Dry-aged beef sliders. Tacos on housemade tortillas, filled with braised pork shoulder that took days to prepare. A gingery mezcal cocktail — or a glass of sauvignon blanc from the North Fork.
Eating at the bar at Perennial in Garden City was always an adventure, one that could leave you well sated, as well as swooning over bar snacks that were as poised as the larger plates here.
That experience is no longer. Perennial, the ambitious bistro that chef-owner Peter Mistretta opened two years ago on Franklin Avenue, will not reopen as outdoor dining resumes this week.
"Perennial is very expensive and difficult to run even in the best of times," said Mistretta. "Our business model was never really set up to deal with takeout and delivery as an option."
With only 12 seats outside, Mistretta said, weeks of outdoor dining only would have been little help with expenses like rent, utilities and taxes, which don't stop for a pandemic. "There's no way to foresee when something like this happens," he said. "It's bittersweet. When we ended [for coronavirus], we had the strongest team in place yet. I felt like we were doing some of our best work."
Mistretta opened Perennial in January 2018 with a commitment to showcasing local produce, cheeses, fish and wine, as well as pastured meats from slightly further afield.
Mistretta was only 30, but he had already clocked time at Back 40 in New York City under chef Peter Hoffman, who helped pioneer market-to-table cooking. Mistretta had also worked a private chef, and he spent the first six months before opening Perennial building relationships with farmers, cheesemakers, wine producers and others in the region.
In March 2018, Perennial earned three stars from Newsday for dishes such as spaghetti with cauliflower ragu and ricotta and local monkfish over beech mushrooms.
Despite a career spent entirely in kitchens, Mistretta is pondering a pivot from restaurants. "Food and beverage and hospitality — I love it, it's the thing that gives me the most joy. I've worked in restaurants since I was 21 or 22," he said. "It's a very strange time for our industry. It's become harder and harder as an independent restaurant, and you can only charge so much for a plate of food. I don't know what dine-in restaurants will look like when the dust settles."