb and Olive Marketa in Manhasset. (Photo by Tab Hauser)

Julia Petropoulos, who has skillfully recreated an authentic market-café for all lovers of Mediterranean food at her recently opened Herb and Olive Marketa in Manhasset, traces her earliest culinary inspiration to another chef named Julia.

“Since about age 5, I had a love of cooking that I picked up from watching Julia Child on TV with my grandmother Rose,” Petropoulos recalls. “I had always wanted to have my own business and owning my own restaurant was an end goal since I was young.”

Growing up in Philadelphia, Petropoulos says she started in the restaurant business by working in her parent’s restaurants and learning the ropes. When she graduated high school, Petropoulos was accepted to the Culinary Arts Institute but at her parents’ urging, opted instead for a degree in education from Drexel University. She then combined her background and education by teaching culinary arts at a high school outside of Philadelphia for five years. 

“I had several students that went on to have careers in the restaurant business and I stay in touch with many of them to this day,” she says.

Herb and Olive began to take shape after Petropoulos’ husband got a lucrative job offer in Greece, where she would live for another five  years. While living in Greece, Petropoulos brainstormed and did a lot of research on various products while formulating what type of restaurant she would eventually open. 

When she and her husband moved back to New York, they settled in Manhasset. Two years ago, things began to fall into place when the current location, formerly the Greek tavern Mykonos, became available. Petropoulos, along with her business partner George Vatakis, agreed that the Plandome Road spot was perfect. 

Herb and Olive Marketa, which opened in October, is a unique market-café concept with high ceilings, white brick, and reclaimed wood from upstate New York. The venue features a full-service specialty Mediterranean foods market in front and café in the back that sources its ingredients directly from the market. 

“Everything is being cross-utilized from the oils and nuts to the fruits,” says Petropoulos, who describes her venue as “a neighborhood place where people can come to buy all their Greek products from olives, oils and fresh deli to produce, coffee, jams, pastas, and legumes.” 

She also believes in sourcing as many organic products as possible, such as free-range chickens and eggs from a local farm in Lancaster, Penn. 

Petropoulos created Herb and Olive’s tapas- and small-plate-focused menu, but also shares cooking duties with executive chef Michael Giannakis, whose resume boasts head chef spots with the New York Islanders and Barclay Center’s 40/40 Club in addition to Manhattan restaurants Avra and Rao’s. 

The Marketa’s specialties include grilled lamb chops, shrimp, octopus, spinach pie, and loukaniko, an orange-scented Greek sausage. Also available are from-scratch desserts such as loukoumades (Greek fried dough), baklava, and assorted pastries. 

Petropoulos says she is “truly blessed” to have been able to open her dream store. She is also grateful that the local community has welcomed her with open arms.

“We haven’t even advertised yet,” she says. “We’re all word-of-mouth at this point … But, so far, so good.”

Herb and Olive Marketa is located at 172 Plandome Road in Manhasset. It can be reached at 516-439-5421 or herbandolive.com

Mykonos Restaurant Serves Up Great Greek Cuisine

Chef Nick Neophytou preps falafel for his hungry customers at Mykonos Restaurant in Smithtown. (Photo by Matthew Kropp)

The story of Mykonos Restaurant in Smithtown is not simply about standout Greek cuisine. It’s also a quintessential tale of an immigrant coming to the U.S. in search of a better life. 

Nick Neophytou, the owner and head chef of Mykonos, didn’t have cooking in mind as a career when he first came to the U.S. from Cyprus in 1985. He had hoped to study at Hofstra University, but that plan would not come to fruition because he didn’t have the tuition money.  

“When I first came here [to the U.S.], I didn’t know about cooking,” Neophytou says. “In Greece, I was an electrician and I also worked with a shipping company. But the shipping company job was very hard.” 

In need of work, Neophytou, who came to America with little more than $30 in his pocket, says he sought out Greek-owned businesses, and Long Island diners were a logical choice. 

He began his restaurant career at the Peter Pan Diner in Bay Shore as a busboy. And, after only about six months, the owner saw his strong work ethic and asked him to get some experience in the kitchen. 

“I began slowly making diner staples like burgers and wraps,” he recalls. 

It turned out the kitchen was Neophytou’s forte and he would become the Peter Pan’s head cook for the next nine years. From there, he went to the California Diner in Patchogue, also as a cook. He would also cook in two more now-defunct diners — the Empress Diner in East Meadow and The Syosset Diner — before realizing his American dream of opening his own business. 

Mykonos Restaurant opened In Smithtown in 1993 after Neophytou purchased the small but struggling eatery from another Greek immigrant. 

“One of my meat suppliers had told me of this place that wasn’t doing well and I decided to go see it,” he recalls. “I ended up borrowing money from relatives and bought the place for $60,000.” 

Neophytou recalls that the early days of his restaurant were tough times. 

“I had just bought a house in East Islip and my wife was pregnant,” he says. “Seven days per week, I was doing everything…from cooking to waiting on and clearing tables. It wasn’t easy.” 

However, following several years of struggles and numerous renovations, the restaurant has been slowly and steadily increasing its business and building a loyal customer base. 

He now employs six people working in the kitchen as well as a hostess and waitresses.  

“My customers really enjoy my homemade food that is all made from scratch daily,” he says, adding that he sources his ingredients from various suppliers from across Long Island.  

Some of the restaurant’s most popular dishes include gyros, souvlaki, spinach pie, Greek chicken, fresh octopus, and lamb chops, as well as homemade desserts including baklava and rice pudding. 

Reflecting on his journey from Cyprus to the U.S., Neophytou, now 56, stresses the importance of having the support of his wife, Linda, whom he met early on while working at Peter Pan Diner. 

“I couldn’t have gotten to where I am today without my wife,” he says. “She kept me going even when I felt like giving up.”

Mykonos Restaurant is located at 45 Route 111 in Smithtown.  It can be reached at 631-979-2000 or mykonossmithtown.com

Azerbaijan Grill: Divine Persian Cuisine

When Azerbaijan Grill, a restaurant serving Turkish and Persian fare in Westbury, first opened in 2005, many people in the area knew little about this style of Mediterranean cuisine. 

Chef Sammy, who owns the eatery and asked that his last name not be used, just started cooking and slowly built a customer base, he recalls. As it turns out, his eclectic menu has staying power.

“Mediterranean food has a language all its own, and that should be apparent to the diner,” he says.“I’ve always made a point of bringing a unique style to the food I cook.”

After coming to the U.S. in 1999 from Azerbaijan, a country located north of Iran and south of Russia, where people speak a variation of the Persian, Sammy recalls working at a variety of part-time jobs in the restaurant business, including waiting tables and later as a line cook.

“I worked at a Persian/Afghani restaurant in Flushing and also at a now-closed restaurant in Roslyn Heights, where I prepared various dishes and really started to learn the craft of cooking,” he recalls. 

But, it wasn’t until after he finished-up a stint working at Aladdin in Syosset in 2005 that Sammy knew he was ready to strike out on his own by making a “modest” investment and taking over the then-foundering Turkan Café in Westbury. 

“Much of my education about the restaurant business was not so much cooking but observing and studying other restaurants’ operations to see what works and what doesn’t,” he says. “I try as much as possible to apply positive approaches to my own place.” 

Part of that unique style includes cooking-up traditional Persian and Turkish favorites such as boneless chicken kebab, marinated with lemon and grilled on an open fire or jujeh kebab, cornish hen marinated with lemon and zaffran.

Other favorites include lamb shish kebab, vegetable mousakka (vegan style), baba ghanouj, smooth roasted eggplant spread, whole branzino, a Mediterranean fish in lemon-garlic sauce as well as flaky, light spinach pie

Asked about his experience in the kitchen, Sammy revealed that back in his native Azerbaijan, he never cooked, but that he was always an enthusiastic and adventurous diner who enjoyed sampling new cuisines. 

“The concept of a good restaurant is supposed to be the cooking and not just taking food, heating it and serving it to people,” he says, noting that he “dislikes frozen food that isn’t prepared from scratch.” 

He adds that he personally oversees the from-scratch preparation of everything Azerbaijan serves from the grilled fish and kebabs to the hummus, eggplants and traditional desserts such as baklava and Persian ice cream. 

Although Sammy enjoys a variety of different cuisines, he says that still enjoys Mediterranean cuisine best as it can “be eaten seven days per week and you will never tire of it.” 

Looking forward, Sammy says he has his sights set on expansion.

“At some point soon, I would like to expand and open another restaurant here on Long Island,” he says. “Ideally, I would like to do an open-air, backyard style, Mediterranean restaurant along the lines of Greek cafes, such as Oasis in Flushing. But, not just yet. That is a project that is still on the horizon.”

Azerbaijan Grill is located at 1610 Old Country Road, Westbury. It can be reached at 516-228-0001 or azerbaijangrill.com

Chef Matthew Boudreau Brings New American Dining to Riverhead

Chef Matty Boudreau is an award-winning barbecue competitor and new American menu creator.

Ask many people about coffee cake, and it will likely hold little more importance than a dessert they may favor, or perhaps not. 

But for Matthew Boudreau, the current executive chef at the Preston House & Hotel in Riverhead, it helped launch his diverse and accomplished culinary career. 

“I can remember my grandmother Edith was a great baker and she made this fantastic coffee cake … and the smells used to just fill the house,” he recalls.  “That coffee cake is now on the menu at the Preston House.”

Boudreau’s now signature coffee cake is part of the elevated-yet-approachable dining experience that Preston House owner Joseph Petrocelli envisioned when he hired Boudreau as the boutique hotel-restaurant’s executive chef last year. 

The chic farm-to-table New American-style restaurant seats 88, or 160 including al fresco in warmer months. The 20-room, five-story hotel located directly behind the restaurant features studios and suites that offer intimate service. The property built in 1905 was once the home of Henry Preston, the first salaried Suffolk County sheriff.

Other staples at the Preston House include a nice piece of fish, surrounded by quinoa, roasted fennel and local tomatoes; organic roasted chicken, done in an ancho-honey glaze with baby carrots and my summer chana, Boudreau’s take on the classic Indian dish Chana Masala, sans tomatoes and with accents on braised garbanzos and vegetables. 

“My philosophy is to give people a new experience in an area that really is starting to come into its own,” says Boudreau, 41, who resides in Sag Harbor. Boudreau says that something akin to a “renaissance” is now happening in Riverhead, similar to changes that took place in Patchogue in the last several years with its resurgent downtown. 

“People all over are eating healthy and I strive to make healthier, trendier dishes with more vegetables,” he adds, pointing to his summer chana as a shining example. 

Looking back, Boudreau points fondly to his days working alongside his dad outside Fenway Park in Boston, selling sausages. 

“I was only 8 years old and I can remember selling those sausages and barking at the fans to get sales going,” he recalls.  

Selling those sausages would ultimately pay off, leading Boudreau to a career with more than 20 years’ experience working in kitchens from Los Angeles to London, getting an early start in the culinary world at age 14. 

By age 20, he was already working as a sous chef. 

And, while Boudreau never attended formal culinary school classes, he had the benefit of learning on-the-job while working at Café Max in Memphis, Tenn., from two established chefs who had attended the Culinary Institute of America. 

“It was both a great education ‘cooking the book’ without incurring the debt that attending school usually brings,” he says.  

Boudreau’s diverse background as a chef includes working as a part of the opening staff at top New York City venue Balthazar, which morphed into a gig as one of the company’s corporate chefs traveling between Miami, Los Angeles, and New York City. 

Working in Europe, Boudreau joined the Formula One culinary team as a personal chef. 

During his time living in London, Boudreau was tapped by Chef Anton Edelmann to take over his new restaurant Cru, which focused on now-trendy farm-to-table fare and small plates.

As an avid fan who considers barbecue “near and dear” to his heart, Boudreau competes regularly in contests in Memphis. 

“I have a large network of people I converse with down in Memphis and they’re all big fans of barbecue,” he says.

Boudreau also recently won a Dan’s Taste of Summer GrillHampton event in the Hamptons for the third year in a row. 

“The event lets chefs showcase their barbecue skills and we can really cook.” 

That award-winning approach inspires Preston House’s ingredient-driven and flavorful fare that takes a balanced and traditional approach to food. And the charming ambiance of the historic locale is just gravy.

Says executive director Jennifer Petrocelli, “We’re happy to be part of the revitalization of downtown Riverhead.” 

The Preston House & Hotel is located at 428 East Main Street in Riverhead. It can be reached at 631-775-1500 (hotel) and 631-775-1550 (restaurant) or theprestonhouseandhotel.com 

Chef Thomas Rougey: A Perfect Landing

Chef Thomas Rougey outside The Landing in Ocean Beach, the closest restaurant to the ferry terminal.

Chef Thomas Rougey’s path to becoming the executive chef at The Landing in Ocean Beach is anything but typical. 

For starters, unlike many chefs who begin their career at culinary school, Rougey, now 32, learned working at his father’s restaurant, Emerson’s in Babylon, when he was just 18. 

“I learned to cook on the job, while cooking for my dad in his restaurant,” he recalls. “That was my training…I didn’t go to any fancy culinary school.” 

However, Rougey likely had a leg up on other chefs anyway, coming from a country known for its fine cuisine. 

Born and raised in France, Rougey, who came to the U.S. in 1998, says he is a third-generation chef who progressed from a pantry line cook to a sous chef. He finally landed the role of executive chef at several venues including East Hampton Point Restaurant and Hotel, Verace in Islip, and True American Kitchen in Mineola. 

Rougey, who originally planned to be a computer programmer, says that he doesn’t regret not going to culinary school. 

“My on-the-job training was definitely better than going to a culinary school, I mean, I moved up the ranks in the kitchen quickly,” he recalls. He mainly used skills he learned early on. “Cooking, for me, was a natural thing. It was in my blood, even though I didn’t realize it until I was doing it daily.”

Calling cooking “too hard a job to not love,” he says that, fortunately, once you can navigate one kitchen, you can figure out the rest. 

“The various systems of cooking in the kitchen change little from restaurant to restaurant…only the atmosphere and size of staff…large kitchens just have more hands to control,” he says. 

As executive chef of The Landing for the past year and a half, Rougey has helped to rework the venue’s menu a bit, keeping the spot’s seafood staples such as calamari and sushi but adding a French flair. 

Rougey says he’s generated good buzz with specialties such as surf and turf, a homemade turkey burger, and from-scratch pastas that he learned to make growing up in Nice, France, which is only about 30 minutes from Italy.  

Patrons of The Landing also seem pleased with Rougey’s light-style French cuisine. 

Belinda Rubino wrote on Facebook that the “surf and turf, the sushi, beet salad, and a white Cheddar, applewood smoked bacon burger were all prepared to everyone’s delight. Executive Chef Thomas Rougey satisfied my restrictive [gluten-free] vegan dietary needs with great flare, by serving a perfectly cooked crispy skinned salmon entree, delicate asparagus and miniature zucchini sauteed in olive oil.”

Rougey, who enjoys the laid-back atmosphere of Ocean Beach also says that working in the U.S. compares favorably with his native France. 

“Work-wise, I like the U.S. better for opportunities than France,” he explains. “I like the way the U.S. handles business. People seem to be hungrier to work here.” 

The Landing at Ocean Beach is located at 620 Bay Walk in Ocean Beach. It can be reached at 631-583-5800 or thelandingob.com

Chef Jeff Manzullo of Tiki Joe’s Captain’s Table: Top Seafood Chef

Jeff Manzullo is head chef at the newly opened Tiki Joe’s Captain’s Table at Captree Boat Basin. (Photo by Jennifer A. Uihlein)

Jeff Manzullo, currently head chef at the newly opened Tiki Joe’s Captain’s Table at Captree Boat Basin is no stranger to cooking up some of the tastiest seafood on Long Island.

Saying that cooking is “in his blood,” Manzullo, 57, has been navigating hot stoves and busy kitchens for the better of three decades since graduating from top culinary school Johnson & Wales in Providence, Rhode Island in 1982, four years after celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse graduated. Recalling his early days as a chef, Manzullo jokes that he had originally planned to be a marine biologist but then learned there was little money in the profession, so he decided to change things up.

“I went from studying fish to cooking them,” he says.

Manzullo once appeared as a contestant on the cooking show Top Chef many years back. He recalls that his grandfather was also once a sous chef at the New York City landmark Waldorf Astoria Hotel back in the 1930s. 

Over the years, Manzullo says, he has cooked at a number of restaurants across the country, including a few in the Florida Panhandle, before coming to Long Island where he owned and ran his own restaurant, Mulligan’s in Hampton Bays, from 197 to 2003. That, he says, was before rising rents in the now super trendy Hamptons forced him to close.

Ironically, Mulligan’s was primarily a popular burger spot. He recalls routinely going through up to 900 pounds of chopped meat per week.

Manzullo also spent considerable time crafting cuisine at other notable Long Island restaurants including Morgan’s Beach House Restaurant in Patchogue, Mickey Felice’s Steakhouse, also in Patchogue, Long Island National Golf Club in Riverhead, and Larry’s Crab House in East Moriches. 

Asked about his start in cooking, Manzullo nonchalantly says he kind of “stumbled” into cooking despite the fact that he was always very good at preparing food.

“I didn’t picture myself sitting behind a desk…I have a hard time sitting still as it is,” he explains, describing his frenetic, always-on-the-go style of cooking. 

“This is a good business for me because there’s always something exciting going on,” Manzullo says. He notes that he’s had his share of crossed paths with notables and dignitaries alike, including cooking at one time for LI radio personality WBAB-FM’s Bob Buchmann and his Jukebox Café as well as cooking for former President Gerald Ford.

Manzullo’s current focus is helping Tiki Joe’s Beach Club visitors to discover the joys of quality yet moderately priced seafood at the just-opened Captain’s Table restaurant upstairs at Tiki Joe’s Captree Boat Basin. The restaurant is on the former site of Captree Cove.

The mostly seafood menu at the Captain’s Table was a joint effort between Manzullo and his boss Joe Vitrano, president and CEO of J&B Restaurant Partners, which owns Tiki Joe’s Captain’s Table in Bay Shore as well as a number of other Tiki Joe’s concessions across LI, including Smith Point, Cedar Beach, and Cupsogue parks, in addition to a number of Friendly’s locations.

The reasonably priced menu, which features only a couple of items topping $20, includes standards such as calamari, baked clams ( which Vitrano says are “likely the best baked clams you’ll ever have”), mussels, clams on the half shell, marinated flat-iron steak, mahi-mahi, and lobster ravioli.   

Manzullo’s specialties include puttanesca mussels, and a popular Tiki Joe’s favorite, a lobster salad roll, will soon make its seasonal debut.

And as a student of marine biology, Manzullo ensures the fish is always as fresh as those coming in off the boats at the pier just outside the restaurant. He wouldn’t have it any other way.

Tiki Joe’s Captain’s Table is open daily for lunch and dinner from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.. It is located at 3500 East Ocean Parkway, Babylon. It can be reached at 631-333-1781 or tikijoesbeachclub.com

 

 

For Piccolo Cantina Bay’s Chef Jose Morales, The American Dream is His Spice

Chef Jose Morales

For Chef Jose Morales, the head chef at Piccolo Cantina Bay in Bayville, the American Dream is alive and well.

Now 63, Morales, who was born in El Salvador and grew up in Mexico, says he crossed the border illegally in 1979, settling in Texas for three years before moving to New York in 1981.

“I love this country; it opened its doors to me many years ago and allowed me to live my American Dream,” says Morales, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen before perfecting the art of cooking both authentic Mexican and Italian cuisines.

Morales recalls that originally his plan was to become an architect and design buildings, but after tasting his first Italian meal in the states more than 35 years ago, he decided to design meals instead.

“I fell in love with cooking,” he says. “To me, being a cook is like being an artist…you have to do it with your heart.”

Morales explains that before perfecting his craft at the Culinary Institute of America in Manhattan, like many other chefs, he started at the bottom, washing dishes and working his way up, cooking at various Mexican and Italian restaurants throughout New York, including Chateau Madrid in Manhattan.

He also worked at various venues in Nassau County before opening his first restaurant in 1991 in Jericho. That led to several others on Long Island including Café Jalisco in Glen Cove and Marcello’s Café in Bellmore.

In 2007, Morales opened La Cantina Bay with his family in Locust Valley to strong local reviews of the venue’s Mexican and Italian specialties. Piccolo Cantina Bay in Bayville is the most current version of the restaurant, which moved only a few blocks away.

Some of Morales’ authentic Mexican and Italian specialties include Spanish paella, pork chops, fajitas, chicken francese, and mussels Luciano.

Customers seem to think highly of Chef Morales and his cooking.

The food is to die for,” Nick Carbuto wrote on the restaurant’s Facebook page. “Couldn’t decide from a well-stocked menu. My wife and I chose from the specials for the day, stuffed pork chop and grilled swordfish! Out of this world! One would think that two genres of food can’t both be done well.”

Morales notes that the patrons in this part of town have good taste.

“We’re in a very good neighborhood and we have appreciative customers,” says Morales, who has nearly his entire family involved in the restaurant including his wife Elvia, his daughters, and his son. “Starting a family business is a good idea…it’s one thing that I would recommend to anyone thinking of starting a business: Do it with family.”

Morales, who volunteers his time helping local seniors in his area with errands, stresses that he is thankful for the opportunities he’s been given in life.

“I came here with dreams and ambitions and America opened its doors for me,” he says. “I am a proud immigrant and I’m thankful for the opportunity this country has given to me.”

Piccolo Cantina Bay is located at 18 a Bayville Ave. in Bayville. It can be reached at 516-802-3001.

 

Chef Michael Meehan: Making Culinary Music

Photo by Ron Ulip

Award-winning Long Island chef and musician Michael Meehan must be a big believer in the theory of inertia that states that objects in motion tends to stay in motion.

Meehan, 60, is the chef/partner at farm-to-table restaurant River Road American Bistro in Oyster Bay, a chef/partner at barbecue restaurant Radio Radio in downtown Huntington and also chef at neighboring Vauxhall, also in Huntington, which Meehan describes as a Brooklyn-style, punk rock burger bar.

“Three years ago,” Meehan says, “I connected with the partners of Vauxhall and we developed the two restaurant concepts now next to each other in Huntington.”

And, as if that wasn’t enough, he somehow finds time “at least once each month” to play local gigs with his band the Lucky Ones, described as alt-country and roots rock. Critics have compared Meehan’s music to that of Warren Zevon — not exactly shabby company.

They’ve played at venues such as the Founder’s Room at the Paramount and Rockwood Music Hall in NYC as well as festivals including Huntington Fall Fest and an upcoming appearance at The Sayville Summer Fest this August.  

But first and foremost is Meehan’s stellar 30-plus year career in the restaurant business, highlighted by not only his current three venues but also his past involvement running unique and upscale spots including Mill River Inn (on the current site of River Road), Tupelo Honey in Sea Cliff, Veritage in Rockville Centre, and Clearwater in Massapequa.

Meehan’s glowing reviews include being called “one of the region’s super chefs” by The New York Times’ Joanne Starkey and a “stellar chef” by Newsday’s Peter Gianotti. He was also named a Rising Star Chef by the James Beard Foundation.

He has worked with a handful of other restaurants including Coyote Grill in Island Park, Lori in Southampton, and H20 Seafood Grill in Smithtown.

Born in El Paso, Texas, Meehan grew up on Long Island before honing his culinary craft in California and Alaska.

He humbly recalls having learned to cook “in the field,” after traveling in his 20s, working in Lake Tahoe’s Northstar Resort, while making his way through the ranks first as a dishwasher and then finally to a cook.

Meehan recalls cooking and training in Manhattan before opening Mill River Inn in Oyster Bay and then later Tupelo Honey in Sea Cliff, earning three stars from The Times.

He adds that he was very influenced by his travels in the south, particularly North Carolina and Nashville, which makes sense when he describes the fare at Radio Radio to be more influenced by Nashville (fried green tomatoes, chicken biscuits, shrimp and grits) and Memphis (dry-rubbed smoked BBQ).”

Meehan explains that Vauxhall’s owners (including himself) are all musicians who have played in bands and toured, with the name Vauxhall owing to a Morrissey album.

Signature dishes there include a new Cubano Burger with smoked pulled pork, ham, creole mustard and pickles, and a Lobster Pretzel Roll.

Radio Radio, named after an Elvis Costello song, is what Meehan calls a Southern-New American bistro with smoked meats as well as vegan offerings.

Typical dishes include Nashville-style hot chicken with creamy slaw and bread and butter pickles and Bistro Salad with dried peaches, candied pecans, goat cheese, and sherry mustard dressing.

At River Road, one might encounter seasonal Long Island seafood such as char-grilled Pine Island oysters with tomato absinthe butter or local sea bass with wheat berries, roast vegetables and carrot-yuzu broth as well as local beverages and products from Brooklyn to Montauk. 

Meehan, who seems to have little downtime, says he currently splits time between his two restaurants in Huntington and River Road in Oyster Bay.  

He adds, “But we are working on spring menu changes for Vauxhall and Radio Radio, so I will be there a lot more starting in April.”

River Road American Bistro, Oyster Bay, 160 Mill River Rd., Oyster Bay, 516-802-5661, riverroadoysterbay.com

Vauxhall, 26 Clinton Ave., Huntington, 631-425-0222, vauxhallhuntington.com

Radio Radio, 24 Clinton Ave., Huntington, 631-923-2622, radioradiohuntington.com

New Mobile Recovery Unit Removes Treatment Barriers

Supporters checked out the new Mobile Recovery Unit at its unveiling. (Photo by Ed Shin)

Nassau County has a new weapon in the war on opioids

In the ongoing fight against opioid addiction on Long Island, many addiction experts say that barriers to effective treatment, such as lack of transportation, money, or health insurance, can be as daunting as the drugs themselves. But Nassau residents now have a new alternative for treatment thanks to Hicksville-based CN Guidance & Counseling Services, which recently introduced a new mobile recovery unit that will offer treatment services for heroin and opiate addiction to individuals throughout the county. 

“Many people are not able to travel to receive the help that they need for addiction,” Arlene González-Sánchez, commissioner of the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, said at a recent press conference introducing the new mobile recovery unit. 

The unit, funded by a state grant, aims to bring treatment directly to addicts, and will utilize a registered nurse, a case worker, and two clinicians equipped with telepsychiatry equipment to connect patients with doctors at CN Guidance & Counseling Services’ headquarters.  

Officials at CN (Central Nassau) Guidance said the mobile team will provide real-time interaction and an appropriate level of pre-engagement, engagement, and treatment in a private environment.

“Aggressively training community members to administer Narcan and mounting a large-scale prevention/treatment campaign have helped curb the number of overdoses we have seen in 2018,” said Jeffrey Friedman, CEO of CN Guidance & Counseling Services.

He added that “every day our phones are ringing off the hook from individuals and families seeking treatment.”

Friedman said that in the last two years alone, more than 1,000 Long Islanders have died from the opioid crisis, and demand for the organization’s services has increased to 7,000 residents from 2,000 only five years ago.

According to the Suffolk County November 9, 2018 meeting minutes of the Suffolk County Legislature’s Heroin and Opiate Epidemic Advisory Panel, top communities for overdoses have remained constant and include Coram, Shirley, West Babylon, Centereach, and Medford.

In Nassau County, CN Guidance named Massapequa, Levittown, East Meadow and Oceanside as opiate hot spots.  

CN Counseling client Thomas Ingenito, 23, of East Meadow, said he used various drugs including crack, heroin and Zanax before finally getting clean following a short jail term in the Nassau County Correctional Center.

“Too often, addicts are disregarded,” he said, at the debut of the mobile recovery unit. “This will help lots of people get treatment,” he added, explaining that many people lack transportation or don’t have insurance to cover proper treatment.

The mobile unit will provide treatment regardless of an individual’s ability to pay.

“A mobile recovery unit would be a powerful tool to help increase access and reduce barriers to care,” says Dr. David Neubert, an emergency department physician at NYU Winthrop Hospital in Mineola who has led free Narcan training and also oversees opioid overdose prevention programs for the Town of Hempstead. “While our emergency department is always available to provide emergent care for those affected by opioid-related illnesses, mobile units will provide an important link to longer-term access to care and improved addiction recovery services.”

Dr. Sal Raichbach, a psychologist with Ambrosia Treatment Centers in West Palm Beach, Florida says that mobile recovery units are a great community resource.

“Often, people come to treatment because they are given an ultimatum by their loved ones or their jobs, or they are forced in through the court system,” he says. “But many people don’t have family and friends to encourage them to seek recovery, and as a result, never make it into treatment. A mobile unit bypasses a lot of the red tape and allows people direct access to support, counseling and transportation to treatment.”