The Culinary Studio
136 Wall St. Huntington, NY 631-385-8500
Mary and Justin Spoto are the rare business owners who enjoy the January lull. "November and December, June and July, these four months are just insane for catering," said Justin. "In January, we get back to the store - which is our bread and butter for the rest of the year."
The Culinary Studio, catering and takeout, has occupied the same storefront in Huntington Village for 22 years. Mary has been cooking there since the beginning, and in 2002, she and Justin (who had owned Huntington's Spoto's Pasta Café) bought the place from the original owners.
The two halves of the business complement each other perfectly. "We see the same faces two or three times a week," Mary said, "and when our takeout customers need a caterer, they become catering clients." After more than two decades, Mary is now doing graduation and engagement parties for children whose christenings she catered.
The long, close association with their client base has taught the Spotos what Huntingtonians want: chicken. "We go through about 240 pounds in a normal week," said Justin. Chicken breasts are grilled and topped with either mozzarella, broccoli rabe and tomato, or with mozzarella, white beans and escarole. There's chicken Marsala, chicken piccata, sesame chicken strips (kids' favorite) and a whole slew of chicken salads, including spa chicken (red and green peppers, red onion, white balsamic, no mayonnaise) and the bestselling chicken chutney salad, a pretty yellow concoction made from steamed and cubed breasts, homemade apricot-pineapple chutney, celery and mayo.
The other two dishes The Culinary Studio's customers can't get enough of are the roasted beets, and the chunky chickpea salad, which started life as a vegetarian alternative to tuna salad, but has now assumed a life of its own. -- Erica Marcus
Justin and Mary Spoto are the co-owners of The Culinary Studio in Huntington. (Newsday Photo / Erica Marcus / Jan. 8, 2010)