Crab & Bull Provisions may have a narrow product range (three flavors of ravioli, three sauces) and a limited distribution (three farmers markets and counting) but the company packs a lot of culinary firepower: Everything is made from scratch by chef Brian Wilson.
Wilson was the last chef at Southold’s North Fork Table before it was sold to chef John Fraser and his partners. Well known in the Washington, D.C. area, he came north in 2019 and earned 3½ stars from Newsday.
After the restaurant changed hands, Wilson had a few short-term gigs but found it difficult to align his style of elegantly wrought farm-to-table cooking with the demands of a pandemic-panicked restaurant scene: high volume and crowd pleasing.
Wilson had roots on Long Island (both parents had grown up in Nassau County) so he decided to stay put, but instead of seeking another restaurant job, he channeled all his energy and creativity into pasta. "I had developed this great love of pasta," he said. "It’s elegant yet rustic. You take eggs and flour and, with your hands, you turn them into something amazing. And when you eat it, you just feel good."
The first challenge was the pasta dough itself, and Wilson arrived at a cross between the delicate soft wheat-egg pastas of Italy’s north and the heartier hard wheat-water pastas of the south. His dough uses semolina flour plus eggs and olive oil to produce a rich dough that is pliant, but sturdy enough to contain the generous amount of filling he uses. His initial ravioli fillings are cheese (with Parmesan, ricotta, pecorino, goat and basil), crab (with lump and fin meat, ricotta, bread crumbs and chives) and "funky mushroom" (with four mushrooms plus Parmesan and Taleggio, shallots, garlic, fennel and coriander seeds).
Wilson created three sauces that he says can go with any of the pastas: a meatless marinara, roasted red pepper (with toasted almonds and ras al hanout seasoning) and the "GiGi" (with baby kale, parsley, mint, basil, chives, toasted walnuts, garlic and lemon zest). Pastas are $18 to $28 for a pound; sauces are $12 a pint. More pastas, more sauces and more things that go with pasta will be rolling out this summer.
"Crab & Bull'' was a name that Wilson came up with in 2017 — though he didn’t know exactly how he’d deploy it. It seems to suit the new business which, for the moment, has no fixed home — the itinerant sfoglino (pasta maker), he can be found driving around the Island with coolers full of ingredients and cartons full of plastic container as he tries out commercial kitchens.
But there was no question that his initial retail push would be at farmers markets. Wilson likes the direct interaction with customers, getting their feedback and telling them that four minutes in lightly salted boiling water is all his ravioli need. For now you can find Crab & Bull Provisions at the Patchogue market on Sundays, the Valley Stream market on Thursdays and, starting June 5, the Seaford market on Saturdays. For more information, go to crabandbullprovisions.com.