Leisure time is, apparently, not what Kerri and Rich Ciota wanted from retirement. Having given up busy careers in, respectively, catering and construction, the couple bought a custom-designed food truck fitted with a smoker and kitchen and began to up their backyard game. Over the next four years they drove their Rolling Smoke truck all over the Island, catering parties, appearing at public events, and providing the good people of East Setauket with a semi-permanent truck stop on Route 347.
Two weeks ago, the Ciotas took the next step in their barbecue journey, opening a full-service restaurant on Portion Road in Lake Ronkonkoma. The place is easy to miss — the entrance is along the side of a building whose front is a Ralph’s Italian Ices. But you’ll see the truck smoking away in the parking lot. (Although the restaurant has a full kitchen, all smoking is still done on the truck.)
Rolling Smoke’s signature item is a Flintstonian “dinosaur rib,” a 9-inch length of short rib that is almost indecently tender. Brisket is sliced to order, pork butt and chicken thighs are pulled to order, and ribs are only intermittently available as a special because, Kerri said, “there’s only a short window when they are at their best.” Meats can be ordered by the pound ($16 to $28) or platter ($18 to $29, includes two sides).
The kitchen’s secret weapon is the Ciota’s 23-year-old son, Adam. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in upstate Hyde Park, he had an externship at Alinea, Chicago’s vaunted temple to molecular gastronomy, and worked at Tail Up Goat, a Michelin-starred Mediterranean bistro in Washington, D.C. At Rolling Smoke, Adam makes his own pickles, chips and onion dip (from caramelized onions, mayonnaise and crème fraîche). His macaroni and cheese is made with a blend of aged Cheddar and Gruyère. Sandwiches are served on brioche rolls from Blue Duck Bakery in Southold; leftover rolls wind up in the simply elegant bread pudding, topped with house-made browned-butter semifreddo.
Rolling Smoke Grill is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday at 189B Portion Rd., Lake Ronkonkoma, 844-474-5548.