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Lindenhurst becomes a cutting-edge culinary hub

Date: 

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Publication: 

Newsday

Author: 

Corin Hirsch

On South Wellwood Avenue in Lindenhurst is a midcentury former bank, showing some wear, with a banner draped over the front. "For Lease," it reads, along with an email address.

It's a striking space, the kind that looks ready-made for an atmospheric restaurant or bar, but will it remain empty long? Lindenhurst is in the full bloom of revival that is gradually rendering the village a hub for some of the most thoughtful food and drink on Long Island, with several more on deck.

The last year or so has seen the opening of Muni's Coffee, Restoration Kitchen & Cocktails, Villa Pizza, WA Meadwerks and 27A Brewing, the last opened inside another long-vacant storefront that once was Benkert Meat Market. The brewery, opened by Ryan Cooke and his fiance, Melissa Bates, pays homage to Cooke's hometown via framed vintage posters and pictures, as well as salvage architectural details woven into the tasting room.

A few new eateries and bars are poised to join the tide: A Greek restaurant called Pita Bowls; another location of SoBol, the rapidly expanding acai-bowl chain; Bakuto, an izakaya restaurant and sake-cocktail bar; Hermanas Kitchen & Cocktails, a venture among three close friends that will focus on Latin comfort food, and Hunter & Thief, a "modern cocktail bar" from couple Jonathan and Gabrielle Gonzalez. "Hunter and Thief is the culmination of life's work," said Jonathan Gonzalez, who has won several awards for his innovative cocktails and currently manages the bar at Whiskey Down Diner in Farmingdale. "[It's] a living, breathing tribute to our son. Wolfgang Attenborough, in a newly revitalized town to which my wife's family arrived from Germany and settled in the 30s."

Gonzalez described the bar, which will open at 21 W. Hoffman Ave. in the spring, as a cross between "The Explorers Club in NYC, Sagamore Hill on the North Shore and an English pub," with a roster of small plates supporting what will likely be a wildly imaginative cocktail menu.

Also likely to push the envelope on mixed drinks, as well as sake and shochu, is Bakuto, a 50-seat restaurant devoted to izakaya, or Japanese bar snacks, as well as robotayaki, meat, fish and vegetables grilled over charcoal. Chef-owner Zachary Rude, who is also chef-partner at Verde Kitchen & Cocktails in Bay Shore, grew up in Babylon and called Lindenhurst "up and coming, with restaurateurs and brewers creating a cool community."

At Bakuto, the bar program will be run by Patrick Capellini, formerly of The Brixton in Babylon and the Eleven Madison Park's EMP Summer House (in East Hampton) and Winter House (in Aspen). "He'll reinterpret a lot of classics with Japanese flair," said Rude, who on the food front will make fresh noodles for udon and also serve ramen, steamed buns and a handful of raw fish dishes.

Douglas Madlon, Lindenhurst's administrative clerk, pointed out that the village will soon be home to another location of Sand City Brewing Co., the Northport-based craft brewery who are renovating a former CVS Pharmacy. "We were considered down and out and a ghost town, and [Lindenhurst] has just turned around phenomenally."

Part of that, added deputy village clerk Joseph Barone, is a "very business-friendly" stance among the administration, which works to expedite permits. "Once a week a new business contacts us. Lindenhurst is on fire," he said.

Sara Pesserillo, Lauren Nash and Kristen Lapof, the partners behind Hermanas, met as bartenders at Mulcahy’s (both Wantagh and Centereach) years ago before heading in separate directions as servers, bartenders and managers elsewhere, wrote Pesserillo in an email.

Hermanas, on South Wellwood Avenue, will have about 40 seats, a bar and a menu that draws from a broad swath of the Caribbean and Central and South America. "The food is inspired by regions such as Puerto Rico, Mexico, Spain, Cuba, Argentina, the Dominican Republic and more," wrote Pesserillo on behalf of her partners. "We are taking a thoughtful approach to the flavors and dishes of those places."

Nash grew up and still resides in Lindenhurst, "so we’ve had an eye out and watched the buzz the last few years regarding the development of Lindenhurst. We are friends and former co-workers with Joe [Abruzzo Jr., co-owner] at WA Meadwerks and just listening to him talk about what was going on made us realize we wanted to be a part of this revitalization," Pesserillo wrote." The village and existing businesses have been nothing but supportive of us, and us newcomers are grateful to be together being a part of something special."

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