Ambitious, seasonal cuisine served in casual surroundings. The combination is absolutely on trend, but when Kitchen A Bistro opened in 1998, it was groundbreaking. Now, after 20 years, the St. James restaurant has closed.
"I am happiest when I'm cooking, and want to focus my energy at one place," said chef-owner Eric Lomando.
That place will be Orto in Miller Place, the Italian restaurant Lomando opened in 2012. "It's difficult to operate two restaurants at the level I want to operate," he said. The lease will be up in St. James later this year. Another restaurant, as yet unidentified, is expected to take over the Kitchen A Bistro site.
The restaurant's original location was the 20-seat storefront in "downtown" St. James that is now occupied by The Trattoria. Kitchen A Bistro's original owner, Robert Dixon, former chef de cuisine at Mirabelle in St. James, set the tone, drawing on New American, Mediterranean, French and Italian influences. Lomando was still a student at the culinary program at NYIT in Central Islip when he began working there. In 2002, less than two years later, Dixon moved to California and sold the restaurant to Lomando, then 24 years old.
The bistro relocated a bit south on North Country Road in 2008, to the longtime former site of Mirabelle, which was headed to the Three Village Inn in Stony Brook. (The original space was transformed into Kitchen A Trattoria, which Lomando sold to its chef, Steven Gallagher, in 2013.)
Kitchen A Bistro was defined by its market-driven cuisine, simple but handsome decor and informal service. The Stony Brook-born Lomando encouraged diners to bring their own wines. There was no corkage fee at the cash-only restaurant.
In a 2011 Newsday profile, he said. "I just cook what I like … and I hope that other people want to eat that way," emphasizing taste over presentation. He added, "Everything on the plate should be there for a reason."
His bistro was known for its $33 fixed-price dinner and the $46 one, which included wine or beer. Typical fare on Kitchen A Bistro's recent, eclectic menus took in charcuterie, tomato gazpacho, duck confit with white beans, roasted monkfish in Thai curry, penne with a red-wine-braised pork ragu, Nutella cheesecake, lemon meringue sundae and buttermilk cake with blueberries, mango, mango puree and honey gelato.
Kitchen A Bistro received a 2-1/2-star rating in Newsday in 2009.
Gift certificates for Kitchen A Bistro will be honored at Orto.
Kitchen A Bistro was at 404 N. Country Rd., in St. James. Orto is at 90 N. Country Rd., Miller Place, 631-473-0014, restaurantorto.com