Chef Pennancchia with Daddy's Little Helper.Photo Credits: Kathryn Zukowski
Q: How did you come to the North Fork?
A: My family’s been summering out here in Cutchogue for four generations; now my family and I are year-round. My daughter’s growing up here.
Q: When did you start A Touch of Venice?
A: My parents started it in 1989 in the Mat-a-mar Marina in Mattituck, we moved here in 2010. Moving to the Main Road helped solidify the year round aspect of the business, and made us much more a part of the local community. That’s why we have a really good happy hour. Generally I try to keep the menu really accessible, reasonable. That’s part of commitment to my year round regulars, locals.
Q: Did you always want to be in the restaurant business? What do you love about it?
A: My parents opened their first restaurant in 1975; I was born in 1974 so I was born into it.
The part that I love the best is being a chef; the creativity of it. Being able to put together the menu using local ingredients, and working on the wine list as well as bar cocktials. We always have used local ingredients, whenever we can.
It goes from stopping at any farm stand on the way into work to pick up a few things, to higher volume stuff. For that we use for example Satur farms, and we get a lot of fruit from Wickham’s down the street--our tomatoes, peaches and apples, berries. I love that.
We also have a great working relationship with the local wineries. We have over 100 wines on our list, and over half are local. This year we were awarded the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for our wine list.
Q: You have live music sometimes too, right?
A: All summer we had music outside on Thursday night. All year we do music on Friday night, after the summer it’s inside at the bar.
We expanded our patio this year, refurbished it, added a lot of new tables, lighting, a couple couches. A comfortable, beautiful, casual spot.
We’ve created a place you could come a couple times a week. Maybe once you have a small plate and drink and enjoy the music; maybe another night you have a full meal.
One thing we love about this particular location is that it is a well designed space --we can host private parties and still operate the restaurant comfortably.
Q: Do you have a favorite dish? A signature dish?
A: A favorite? That’s a tough one. Many of our regulars have a different favorite dish.
One of our signature dishes, I guess I would say is veal rollatini. We do that with local mushrooms, and a porcini mushroom marsala sauce. The local striped bass in season is our favorite fish to use, we do several preparations of it. Right now we’re serving it with local Swiss chard and late summer tomatoes.
Q: You’re an Italian restaurant named A Touch of Venice. Does that mean your food is particularly Venetian?
A: We don’t subscribe to any one type of Italian cuisine, but I’ve been told by some real Italians from Italy that our food is very Italian. Our style of cooking is very traditional. Our ingredients are very fresh, and we use a light touch with the seasoning, to really let the ingredients speak for themselves.
My parents picked the restaurant name because in Mattituck the restaurant was on the water. Serving Italian food outdoors on a beautiful patio by the water, the name made a lot of sense. When we moved to Main Road, not so much, but we kept the name because we felt we had a good reputation and that we should keep the brand.
Q: Are you on the North Fork just because of inertia—your parents opened up the restaurant here—or is there something about the North Fork that made you stay?
A: With the roots, growing up summers, I love it out here. I always have. The connection to the land, all the farming. I grew up being able to walk in potato fields barefoot. That and the water. In five minutes in any direction you hit water.
We’re big on that, always doing something on the beach. Being able to stop at a farm stand too, that’s fantastic.
I like the direction the North Fork is going. In the past ten years or so artisanal farming is really taking off. I think it’s really great, not only does it save the land, but it’s wonderful for us chefs too. Its inspires my cooking.