Tom Colicchio is heading to Long Island. The superstar restaurateur and head judge and producer of Bravo TV’s "Top Chef" opens his new farm-to-table restaurant, Small Batch, at Roosevelt Field mall in Garden City on Wednesday. Right next to Havana Central, the venue takes over the space vacated by Houston’s in 2015.
“Farm-to-table” gets bandied around by a lot of restaurateurs who wouldn’t know a tractor from a truffle, but Colicchio, a longtime advocate for sustainable agriculture, walks the walk. And, as a homeowner in Mattituck, he is already a fan of the local farm scene.
“I want to focus on the richness of what Long Island produces,” he said. “At our restaurants in the city we are already using produce from Satur and Sang Lee farms. We are also going to highlight Long Island wine, beer and spirits.”
Comestibles aside, Small Batch boasts a lot of local talent in the gleaming open kitchen. Chef de cuisine Tommy Chang, an eight-year veteran of Colicchio’s organization in Manhattan, lives in Manhasset Hills and is thrilled to have more than halved his commute to work. The same goes for executive sous chef Karen Quiambao of East Meadow, who most recently cooked at Le Coucou in SoHo, and sous chef Rob Tweedie, the opening chef at Element Seafood in Great Neck (now closed).
“We are hoping to hire that person who was willing to commute to the city to cook in a great restaurant but is happy to find this on Long Island,” Colicchio said.
Colicchio has some experience in Suffolk: He opened Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton in 2012 (earning four stars from Newsday before departing the venture in 2014), but this is the first true suburban property for his company, Crafted Hospitality, which operates restaurants in New York, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
“We were toying with the idea of getting out of the big city, starting to look at suburbs and smaller cities,” he said. “Then this opportunity came up with Simon [Simon Property Group, which owns Roosevelt Field]. They were looking for partners outside of the typical 'mall restaurant' groups.”
Here’s what the chef is doing to tailor his cooking for a suburban audience: nothing. “We absolutely are not dumbing down the food.”
The menu at Small Batch recalls the one at Craftbar, Colicchio’s casual Flatiron District restaurant that closed in 2017 after 15 years. (The rent, he said, was “jacked up from $35K to $60K.") Starters include grilled Long Island squid with chickpeas and Aleppo pepper, pork terrine with watercress and crispy pig ears, whipped ricotta toast with dandelion greens and toasted hazelnuts. Among pasta are honey-nut agnolotti with sage and brown butter, and white bean raviolini with clams, kale and Calabrian chilies.
There are mains such as Long Island duck with squash confit and Swiss chard, grilled Long Island sea bream with grilled red onion and braised fennel, baked tuna with tomato soffritto, braised chicken thighs with soppressata and garlic confit, a Wagyu burger with balsamic onions, tomato jam and truffled pecorino. Starters and salads range from $13 to $22, pastas from $17 to $20, mains from $25 to $36. A la carte selections from the wood-fired grill include a half chicken ($34), porchetta ($32) and a bone-in rib-eye ($58).
Local beverages include wines from Bedell, Channing Daughters and Paumanok; beer from Oyster Bay and Barrier brewing companies; vodka, gin and whiskey from Long Island Spirits.
Even the look of Small Batch has a local angle. The sleek-but-warm modern farmhouse décor is the work of Locust Valley’s Bentel & Bentel Architects. The restaurant is divided into a dining room with a view of the open kitchen, and a bar-lounge. All told, it seats 180 people.
It’s a busy week for Colicchio. The 16th season of "Top Chef" premiered Thursday on Bravo.
Colicchio’s Crafted Hospitality operates Craft, Riverpark and Temple Court in Manhattan, Craftsteak and Heritage Steak in Las Vegas, and Craft Los Angeles.
Small Batch is in Roosevelt Field at 630 Old Country Rd., Garden City, 516-548-8162, smallbatchrestaurant.com.