Tags Posts tagged with "Food"


How John and Deborah Urbinati spread comfort through food

Deborah and John Urbinati accept an appreciation certificate from the Ronald McDonald House Charities in 2017. Photo courtesy Deborah and John Urbinati

By Sofia Levorchick

Since they were teenagers, John and Deborah Urbinati have been immersed in the culinary world, sharing a passion for the restaurant business. However, it was when they met in a restaurant in Colorado that they decided to pursue their culinary journeys together.

After they married, the Urbinatis traveled across the United States, gaining knowledge about food, cocktails and wines. Once they moved back to New York, their love and passion for the industry propelled them to want to work in a restaurant together.

They partnered with the original owners of The Fifth Season in Greenport, then relocated and reopened the restaurant in Port Jeff.

As owners of The Fifth Season for almost 16 years, the couple found that they wanted to pair their shared passion for food with their desire to give back to the community.

“We’ve always known that food is a great connection with the community because it allows us to provide sustenance and comfort to people,” Deborah Urbinati said.

“Plus, we’ve always had a very strong sense of service to our community,” John Urbinati added.

Giving back

Almost a decade ago, the Urbinatis came across the Ronald McDonald House Charities nonprofit organization, established at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital.

The Ronald McDonald Family Room offers a welcoming and comforting environment within the hospital, providing patients and their families with nourishing food.

John and Deborah were initially asked to deliver a meal here and there, but their activity eventually evolved into a more extensive commitment between their restaurant and the foundation.

“The last thing these families think about is food in such a stressful setting,” John noted.

Deborah added, “Hearing the struggles that people are going through with their children, it makes it easy to want to do more.”

“And because we felt so good about being able to provide a service for people that are really in need, we realized we could do this every week,” John said.

Every Wednesday, the Urbinatis and their staff pack meals to be delivered to the Ronald McDonald Family Room. Beforehand, they take the time to brainstorm what meals to cook and send out, sometimes making the dishes personable.

Deborah recounted the time they had a patient from the hospital come into the restaurant because she had eaten their food at the Ronald McDonald Family Room. “She loved the chicken fingers, and when she unfortunately went back to the hospital, we ensured that chicken fingers would be specially delivered to her every week,” she explained. 

Striking a balance between managing a restaurant and volunteering could seem to be a challenging feat, but the Urbinatis have made it a routine, motivated by the rewarding aspect of giving back while doing what they love.

“A lot of it is just a mindset,” John said. “You make it part of your daily routine. Once you make the commitment and decision to do it, you figure out a way to make it work,” adding, “It’s not just us doing the work, too. We have a tremendous team here.”

Collaboration among the Urbinatis and their Fifth Season staff has contributed much to the success of the overall philanthropic effort. Whether cooking chicken, packing up boxes or writing what’s on the box, the restaurant staff plays a crucial role in helping the Urbinatis in the Ronald McDonald House organization.

“All of the support staff we have here all step in and take a piece of the puzzle, and we’ll all put it together in the end,” John stated.

Sometimes, they even see volunteers from the Ronald McDonald Family Room come in for dinner. “It’s almost a full circle moment — we support them, so they support us,” Deborah said.

They have received an overwhelmingly positive response from families who are reaching out with emails, phone calls, letters and personal visits to showcase their gratitude for what the Urbinatis have done for the Ronald McDonald House organization.

“We go in doing it not looking for anything in return,” Deborah indicated. “But in return, we do end up feeling grateful that we’re able to help, and it makes us beyond happy to see that our efforts are fostering positive change.”

TBR News Media recognizes John and Deborah Urbinati as 2023 People of the Year for using their talents to improve our community.

Gerard Fioravanti, creator of the Flagel, with a proclamation.

A Frenagel, a French croissant bagel, has become a new sensation in Huntington and across the nation. It’s the culinary brainchild of chefs at Fiorello Dolce, a bakery on Wall Street in Huntington. 

“It tastes like a bagel but so much lighter,” said Gerard Fioravanti, who created the dough. “The layers are light, airy and flaky, while the outside is baked to perfection with a crisp texture.”

In April, Fioravanti competed and won a baking competition with the Frenagel on the television series Bake You Rich, a Food Network program. 

The Town of Huntington recognized his achievement at its May board meeting and awarded him an inscribed plaque. 

“We used to make baked doughnuts at first, until chef Kristy Chiarelli wanted a bagel one morning, but didn’t want to go to the bagel store,” Fioravanti said. “So, I told her to get a raw doughnut from the freezer and let it proof to make it like a bagel.”

An hour later chef Kristy seasoned it with sesame, black sesame, poppy seeds and fleur de sel. She filled it with scallion cream cheese and the Frenagel was born. 

The Frenagel is available at Fiorello Dolce Patisserie in Huntington and online at Carlosbakery.com and goldbelly.com as well as in most Carlos bakery locations. 

Celebrated chef Michael Maroni died unexpectedly at age 57 Friday, March 8, while swimming in an indoor pool. One week later, his namesake restaurant in Northport resumed operations to the rhythm of the rock ’n’ roll music that he loved. 

Jose Vasquez of Maroni Cuisine. Photo by Donna Deedy

“Maroni’s is open,” said wife Maria Maroni. “Not only our doors but our hearts. Mike always said, ‘Maroni’s is not just business … it’s a beating heart.’ That’s what everyone feels when they come through these doors, not only amazing food and service … but love. Not only will that continue, but that heart will beat stronger and better than ever to make Mike proud. The beat goes on … come and see for yourself. If I can do it … so can you. Love wins.” 

Operations will continue with the same six chefs that have been cooking in the kitchen since Maroni Cuisine was established in 2001. The dining room and kitchen staff, Maria said, are committed to carrying on the legacy. 

The spot gained renown for both its menu-less, gourmet tasting meals and its hotpots of meatballs, prepared from the 110-year-old family recipe of Michael’s grandmother. The meatballs are served in cherry red enamel crockpots that are available for take out in a variety of sizes. 

The novel idea of serving fine cuisine alongside good home cooking became a quick success, Maria said, when she and her husband opened the restaurant near the harbor 19 years ago. 

Just a few wooden tables are arranged in the dimly lit dining hall. Candlesticks decorate the tabletops, while rock ’n’ roll memorabilia hangs on the wall.

The couple married in 1995 and from 1997 to 2003 they owned and operated Mirepoix, a popular upscale French-American restaurant located in Glen Head, before opening a second restaurant.

Somehow they have connected with the Northport community in a special way.

The couple’s photo is on display in the restaurant’s dining room. Photo by Donna Deedy

“Yes, the meatballs are good, but it’s really not just about the meatballs,” said Emily Climo, who prepares floral arrangements for the restaurant. “It’s about the love.” 

Lindsay Ostrander is co-owner of The Wine Cellar on Main in Northport. Her establishment offers patrons the cooking of other village restaurants, including Maroni Cuisine. She said that Maria’s eulogy for her husband was a moving, powerful and life-changing experience for her.

“I’m not sure if there’s a greater message,” Ostrander said. “Love wins.”

The original version of the story that appeared in the March 21 edition of the Times of Huntington Northport & East Northport incorrectly had the date of Maroni’s death. We apologize for the error.

BOE approved changes in 2017, slow transition to full compliance to continue into ’18-19 school year

A BOE policy is increasing healthy food options in PJ schools. Stock photo from Metro

Port Jefferson School District is looking to become a healthier place.

Students and parents returning this fall should expect to see further changes to foods offered in cafeterias, sold for team and club fundraisers, and even those foods allowed at school celebrations for the 2018-19 year to meet standards set in a May 2017 board of education policy change.

In a July letter addressed to parents from Danielle Turner, the now-departed district director of health, physical education and athletics, the policy was enacted to address nutritional concerns as well as increase students’ physical activity throughout the school day, a move designed to keep the district in line with state and federal regulations.

“Elements of the policy went into effect last year,” Superintendent Paul Casciano said. “We chose a path of gradual compliance starting with last year so our students and advisers could plan accordingly going into the 2018-19 school year.”

Under the policy, school meals in the district now must include fruits, vegetables, salads, whole grains and low-fat items, adherent to federal standards. In addition, food and beverages sold in vending machines and school stores must meet nutrition standards set by federal regulations. Food and beverages sold by clubs and teams for fundraisers, both on school grounds and off, will also be subject to the same regulations. The policy also impacts in school celebrations and parties where food and drinks are provided, saying building principals will “encourage” parents and staff to follow the guidelines, and restricts the use of food “as
an incentive or reward for instructional purposes.”

“As a school community, it is important that we model what we teach about health,” Casciano said.

Student body president and Port Jefferson senior Reid Biondo said clubs and teams were made aware the policy change was coming last year and started to make preparations to adhere to the changes when it comes to fundraising.

“The fundraisers are very important for clubs and teams,” he said. “Not being able to fundraise by selling food is a source of concern but the students at Earl L. Vandermeulen are very creative and are already coming up with solutions. Last year, one of the classes hosted a volleyball tournament in place of a bake sale. There are plenty of alternatives to bake sales but students and teams are going to need to work a little harder for their money.”

Despite the challenges created by the policy, Biondo said he sees the district’s point of view in trying to foster a healthier school environment.

“I think they are right to encourage a more healthy lifestyle and I think it is a step in the right direction,” he said. “Students should have access to healthy eating options and that part of this change in the school district excites me. However, I do not think removing the unhealthy choices entirely is the solution.”

Biondo pointed out that CVS is less than a five-minute walk from the school’s front door, and he suspects many of his peers will go there to purchase an unhealthy after-school snack. This would mean the revenue from bake or candy bar sale would be going to an outside source, while students continue making unhealthy choices. The senior also suggested the district should provide additional education about healthy lifestyle choices and consuming snacks in moderation, to encourage students to lead a healthy lifestyle in and outside of school.

Casciano said the district took the fundraising obstacles for extracurricular organizations into account when crafting the policy and suggested healthier alternatives can still be sold to raise money. He added the district’s hiring of Adam Sherrard to take over for Turner will have no bearing on the implementation of the policy.

The full board wellness policy can be found at www.portjeffschools.org under “Community” tab.

The Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption in Port Jefferson celebrated its 57th Port Jefferson Greek Festival from Aug. 23 to 26. This year’s event featured carnival rides, traditional dance performances, live music, games and culinary delights.

by -
0 1359

At some point along my ancestral chain, I must have been Italian. Or Chinese. How do I know? I have an unbelievable passion for pasta. That’s not a carbohydrate lust. While I have never met a carb I don’t like, I can take or leave rice or bread and the many other forms in which carbohydrates can be found. But my soul soars for pasta.

It was World Pasta Day Oct. 25, and that got me to thinking about my love affair with pasta. I suppose it started in my early childhood, as almost everything does. SpaghettiOs came in a can, and my mother occasionally served it to us as part of a meal. However, the story is not that straightforward. She felt the sauce was a bit sharp, and so she sprinkled the spaghetti with a little sugar. Now this is enough to make any self-respecting Italian restaurateur gag. Many did, as I would ask, “Can I have some sugar please?” of my waiter as I was served a bowl of steaming pasta. “Sugar? You mean Parmesan cheese?” he would ask. “No sugar, thank you, granulated sugar,” I would patiently explain. Then he would watch in fascination as I topped off my dish accordingly.

It wasn’t until I visited Italy for the first time that I understood the miracle of pasta. The secret is in the sauce, which decidedly is not improved with the addition of sugar. Somehow the pasta itself tastes different there too, the same way water does depending on where it comes from. I remember that first trip very well, as I fell in love with the beauty of the country, the kindness of the people, the richness of its art. But what I remember best is the pasta, which I will tell you that I came to eat there three times a day. And it never tasted the same way twice because all chefs proudly make their own secret sauces. The high point occurred in Amalfi, in a small restaurant on the side of a mountain overlooking the sea. We were with a tour but unscheduled for lunch, and we wandered around the town looking for a likely eatery. They are all charming, you know, but one in particular attracted us and we went in to find that the luncheon special consisted of six different kinds of pasta.

Six! I thought I had died and gone to heaven. The chef, who spoke no English and needed none, came out to explain that we should start with the mildest pasta on the huge plate, then work our way around much as an artist does with his paint palette, to the one with the strongest flavored sauce. The six pastas were each different and the experience was, as you can tell, exquisitely memorable.

Although some think pasta was invented in Italy, others believe Marco Polo brought it back from his travels to China, where he supposedly tasted it at the court of Kublai Khan. There is record of the Chinese eating noodles as early as 5000 B.C. and, in fact, the Etruscans from western Italy seem to have made pasta in 400 B.C. There are bas-relief carvings in a cave 30 miles north of Rome depicting instruments for making pasta: a rolling-out table, pastry wheel and flour bin, according to the National Pasta Association. Anyway in the 13th century, the pope set quality standards for pasta. Thomas Jefferson fell in love with a macaroni dish he tasted in Naples while serving as ambassador to France and promptly ordered crates of the pasta, along with the pasta-making machine, sent back to the United States. Indeed, he may have been the one to introduce macaroni to this country. Cortez brought tomatoes back from Mexico in 1519, but it took two centuries before the marriage with pasta was consummated.

There have been many imitation pastas, meaning not made from wheat, that have come along, but only one makes the grade with me, and I give it a shameless plug here for those who can’t or won’t eat the real thing. Manufactured by Tolerant, it is made of beans and called Organic Red Lentil Pasta.

Buon appetito!

Flavorings in drinks can make the refreshment less healthy than it appears. Stock photo

By Chris Zenyuh

“Natural” is one of the most abused terms in food marketing.

Most “natural flavors,” for example, are simply chemical compounds synthesized in the same laboratories as artificial flavors using slightly different techniques and sources.  Similarly, “fruit sugar” or fructose has an enticing natural sounding name, but very little of our fructose consumption actually comes from fruit.  Instead, we typically accumulate fructose via table sugar — half of every teaspoon turns to fructose in our digestive system — and/or high fructose corn syrup found in almost all processed foods and beverages, even fruit juice. Though coffee and tea are, by themselves, free of fructose, the commonly consumed versions with syrups and flavoring from familiar national chains are more akin to soda, nutritionally.

When it comes to fructose, you should keep a few things in mind to keep a more healthful perspective. As a sweetener, fructose hits 170 on a scale that ranks table sugar at 100 and glucose at 70.  It also tastes sweet faster, browns faster, and holds more moisture than other sugars.  These characteristics have made fructose an industry favorite, especially once the chemistry behind high fructose corn syrup became cost efficient.

The only organ in your body that can process fructose is your liver.  Metabolically, your body makes very little distinction between alcohol and fructose.  Both are seen as poisons and both are detoxified by your liver accordingly.  The primary distinction is that your brain can metabolize about 10 percent of the alcohol consumed, thus inebriation. Chronic exposure to fructose generates much of the same metabolic dysfunction as alcohol, including liver disease. Unfortunately, there is no “drinking age” for fructose, so even the youngest of children are regularly exposed to fructose.

Glucose and fructose molecules can stick to proteins in your body.  This is known as glycation.  The more your cells are exposed to these sugars, the more frequently this occurs.  Your body does have the ability to disconnect these molecules, but too much glycation can overwhelm that system. Eventually, the attachments become permanent, known as ‘advanced glycation end-products’ or A.G.E.s (a telling acronym, for sure).

These compromised proteins cross-link with each other in a manner that disrupts their function. Collagen fibers that should slide past each other become rigid and tear under stress. Skin wrinkles, ligaments tear, and the lens of your eye can start to block light (glaucoma). Consistently high levels of exposure are recorded by your blood cells as the hemoglobin becomes glycated. Blood tests can thereby show your general glucose and fructose levels over the three months preceding the test and indicate a pre-diabetic condition.

Notably, fructose attaches to proteins seven to ten times faster than glucose, and it is harder for your body to undo these attachments.  Following simple logic, that makes you age up to ten times faster, or faster than your dog.

Eating a reasonable amount of fruit is not a problem.  Beware of how easy it is to consume too much dried fruit, though. And remember that the true nutritional value of fruit resides in its vitamins, antioxidants and fiber.  When consumed whole, the potential negative metabolic impact of the sugars within is greatly lessened by the presence of the other nutrients, especially the fiber. Consuming ‘fruit sugar’ isolated from these beneficial components of fruit, including fruit juice, is a far more dangerous game to play with your metabolism.

Knowing how your body responds to fructose enables you to make more healthful choices regarding food and beverages. Choose well, live well.

Chris Zenyuh is a science teacher at Harborfields High School and has been teaching for
30 years.

Port Jefferson’s 2016 Greek Festival kicked off Aug. 18 and has three remaining dates from Aug. 26 to Aug. 28. The annual cultural celebration is hosted by the Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption at Port Jefferson and features food, activities, music, fireworks and more.

Smaller eateries could seat more, serve liquor

Smaller restaurants in Huntington may be able to expand their seating and serve a glass of wine with food. File photo

Huntington Town is looking for ways to allow smaller restaurants, like dine-in pizzerias and coffee shops, to offer more seating and obtain a liquor license in order to make them more competitive, officials said this week.

Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) sponsored legislation that attempts to help small businesses that serve food on-premises by placing them under a new classification. Currently, the town only classifies such establishments as either food shops or restaurants, but the former cannot have more than 15 seats and cannot serve alcohol, while the latter must have a floor plan of at least 2,500-square-feet. If passed, the resolution would create a new classification for bistros and allow one seat per 65-square-feet of total floor area, for a maximum of 38 seats in a 2,500-square-foot location.

If a business were to be approved as a bistro spot, it would have to meet specific parking requirements, could not have a drive-through, and could not dedicate more than 5 percent of its total gross floor area to prepackaged retail products, Edwards’ legislation said.

“Creating the bistro classification will help preserve the type of unique, local businesses that are present in our small strip malls as well as in our local villages and hamlets,” Edwards said in a statement. “This measure is important so that small businesses continue to have economic growth within the town of Huntington.”

Town Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) said that it’s important for town code to keep up with the times and the culture of what consumers now want in a restaurant.

“For example, today, many people like to have a glass of wine or a beer with a slice of pizza,” Petrone said in a statement. “This change will help small eateries that traditionally are owned by local businesspeople satisfy that demand and not lose customers to restaurants that already have capability.”

Residents and business owners of Huntington echoed this sentiment at a public hearing during a Huntington Town Board meeting Tuesday night.

Vito Defeo, owner of Viajo’s Pizza and Pasta on East Jericho Turnpike in Huntington, said that it’s an integral part of a restaurant to be able to offer a glass of wine or a beer with a meal.

“So it impacts our small businesses very greatly,” he said at the meeting. “Anything that can be done to move this forward, not just for myself, but for all the other small businesses in the town that are really restaurants but can’t be classified as such, I think is great. There are a lot of small operations that make amazing food that people would considered to be a restaurant, but unfortunately are not.”

Lisa Dvoskin, an attorney and lifelong resident of Huntington stressed the importance of maintaining smaller businesses in the area.

“I think we can all agree that the local businesses in Huntington are the lifeblood of this town,” Dvoskin said. “It is my hope we can have this new classification, in ‘bistro,’ to allow small businesses and restaurants to fairly compete and be successful.”

In addition to adding a bistro classification, Edwards said she also wants to simplify the bar classifications. Currently, a tavern or bar is under a sub classification of a restaurant, and with the new proposal, the distinction between a restaurant and a bar would be that a bar does not need to have kitchen facilities for food services at all times and is not required to have seating available for 90 percent of the lawful amount of patrons.

Edwards said after the meeting that based on the positive response from public comment, she expects the bistro law to be voted on at the next board meeting in January.

Co-partners Salvatore Mignano, Eric Finneran, and Daniel Valentino inside VAUXHALL. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Burger fans of Huntington: rejoice.

VAUXHALL, a burger bar with a late night menu and coffee cocktails, is set to open soon on Clinton Avenue in Huntington.

Native Long Islanders Eric Finneran, Daniel Valentino and Salvatore Mignano named the joint in honor of the Morrissey 1994 album “Vauxhall and I,” and they want to bring a fun vibe to a spot in the downtown area that has seen many different tenants over the last several years.

Burgers will be the central focus, but Valentino said the restaurant will also have wings and other appetizers. The kitchen is expected to stay open till 2 a.m. or later.

Their coffee cocktails will combine different brews with a variety of liquors, including Jameson and Jack Daniel’s cinnamon whiskey. The guys also expect to have 14 different beers on tap and an extensive cocktail menu — Finneran said they recently hired a mixologist who is putting together a revolving seasonal list.

Located at the end of Clinton Avenue, near the traffic circle with Gerard Street, VAUXHALL will be at a corner that has been a revolving door for businesses in recent years, but Finneran said that fact didn’t deter the local guys from setting roots.

“We love it,” Finneran said, adding that it makes them work harder to succeed in that spot.

Valentino was born in Huntington and attended St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington. Finneran and Mignano are from the South Shore.

The front entrance of VAUXHALL
The front entrance of VAUXHALL

Valentino said they had been interested in Huntington village for a while.

“It’s a great town with the best walking traffic,” Finneran said. “It’s got that vibe that sets the tone to succeed in business. You set up shop here and you put out a good product and you’re going to win.”

This is not the first business venture for the three men. They are co-partners of the Amityville Music Hall in Amityville, a music venue that has hosted national touring hardcore bands like Glassjaw and Madball.

Finneran and Mignano are also co-partners of the Leaky Lifeboat Inn in Seaford, a punk rock bar they describe as “organized chaos,” and ZA Late Night Pizza in Seaford. Leaky Lifeboat Inn was named best bar in the Bethpage Best of Long Island program in 2012.

Valentino met his two partners while working as a bartender at the Leaky Lifeboat Inn.

“We built a great friendship, trust and rapport with him,” Finneran said.

Valentino said the trio is “always looking for the next thing.”

All three partners said the vibe of their new restaurant is “come as you are,” with a rustic feel.

“We want families during the day, but at night we expect the crowd to resemble the Leaky Lifeboat,” Finneran said. They also hope to capture the people leaving shows at the Paramount late at night.

“This is a unique, hip experience that is not in town yet,” Valentino said.

VAUXALL is expected to open sometime in late November but no official date has been set.