Parker House rolls with Cara Cara orange marmalade and sea-salt...

Parker House rolls with Cara Cara orange marmalade and sea-salt butter at The State Room in Patchogue. Credit: Newsday/Erica Marcus

For Francis Derby, there really is no place like home. The chef, who ran vaunted kitchens in Manhattan, Los Angeles and Miami, is back living in Bellport, his hometown, and cooking less than five miles away at The State Room in Patchogue.

“It’s taken a long time to find a place to cook," he said. 

A jewel box of a cocktail bar with small plates, the month-old State Room is just the first concept to open in the historic building that, from 1996 until last year, was the BrickHouse Brewery. Derby and his partners, Stephen Rizzo, Jim McPeak and Bert Wiegand, are on a mission to elevate the dining scene in a town perhaps more known for the drinking scene. (The partners' South Shore dining credentials: Rizzo and McPeak operate Off the Block Kitchen & Meats in Sayville; Wiegand ran the beverage program at Tullulah's in Bay Shore.)

“This is an anti-dive bar,” Derby explained, “a place with red-velvet banquettes that makes a proper old fashioned, a place where the chef can really have some fun because there are only 30 seats.”

Many State Room meals start with parkerhouse rolls that come with house-churned butter and housemade Cara Cara orange marmalade. Other starters include beef tartare on crumpets napped with Bearnaise sauce, and duck wings with orange-chili glaze and sesame yogurt. There are pastas such as linguine with local clams and fennel confit, and small-scale mains such as chicken Milanese with miso-apple sauce, and skirt steak au poivre with crispy sunchokes. Starters are under $20; most mains under $30.

Derby favors local produce and has established relationships with Hamlet Organic Garden and Early Girl farms, both of Brookhaven Hamlet. He is also excited to be working with dough — the rolls, the crumpets and the linguine are all made in house. “I think about my skill set like one of those Trivial Pursuit pieces,” he said. “I’m always trying to get another wedge, and I never had a chance to dig into bread or pasta.”

The chef, 45, grew up working on his grandfather’s East Patchogue duck farm (Gallo’s, which closed in 1987) and, as a teenager, he started in the kitchen at The Bellport, a restaurant that he would work at on and off for the next few decades.

By 2018, he was getting homesick, having worked in kitchens in New York City and Los Angeles. “I missed the water and the farms,” he recalled, “I missed family dinners. My wife and I had a son and wanted him to know his uncles and cousins, to grow up the way I grew up.”

For two years he was executive chef at Prime in Huntington before setting his sights on his own restaurant. Eating around the South Shore he’d befriended Rizzo and McPeak, and, he recalled, “everyone said that Bert was the guy for cocktails.” (And, indeed, he is. His 10 signature cocktails include The Proper Pour with gin, anisette, Grand Marnier and Angostura bitters.)

Up a flight of steps (equipped with a stair lift chair), The State Room occupies a fraction of 67 Main St. Another, larger, upstairs room has been drafted into service as an event space, but the entire downstairs — even more capacious now that the beer-making equipment has been removed — is still awaiting its marching orders. Here’s what Derby knows so far: There will be four dining areas. Besides the current bar and dining room, the front of the restaurant — where the enormous brewing tanks were — will be integrated into the sidewalk, perhaps with glass garage doors. Add a renovated patio out back and that as-yet-unnamed restaurant should seat between 150 and 200.

The menu is also a work in progress but Derby is thinking about “a Long Island brasserie” with seafood towers and big chops and grilled fish. Unlike the meticulously plated creations at The State Room, “downstairs the food is going to be less precise, more approachable. I’d rather do simple food really well,” he said, “than do just an OK job with fake fancy food.”

The State Room, 67 W Main St., Patchogue; open for dinner and drinks Wednesday-Sunday starting at 4 p.m.; 631-447-2337, thestateroomli.com.

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