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FELA The Concert
Lineup celebrates countries and cultures around the world

By Sabrina Petroski

After a brief hiatus, Stony Brook University’s Staller Center for the Arts season returns with more fantastical and fun shows for audiences of all ages. This spring will hold many musical and dance performances by award-winning groups and individuals, as well as the screening of recently released films, screenings of the Metropolitan Opera in HD and many performances by SBU’s Department of Music.

Swing Shift Trio

Alan Inkles, director of the Staller Center, is thrilled to be heading into another season. Currently in his 35th year as director, he says this may be the venue’s most exciting and diverse year yet. “I love Audra McDonald, Big Sam’s Funky Nation is going to blow people away and they’re going to be dancing in the Recital Hall aisles, Catapult is just great, and Spherus is fantastic,” Inkles said during a interview in his office on Jan. 16. “All these shows are things that I’ve seen and I know what they’re going to do, but Parson Dance Company is giving me a program I’ve never seen yet and I am really excited for it.”

Inkles said the center produces 40 shows a year, along with film screenings, The Met Opera broadcast, plus the university performances, “and it’s always a really great experience.”

He continued, “A quote that I like to share with my faculty members is, ‘Nothing in life is accomplished without passion.’ I believe that if I can’t be passionate to my team about the upcoming shows, and I’ve been to every single one of them, then the audience can’t. I like watching the audience members’ reactions and seeing their faces; and if we don’t sell enough tickets to pack out the house, I’ll pay for the house. If I have a show that’s not selling well, I like to reach out to local schools or underrepresented families and donate tickets, and we do that every year.”

Catapult

The Staller Center is proud to have been the first theater to have the Live at The Met series and has paved the way for over 200 other theaters all over the country. Inkles says that he always tries to make his seasons diverse not only ethnically but also in the age group they attract. He says that the center likes to celebrate different countries and their cultures.

“We have a very diverse community here and a large international community, so I like the idea of bringing in different things that the students will enjoy,” said Inkles. “We want to do the magical thing of reaching out to people ages 9 through 90, and you can’t always do that with one show. One show may not be someone’s cup of tea, but we will be able to offer them something else that’s more in tune with their interests.”

This years’ annual Staller Center Gala, held on March 3 at 8 p.m., will be hosted by renown comedian, actor, philanthropist and television personality Jay Leno. Opening for the former NBC “Tonight Show” host, and returning to the center for a second time, will be the Doo Wop Project, featuring current and former stars of Broadway’s smash hits “Jersey Boys” and “Motown: The Musical.” Tickets to the Staller Center Gala are $75; gala tickets that include VIP seating, a postperformance reception and recognition in the playbill program are also available at www.stallercenter.com. The reception also includes an intimate performance from the Doo Wop Project and a chance to mingle with Inkles, and possibly Jay Leno himself.

Musical performances

Audra McDonals

On March 7 at 8 p.m., the ever popular chamber music concert Starry Nights will return to the Recital Center. The evening will feature artists-in-residence, professors of music and doctor of musical arts musicians including violinist Philip Setzer, Avery Career Grant winner Arnaud Sussman and cellist and professor of music Colin Carr. The ensemble also includes the top doctoral students in the music program at Stony Brook. Tickets are $38 per person.

The quartet-in-residence, Emerson String Quartet, returns to the Staller Center on March 20. Their exciting mix of music from the 17th, 19th and 20th centuries embraces the new and unusual while celebrating the classics. The nine-time Grammy Award-winning group, and Musical America’s “Ensemble of the Year,” will be performing Purcell’s two fantasies, Bolcom’s Piano Quintet No. 1 and Beethoven’s Quartet No. 13 in A minor, op. 132 (program subject to change). The show starts at 8 p.m. in the Recital Center and tickets are $48.

Big Sam’s Funky Nation, led by trombone powerhouse Big Sam Williams, comes to the Recital Hall on April 7 with their Noladelic PowerFunk style. Their performances are filled with blasts of brass, electric guitar and the charisma of Big Sam, the front man who sings, plays, dances and involves the audience in everything he does. The group of world-class musicians brings the jazz and soul of New Orleans everywhere they go, including mixes of funk, rock, hip-hop and jazz! Tickets are $38 and the show starts at 8 p.m. in the Recital Hall.

On April 21, the Staller Center welcomes Tony, Grammy and Emmy Award-winning singer and actress Audra McDonald to the Main Stage. This powerhouse soprano will be performing many of her Broadway and opera hits. Tickets are $54 and the show starts at 8 p.m.

Dance performances

Tao

The Tony Award-winning Broadway show “Fela! The Concert” comes to the Main Stage of the Staller Center on Feb. 3 at 8 p.m. Featuring members of the original Broadway cast, this lively and inspiring show includes a 10-piece Afrobeat band and singers and dancers performing songs that have been used to promote freedom and champion traditional African culture. Tickets are $42.

The Lezginka Ensemble, the State Dance Ensemble of Daghestan, Russia, will be performing on the Main Stage on Feb. 9. The ensemble includes over 30 dancers who will fill the stage with traditional folk songs and dances of the diverse mountain people of Daghestan. This unique performance includes intense acrobatics and incredible drum and saber work. The dance troupe is said to be “fiery, rhythmic and unforgettable!” Tickets are $40 and the show starts at 8 p.m. Update: This event has been canceled.

On Feb. 17 the Japanese drumming group Tao will be bringing their precision, stamina and innovative choreography to the Main Stage with their show Drum Heart. Their modern twist on a traditional art entices and amazes audiences worldwide. The group sold out their world premiere at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Festival, and Stony Brook now has the chance to see their passion come to life. Back by popular demand, this is their fourth return engagement at the Staller Center. Tickets are $42 and the show starts at 8 p.m.

Dublin Irish Dance

Dublin Irish Dance brings the epic tale of Celtic culture to the stage on March 10 at 8 p.m. with their show Stepping Out. Telling the story of the Great Famine of the mid-1800s, the dancers bring an emotional celebration of the dance and music that came out of a tragic time in Ireland’s history. The audience will journey from past to present and will learn about the fate of Irish immigrants who came to America. Tickets for this Main Stage production are $46.

On April 14, Catapult will grace the Main Stage with their seemingly impossible dancing shadow silhouettes. The “America’s Got Talent” finalists perform behind a screen, transforming their bodies into figures in order to bring marvelous scenes to life. You’ll want to figure out how they do it, and you won’t guess what they’ll come up with next. Catapult also uses exciting music and vibrant colors to give their show the upper hand. Tickets are $40 and the show starts at 8 p.m.

The Parsons Dance Company will be performing on the Main Stage on May 5 at 8 p.m. With their trained precision and extreme athleticism, these eight dancers will be performing the choreography of David Parsons. The group has a modern style, mixing gesture and movement to make something beautiful. The Parsons Dance Company has toured the United States and Italy, as well as appeared on French Public Television in a live broadcast. Tickets are $42.

The Met: Live in HD

The Staller Center will be screening seven operas, bringing the Metropolitan Opera in HD direct from the Met to the Main Stage. The shows include Puccini’s “Tosca” on Jan. 28, Donizetti’s “L’Elisir d’Amore” on Feb. 10, Puccini’s “La Bohème” on Feb. 25, Rossini’s “Semiramide” on March 11, Mozart’s “Così fan tutte” on April 8, Verdi’s “Luisa Miller” on April 15 and Massenet’s “Cendrillon” on May 6. For more schedule information go to www.stallercenter.com. Tickets are $22 general admission, $20 for seniors 62 and over, and $15 for students.

For kids of all ages

Imago Theatre’s “LaBelle”

On Jan. 27 at 4 p.m. the Imago Theatre will be performing “La Belle — Lost in the World of Automation,” a Steampunk Fairy Tale based on “Beauty and the Beast” on the Main Stage. The show includes elaborate puppets, a large whirring ship, original music and shadow play, with a story line set on a steamboat in the 1920s. The Imago Theatre, which has toured globally for three decades, uses over 100 effects, puppets and automata to tell this tale that burrows through the hard shell of adulthood to the childlike wonder of innocence and imagination. Tickets are $20.

International Juggling champion Greg Kennedy and his acrobatic duo of aerial dancers will be performing their show Spherus on March 18 at 4 p.m. Touted as a circus with an extra dimension, Spherus is full of fascinating effects with principles of geometry and physics to create groundbreaking and colorful work set to music. Kennedy, a former member of Cirque du Soleil and a Gold Medal recipient from the International Juggling Association, brings curiosity to life with a circus for all ages. Tickets are $20.

Tickets for the shows may be ordered by calling 631-632-2787. Order tickets online by visiting www.stallercenter.com.

Films

Once again, the Staller Center will be screening award-winning movies on five Friday nights starting Feb. 23. Two films will be shown starting at 7 p.m. on the Main Stage.

On Feb. 23, the 2016 Slovak-Czech drama film “The Teacher” (in Slovak with subtitles) and the psychological drama “All I See Is You”  about a blind woman who regains her sight and begins to discover the previously unseen and disturbing details about herself, her marriage and the lives of her and her husband, will be screened at 7 and 9 p.m., respectively.

On March 9, the 2017 drama “Wonderstruck” about a young boy in the Midwest is told simultaneously with a tale about a young girl in New York from 50 years ago as they both seek the same mysterious connection will screen at 7 p.m. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” a crime drama about a mother challenging the local authorities to solve her daughter’s murder when they fail to catch the culprit, will be shown at 9:15 p.m.

On March 16, the Golden Globe-winning “Lady Bird,” the coming-of-age story about a 17-year-old girl in Sacramento, California, will be screened at 7 p.m. and “Roman J. Israel, Esq.,” the story of a driven, idealistic defense attorney that finds himself in a tumultuous series of events that lead to a crisis and the necessity for extreme action, will both shown at 9 p.m.

On March 23, “After the Storm” (in Japanese with subtitles), a film about a man struggling to take back control of his existence and to find a lasting place in the life of his young son until a stormy summer night offers them a chance to truly bond again, will be shown at 7 p.m. The Golden Globe winner “The Shape of Water,” about a lonely janitor at a top-secret research facility in the 1960s who forms a unique relationship with an amphibious creature that is being held in captivity, will be shown at 9:15 p.m.

On April 6, “The Post,” a historical drama about the country’s first female publisher of a major newspaper and a hard-driving editor who join an unprecedented battle between journalist and government will play at 7 p.m. “Molly’s Game,” the Golden Globe-nominated drama about the true story of Molly Bloom, an Olympic-class skier who ran the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game and became an FBI target, will play at 9:15 p.m.

Tickets to the movie screenings are $10 for adults, $7 for students and $5 for Stony Brook University students. A movie pass good for all films in $30. To order, visit www.stallercenter.com/movies or call the box office at 631-632-ARTS (2787).

About the author: Farmingville resident Sabrina Petroski is a junior at SUNY New Paltz studying digital media production and journalism. She recently interned at TBR News Media during her winter break and hopes to come back during the summer to gain more experience as a journalist.

As the number of drug-related overdoses on the Long Island grows, one parent refuses to bury his head in the sand.

On the one-year anniversary of his son’s fatal heroin overdose, William Reitzig wasn’t in bed grieving. Instead, the Miller Place parent was on stage at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai asking hundreds of community members to hug one another.

“Hug your loved ones like I hugged my son every day … My hope is that you leave here today with the same mission as my wife and I — that with love and compassion, we have the power to overcome the perils of drug addiction.”

—Michael Reitzig

“Hug your loved ones like I hugged my son every day … don’t let a minute go by without saying ‘I love you,’” Reitzig said to a crowd of emotional parents, extended family members, friends and strangers. “My hope is that you leave here today with the same mission as my wife and I — that with love and compassion, we have the power to overcome the perils of drug addiction.”

That mission resonated throughout Hope Walk for Addiction, an April 22 fundraising event created by Reitzig and co-sponsored by Brookhaven Town and Hope House Ministries — a nonprofit based in Port Jefferson that supports people suffering the disease of addiction.

Reitzig, whose 25-year-old son Billy struggled for years with opioid pills and ultimately died after a one-time use of heroin last April, kickstarted “a war on addiction” by raising awareness, educating about addiction, raising money to help those struggling and unite the community.

“This is [really] for the community — it’s not about me, it’s not about my son, it’s to try and make a difference moving forward,” Reitzig said. “I can’t do anything about the past at this point, but going forward we can all chip in … we’re all in the same boat. Today is about all the families that struggle every day with this disease getting together because this is no longer acceptable and we need to do something.”

The large crowd, mostly loved ones of those battling addiction or those who died from it, collectively walked Cedar Beach’s Nature Pathway in memory of those who overdosed. About a dozen names could be seen on signs along the scenic trail.

“I don’t think people realize how many people are depressed and they don’t know how to handle that and so people self-medicate and that’s part of the issue. Ninety-one young people die every day [from this] and that’s unconscionable.”

—Francis Pizzarelli

Local leaders, self-help experts and bands occupied the stage to address the issue that brought everyone together. Various sponsors, including WALK 97.5 and St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson, were set up at tables taking donations and educating others, and representatives from the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office gave seminars on how to use Narcan, a life-saving nasal spray that can revert the effects of an overdose.

More than 500 people registered for the event, and all proceeds — totaling more than $34,000 at the end of the day — went to Hope House, which currently doesn’t have enough space for the overwhelming amount of people who need its services.

Father Francis Pizzarelli, founder of Hope House, counseled Billy while he was rehabilitating in the facility’s outpatient treatment program for a few months, and ultimately presided over his funeral.

Reitzig worked closely with Pizzarelli, and Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point), to make the Hope Walk a reality.

“Billy was a loving and caring guy, but like a lot of people today, he had his demons and struggled with that,” Pizzarelli said. “I don’t think people realize how many people are depressed and they don’t know how to handle that and so people self-medicate and that’s part of the issue. Ninety-one young people die every day [from this] and that’s unconscionable. [William] elected to say ‘we’re not going to let this continue, we’re going to do something about it and we’re going to protect the quality of life of all our younger and older people addicted to heroin.’”

This is a time to come together as a community, Pizzarelli added, and celebrate the hope Reitzig embodies.

“We need to help stop the stigmatized feeling that comes with addiction. The users feel alone as it is, they don’t feel proud of themselves. They are good people that made one bad decision.”

—Sue Meyers

“I don’t think I’ve met more resilient, strong, dedicated and passionate people in my whole life as I have in William and his family,” Bonner said. “He’s changing the future of so many people by doing this. We’re losing a generation to addiction and this is an opportunity to lift each other up and strip the layers of shame back. It’s all around us and no community is safe from it.”

Patty Eiserman, of Sound Beach, wore a shirt bearing the face of her nephew David Smallwood, who died in 2013 when he was just 22. She said her goal is to educate children as young as possible so they don’t start using.

“I don’t want to say it’s impossible to get them clean,” she said, “but it’s very, very hard.”

Manorville resident Melanie Ross, whose brother died last year after a 10-year battle with addiction, said the situation ravaged the family. It was the first time she’d attended an even like this.

Sue Meyers, a Setauket resident, said she was walking for her son, Michael Moschetto, a Ward Melville graduate who died in December at 28.

“It’s in his name, but I’m also here to help show support for other people and donate as much money as I have in my pockets,” Meyers said. “We need to help stop the stigmatized feeling that comes with addiction. The users feel alone as it is, they don’t feel proud of themselves. They are good people that made one bad decision. I think events like this really give people hope and a sense of direction.”

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Students from different classes pass each other as they arrive, leave, and pass by the Setauket Post Office during a visit earlier this month. Photo from Beverly Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

“I don’t like history, but I like this,” was what a Three Village fourth-grade student said during the Original Settlement Tour.

This past Wednesday and Thursday, all 450 Three Village fourth grade students came to the Setauket School auditorium in celebration of Brookhaven Town Founder’s Day and learned about the history of the Town of Brookhaven through the murals of Vance Locke. Then, for the next two hours, each class, led by guides from the Three Village Historical Society, explored the Original Settlement area of Setauket/Brookhaven. Students were introduced to William Sidney Mount and Abraham Woodhull at the Setauket Presbyterian Churchyard and to Emma S. Clark, Thomas Hodgkins and Ward Melville at the Caroline Church Cemetery. At the Village Green, students learned about the Setalcott Native Americans, Brookhaven’s original English settlers, and the diversity of immigrants who lived and worked here, as well as the varied ancestry of the Three Village-area soldiers whose wartime deaths are memorialized here.

In Frank Melville Memorial Park, the fourth grade students learned about gristmills, millers, blacksmiths, post offices, general stores and one of the original settlement’s 17th century homes. At the Setauket Neighborhood House, students heard about the structure of the building and how it progressed from a hotel, with stagecoach service from the Lakeland Railroad Station, to a tourist home with station wagon service from the Long Island Railroad’s Stony Brook station, and finally to its use as a meeting place for the entire community.

At the Amos Smith House (circa 1740) students learned about the eight generations that lived in the home and how it grew to accommodate the two generations that included seven and nine children. Each fourth grade class discussed the differences shown in the images of the house in 1740, 1900 and today. Donna Smith, Three Village Historical Society director of education and Founder’s Day Committee member heard from one of her tour group students, “ My favorite part was seeing the house Mr. Tyler grew up in and how it is so different. We got to wave to his mother who lives there and she’s 101!”

The stop at Patriot’s Rock, a remnant of the last glacier and a Native American meeting place, provided an opportunity to learn about the Revolutionary War Battle of Setauket and Caleb Brewster, who, as an artillery officer directed the cannon fire and who was an important member of the Setauket-based Culper Spy Ring.

“Founders Day is more than learning about our local history, it is an historical experience for our Three Village fourth grade students. … Learning that the Emma S. Clark Library is not just the place to find books or attend a program, but an architecturally interesting structure that was built by a local resident [Thomas Hodgkins] as a gift to the community, and there really was a person named Emma S. Clark, is enlightening to a fourth grader. Then they walk toward the Caroline Church and see the Hodgkins and Clark headstones — it all comes together in this fascinating look on a student’s face that they have just put it all together,” said Barbara Russell, Brookhaven Town historian and Founder’s Day Committee member.

At the end of the tour, each student received a copy of the walking tour guide prepared by the Three Village Historical Society, courtesy of Three Village Central School District.

Beverly Tyler is the Three Village Historical Society historian and author of books available from the Three Village Historical Society.

New exhibit opens at the Port Jefferson Village Center

‘Chaos Was the Law of Nature: Order Was the Dream of Man’ by Iacopo Pasquinelli

By Ellen Barcel

The Port Jefferson Village Center recently unveiled its latest exhibit, Captured! Photographs to Paintings.

The exhibit features enlargements of historic photos by Arthur S. Greene together with over two dozen modern paintings, inspired by Greene’s vision.

Greene, born in England several years after the end of the American Civil War, came to Port Jefferson via Pennsylvania with his wife in the 1890s. After working for the Union Photography Company, he opened up his own studio here and for decades photographed Port Jefferson and its surroundings.

Like 19th century Setauket artist William Sydney Mount who painted local scenes, Greene captured the early 20th century locale, but in photographs: local scenery, houses, events, churches, the waterfront, the farms and businesses, from early cars and gas stations to a chauffeur on the Tinker estate in East Setauket.

Kenneth C. Brady, in his book, “Arthur S. Greene, 1867-1955: The Life and Work of a Long Island Photographer,” noted that “In 1905, capitalizing on the postcard craze that was sweeping the nation, Greene prepared 150 different views of Port Jefferson and vicinity.” Through the first half of the 20th century Greene produced an invaluable body of work that captured pre-World War II Long Island and the early postwar period.

The exhibit was created by the late Michael R. Kutzing, a local artist and former owner of MRK Gallery in Port Jefferson. “Mike would go to the Village Center,” said Denise Kutzing, Mike Kutzing’s widow, “and talk to Ken Brady.” They both thought that the exhibit would be a great idea. Brady, former village historian, had digitally archived over 10,000 historic photos from the area for the village. All photos for the current exhibit are from Brady’s own collection.

‘Playtime’; by Angela Stratton
‘Playtime’; by Angela Stratton

Noted artist Irene Ruddock, who is assisting with the exhibit, said Kutzing long had the idea of using Greene’s historic paintings as inspiration for local artists’ own work. She added that Kutzing went to many art shows in order to select the over two dozen artists invited to participate. He told each that they didn’t need to exactly reproduce Greene’s black-and-white photos but to “Do your vision, your interpretation of the photos.”

With the help of Sue Orifici, who is in charge of Graphic Archival and Special Projects for the Village Center, Kutzing selected 60 photos and put them on his website. It was from those images that each artist was able to select his or her own inspiration.

Kutzing himself didn’t finish his own painting for the exhibit. “He worked right up to the end,” said Ruddock. When he passed last January, she noted, “all of the artists were committed to him. It [the exhibit] was for him, it’s a tribute to him — his legacy.” His widow, Denise, took over the responsibility of preparing the exhibit, assisted by Ruddock (whose painting of the “Gamecock Cottage” will be in the exhibit) and Orifici. Denise Kutzing added “Sue loved his enthusiasm — without her, his vision wouldn’t have happened.”

In addition to the over two dozen Greene photos and modern interpretations by the 28 participating artists, other works by Michael Kutzing himself will be in the exhibit, including his unfinished painting inspired by the Greene photo. Denise Kutzing noted that her husband’s painting was called “Serenity.” “He wanted to make sure it was done. It really was a dream of his.” The inspiration was Greene’s photograph titled “Jones Street, Now Main Street.”

Denise Kutzing noted that her late husband was a surveyor by profession and “a very talented woodworker — very precise. This led to his paintings being very much like photographs.” When he retired, Michael Kutzing enthusiastically began painting. “Painting became his passion. In the beginning he didn’t realize his talent,” she said. He became involved with many artist groups but, “his heart was with the Setauket Artists group.”

“He said that belonging to the Setauket Artists gave him a sense of accomplishment and pride. Within a few years, Mike became our Honored Artist, not only for his beautiful paintings which won many awards, but for his unparalleled desire to elevate our professionalism,” said Ruddock.

Setauket Artist Robert Roehrig noted, “Mike’s attention to detail in the woodwork reminds me of the magnificent detail in his artwork.” Added Neil Watson, executive director of the Long Island Museum in Stony Brook, Kutzing “was a gifted painter and a wonderful colleague. The museum was fortunate to have Michael as a core member of the Planning Committee for our newest membership initiative for artists, a collaborative arts group. We will miss him.”

The Captured! exhibit is sponsored by the Village of Port Jefferson, the Recreation Department at the Village Center and the Port Jefferson Harbor Education and Arts Conservancy.

Participating artists include Paul Bachem, Ned Butterfield, Jim Berger, Al Candia, Dennis Coburn, Anthony Davis, Jeanette Dick, Bill A. Dodge, Donna Grossman, Peter Hahn, William Haney, Melissa Imossi, Vito Incorvala, Michael R. Kutzing, Jane McGraw Teubner, Terry McManus, Kirk Larsen, Joe Miller, Jim Molloy, Muriel Musarra, Iacopo Pasquinelli, Doug Reina, Rob Roehrig, Irene Ruddock, Oscar Santiago, Angela Stratton, Mary Jane Van Zeijts and Patricia Yantz.

The public is invited to meet the artists at an opening reception on Saturday, July 11, from 2 to 4 p.m. The exhibit will run through Aug. 28.

The Port Jefferson Village Center, 101A E. Broadway, Port Jefferson is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, call 631-802-2160.

The Culper Spy Ring has gained much attention over the last 10 years from the publishing of two books and  AMC airing the television series TURN. On June 20, the Three Villages will be sharing its famous story with a day-long event, Culper Spy Day — Our Revolutionary Story. Join them to learn the real history behind the Culper Spy Ring, America’s first. Many historic locations dating as far back as 1655 will open their doors to the public and a local restaurant will offer a spy-themed lunch menu.

Sponsored by Tri-Spy Tours, the Three Village Historical Society, the Long Island Museum and the Ward Melville Heritage Organization, the event will coincide with the Long Island Convention and Visitors Bureau Path Through History Weekend. The event is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

1. Three Village Historical Society, 93 N. Country Road, Setauket. Located in the c. 1800’s Ebenezer Bayles/Stephen Swezey house, the Three Village Historical Society is home to the interactive Culper SPIES! exhibit and the Chicken Hill: A Community Lost to Time exhibit. Stop by and meet a visiting friend from Oyster Bay, Robert Townsend, aka Samuel Culper Jr. The gift shop will also be open.
— A one-hour Tri-Spy Walking Tour will be held at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Walk your way through the history of the Revolutionary War’s Culper Spy Ring. Visit Woodhull’s Farm, the Setauket Village Green, Grist Mill, Patriot’s Rock and historic grave sites. Meet at the entrance of Frank Melville Memorial Park.
— A historic district walking tour as it pertains to the Revolutionary War will depart from the entrance of Frank Melville Memorial Park at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. Visit Patriot’s Rock, the cemetery where the leader of the Setauket Spy Ring is buried and the homes of early residents. 631-751-3730.

2. Thompson House Medicinal Garden, 91 N. Country Road, Setauket. Self-guided tour. Doctor Samuel Thompson was a colonial era doctor and farmer. According to his diaries, members of the Culper Spy Ring, including Abraham Woodhull and Austin Roe, were among his patients. 631-751-2244.

3. Caroline Church of Brookhaven, 1 Dyke Road, Setauket. Docents will lead a tour of this church and its adjoining cemetery. Built in 1729, it is the oldest continuously operating Episcopal Church in the United States. The cemetery holds the graves of early settlers of the town, Revolutionary War heroes, ship captains and industry leaders. 631-941-4245.

4. Setauket Presbyterian Church, 5 Caroline Ave., Setauket. Docents will lead a tour of the historic church, circa 1812, and its adjoining cemetery, which dates back to the 1600s. Abraham Woodhull of George Washington’s Spy Ring, genre artist William Sidney Mount and early settler Richard Floyd, grandfather of William Floyd, are buried here. 631-941-4271.

5. Setauket Village Green, Main Street, Setauket. A replica of a Dutch 1768 single-sail boat will be on display here. During the Revolutionary War, the Village Green was the location of the Battle of Setauket, a skirmish between Tory and Patriot troops that took place on Aug. 22, 1777. Prior to the battle, it was called Meeting House Green where meetings were held during the early settlement period of the mid to late 1600s.

6. Emma S. Clark Memorial Library, 120 Main St., Setauket. Circa 1892. The library will present a demo of its interactive Spy Ring Tour, and materials and databases related to the Culper Spy Ring will be on the library lawn. Military paraphernalia will be on display in the Library lobby. Stop by and meet Anna Smith Strong and her “magic clothesline.” 631-941-4080.

7. Joseph Brewster House, Route 25A, Setauket. Circa 1655, it is considered to be the oldest home in the Town of Brookhaven. During the Revolutionary War, the house was owned by Joseph Brewster, first cousin of Culper Spy Caleb Brewster and neighbor of the ring’s founder, Benjamin Tallmadge. In order to preserve his home and property from confiscation, Joseph Brewster operated a tavern out of the home, hosting the occupying British forces. A colonial cooking demonstration will take place on the grounds. 631-751-2244.

8. Country House Restaurant, 1175 N. Country Road, Stony Brook. Built in 1710, the restaurant is dedicated to serving the finest food and spirits in one of Long Island’s most historic homes. The restaurant will serve a special Spy-themed menu from noon to 4 p.m.  Adult meals will range from $10 to $16 and children’s meals are $8.95, which includes a soft drink. For reservations, please call 631-751-3332.

9. Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook. Tour the museum’s galleries as well as the outbuildings. The Nassakeag Schoolhouse, circa 1895, will be open with a docent. Two of the museum’s horse-drawn vehicles were owned by Revolutionary War hero Peter Gansevoort, grandfather of author Herman Melville. 631-751-0066.

10. Stony Brook Grist Mill, 100 Harbor Road, Stony Brook. A miller will be on hand for grinding demonstrations. Long Island’s most completely equipped and working mill, the mill, circa 1751, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. During the Revolutionary War, occupying British forces confiscated much of the grain to provision their own troops. 631-689-3238.

11. Stony Brook Village Center, 111 Main St., Stony Brook. Docents will guide visitors on a walking tour of historic Main Street. Points of interest will include the Stony Brook Village Center, Hercules and the Educational Center. Tours will depart on the hour from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. 631-751-2244.

Tickets are $20 each (children under 12 free) and can be purchased at the following locations:
• Three Village Historical Society, 93 North Country Road, Setauket. 631-751-3730 or visit www.tvhs.org.
• The Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook. 631-751-0066  or visit www.longislandmuseum.org.
• The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, 111 Main Street, Stony Brook. 631-751-2244 or visit www.wmho.org.

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Inferno Roadside Grill serves up a juicy cheeseburger in Mount Sinai this season. Photo by Lisa Steuer

By Lisa Steuer

A few years ago, most people would have defined a “food truck” as a vehicle parked on the side of the road that primarily sells hot dogs and is mostly appealing for the convenience it offers.

But today, many food truck operators around the country — and now, Long Island — are specialists in their profession. They are experienced chefs who have worked in kitchens for years, have food management experience, or who grew up learning about and appreciating mom’s authentic cooking. They are restaurant owners, wedding and party caterers and seasoned cooks and bakers who all have at least one thing in common — a passion and love for food and cooking.

Burgers by 25A
Patrick Trovato, a graduate of Port Jefferson high school and a current resident of Miller Place, has operated the Inferno Roadside Grill food truck since 2011. Located in Mount Sinai in the Agway parking lot, the Inferno Roadside Grill has built a following solely through word of mouth, said Trovato. Menu items include burgers, grilled chicken wraps, wings and more, and Trovato said he buys all the ingredients every morning, including the beef, which is ground fresh.

“I’ve only been able to do two things in my life — sales and cook,” said Trovato, who previously owned a New York City restaurant with his father and also worked in insurance.

You can spot Patrick Trovato’s truck, Inferno Roadside Grill in Mount Sinai this season. Photo by Lisa Steuer
You can spot Patrick Trovato’s truck, Inferno Roadside Grill in Mount Sinai this season. Photo by Lisa Steuer

Eventually, Trovato decided to leave the insurance industry and go back to his passion of cooking. He purchased an old camper for $500, and it took about four-and-a-half months to transform it into the food truck that exists today. Trovato did all his research, remodeled it, installed a commercial kitchen, made sure he met the proper codes and opened with help from his business partners — his girlfriend, and his friend Kevin, who owns Smithtown House of Vacuums.

“People can’t afford to risk or lose hundreds of thousands of dollars to open a restaurant. So the food truck is a small capital investment, comparatively,” said Trovato. “With a food truck, you can just be great at one thing. … A food truck just lets you be a specialist.”

The Inferno Roadside Grill is open year round, Monday through Saturday, from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., weather permitting. This snowy winter, however, made it rough — from Thanksgiving through March, Trovato was not able to be open for a full week.

Looking forward, Trovato plans to open the Inferno Roadside Grill restaurant in Sound Beach by summer. The restaurant, which will be located at 245 Echo Avenue, will have the same menu currently available on the truck, expanded to include specialty “regional” burgers — burgers that are popular in different parts of the country — and possibly a Southern-fried chicken menu. When the restaurant opens, the truck will remain in operation, but the menu will most likely be pared down to strictly burgers and fries, while the other menu items will still be found at the restaurant.

“I have a special sauce on my burger,” said Trovato.  “When you take the fresh ground beef that’s been seared, seasoned, and you add the fresh crisp lettuce, tomato, onion, then you add the sauce, it’s a really unique flavor profile.”

Puerto Rico on Long Island
Roy and Kathleen Pelaez opened their Island Empanada restaurant in May 2011. There are now two locations, in Medford and Ronkonkoma, and two years ago the Island Empanada food truck opened.

Previously, the truck operated during the week, from May through October, off William Floyd Parkway in Shirley, but at press time, the location for this year was not yet determined. The Pelaezes also bring the truck to different events all over Suffolk and Nassau, including fairs, festivals, private parties and even weddings.

“We’re very unique,” said Roy Pelaez. ”And the food is Puerto Rican style, and there’s not a lot of Puerto Rican restaurants on Long Island.”

His mother and father were both born and raised in Puerto Rico. His wife, Kathleen Pelaez, works as a social worker in addition to working in the restaurants, and his daughters — one of whom is getting her master’s degree and the other her bachelor’s — also help out when they can.  “My mom taught me [to cook] and I was able to then teach the other cooks at both restaurants,” said Roy Pelaez, who also worked in and managed restaurants for more than 20 years before opening his own. “It’s the same food that I made in my kitchen, and I was able to just expand the menus to feed a larger amount of people, so it’s really home-cooked food.”

The Pelaezes opened the food truck to make attending festivals and other events much easier for them.

‘Long Island is behind … the rest of the country. Food trucks seem to be sweeping the nation right now. You can really get some good food — inexpensive, hand-held, quick and easy. And now, Suffolk and Nassau are starting to see it, and restaurant owners and entrepreneurs are trying to jump on it.’ — Roy Pelaez of Island Empanada

Since opening two years ago, the truck has done well, said Roy Pelaez, and even though the truck does make things easier, it is still a lot of work, he pointed out. “People just think they’re going to get a food truck and make a million dollars. It doesn’t work like that,” he said. “But the expenses are different.  … I don’t have the big utility bills.”

The Island Empanada restaurants include 26 varieties of empanadas, and the truck includes the 12 most popular varieties, as well as rice, beans, sweet plantains, potato balls, and flan for dessert.

“Long Island is behind a little bit the rest of the country. Food trucks seem to be sweeping the nation right now,” he said. “You can really get some good food — inexpensive, hand-held, quick and easy. And now, Suffolk and Nassau are starting to see it, and restaurant owners and entrepreneurs are trying to jump on it.”

The Mobile Bakery
Jess Kennaugh, owner of Blondie’s Bake Shop in Centerport, found her love for baking at a young age. “It was what I did for fun after school,” she said.

Then in high school, her first job was at A Rise Above Bake Shop in Huntington, her hometown. Kennaugh eventually went away to school, got a master’s degree in education and planned to become a teacher.  “I just always kept going back to the bakery. I couldn’t shake it.”

Blondie’s Bake Shop and the truck, which is used solely for events like fairs, weddings, caterings, etc., both opened in December of 2011. “I knew that food trucks were becoming more popular in the city and in places like Austin and D.C. and San Diego.  So I figured that it was only a matter of time before that happened on Long Island and I wanted to be a part of it.”

The truck has a full commercial kitchen, and in addition to the regular baked goods found in the bakery, there are waffles made to order on the truck — with berries and whipped cream, or chicken and waffles, for instance — as well as grilled cheese sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, and even a “macaroni and cheese grilled cheese.”

“It’s restaurant quality food in a laid-back atmosphere,” said Kennaugh, about the appeal of food trucks. “It makes fancier food more approachable.”

At the shop, the most popular item is a lemon berry scone, said Kennaugh, but on the truck a favored item is the s’mores pie — which is a little individual pie with a graham cracker crust, chocolate pudding and toasted marshmallow.

“I think the people can get a sense of our enthusiasm for our product,” said Kennaugh. “I have a really young, excited, creative staff, and that energy is contagious. And I think our product is quality; it’s really thoughtfully made and I think that shows. “

Compared to the bakery, the items on the truck are “a little more indulgent.”

A dinner plate prepared by Roy Pelaez of Island Empanada. Photo by Steve Mahoney
A dinner plate prepared by Roy Pelaez of Island Empanada. Photo by Steve Mahoney

“At the bakery, we sell granola and yogurt and egg sandwiches, so there are ways to get around splurging on what you’re going to eat,” said Kennaugh. “The stuff on the truck is much more indulgent — cheeses and bacon, and we really kind of go crazy with ourselves over there.”

This will be Blondie’s third season. And while Kennaugh was still working on the truck’s schedule at the time of this interview, she said she’s hoping she’ll have the truck out three or four days a week through the last week in October.

“We’re pretty excited because we’re being sought out for private events and more obscure events,” she said.

The Mobile Chef
Steven Mahoney of Amityville has operated his mobile catering business, Iron Mobile Chef, for two years.

“I’ve been in the food industry my whole life, since I was a little kid making pizza,” said Mahoney.  He owned a pork and gourmet food store for about 10 years, and also worked as a private chef on the East End of Long Island for about four years before getting into the food truck business.

“The food truck is a new, fun thing — it’s really great,” said Mahoney. “I did a lot of off-the-premise catering before I had the truck, and now it’s just like an extension — a kitchen I bring everywhere.”

Mahoney attends private parties and events as well as festivals all over Long Island, so the truck never stays in the same place. For bigger parties, Mahoney will bring a staff that includes family members to help out — brothers, sisters, aunts, cousins and more. “It’s like a mom and pop store on wheels,” he said.

The unique aspect of Mahoney’s truck is that the menu varies wherever he goes, depending on what’s wanted or appropriate at the particular event. “I can go from hot dogs and hamburgers to lobster tails and filet mignon,” Mahoney said. Items like Philly cheesesteaks and sausage and peppers are usually made for fairs, for instance. At the time of this interview, Mahoney had just finished doing a breakfast party.

“These awesome chefs that are dying to open their own place and they have a passion for cooking and it’s just a little too expensive to get their own restaurant — it’s like their dream come true, but a little bit cheaper,” said Mahoney, about the rise in popularity of food trucks. “It’s a lot more work than a restaurant, but if you have the passion for it, that’s what makes it worth it … I love it and I enjoy what I do. I can work 16-, 17-hour days … and I really love it.”

For those interested in renting Iron Mobile Chef for an event, Mahoney can be reached at (516) 351-5176.