North Fork Bacon & Smokehouse was not Long Island’s best-known barbecue spot, nor its most successful. But among the cognoscenti, a two-hour drive out to Wading River to sample the wares during the shop’s limited hours (8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday to Sunday) was a rewarding pilgrimage.
Thursday, pitmaster and partner Patrick Gaeta announced on Facebook that its four-year run had come to an end. The lease was up, he said, and he was unable to negotiate new terms that would allow him to continue.
Gaeta began his professional smoking career in 2013 when he started making and selling bacon at his local butcher, My Butcher, in Wading River. He eschewed standard industry practices such as injecting the pork belly with brine, in favor of a slow dry rub of salt, sugar and seasonings. In 2014, he and Michael Troyan opened their eatery in the tiny business district across North Country Road from Wading River’s pond. In addition to bacon, Gaeta also smoked ribs, brisket, beef short ribs and more.
Gaeta, who has a full-time, four-day-a-week job in the medical field, had been spending his “three days off” at the smokehouse and it “didn’t make financial sense to give up my day job to pursue my dream.” But the veteran barbecue competitor intends to keep a hand in the smoke, perhaps partnering with a local restaurant or butcher shop that wants to up its barbecue game.