Long Island Pulse: You opened Verde last year, what was the inspiration?
Anthony Tartaglia:I’ve lived in Bay Shore for the last 10 years. It’s where I started in this industry, as a bartender at the Nutty Irishman. There aren’t many real Mexican restaurants on Long Island and we’re just very passionate about the country’s culture; the food, the drinks. Verde happened fast. My brother [Andy Tartaglia] and I saw the building was available, and the next thing we knew, we were swinging hammers and tearing the place apart. We grabbed our buddy and chef, Zach Rude, and soon after, we found ourselves in the mountains of Oaxaca with John Rexer [founder of Illegal Mezcal] and Jonathon Barbieri [owner of Pierde Almas] touring the different palenques where they roast the agaves to make their mezcals. We knew our cocktail menu would heavily feature tequila and mezcal, so this was crucial for us to see first-hand. We traveled through real-deal Mexico, not the tourist traps, by bus; just eating, drinking and taking a lot of notes. We wanted to bring our experiences in Mexico-the Mexico City and Oaxacan-style foods and drinks-to Bay Shore.
Pulse: Tell us about the greenhouse in the dining room.
AT: The atrium was added onto the building by a previous owner in the 80s but by last year, it was in real disrepair, being used for storage. Verde means “Green” in Spanish, and for us it serves a dual meaning. The first comes from the restaurant’s build out; almost everything here is repurposed materials. Our tables are made from old barn doors and recycled pallet wood, our bathroom doors are from old brownstones in Brooklyn. And the second meaning comes from our greenhouse, the biggest piece of repurposement. We added over 50 window boxes positioned around the room to grow herbs and vegetables for both the food and the cocktails. It adds an vibrant, energetic feeling. Things are alive again here.
Pulse: Have you gardened before?
AT: Our mother is really into gardening, so she’s taught us some cool tricks along the way. Andy and I lived on Fire Island in the summers, and we’ve always had a garden, whether at my house in Bay Shore or at our house in Ocean Beach, with jalapeno peppers, tomatoes, basil and cilantro. When we saw this space we knew immediately to do it.
Pulse: What are you growing and using for your cocktails?
AT:It varies. Even though we weren’t open last summer, we planted everything we could as a trial run: mint, thyme, rosemary, basil, strawberries, lavender, and about seven or eight different kinds of peppers. We even have a lime tree that should start producing fruit within a year or two. It was, and still is, a learning process. We didn’t finish our yearlong build out until last October and the dust and debris definitely affected some of the more sensitive plants. The cilantro was very finicky in the heat and the pineapple sage lost a little flavor along the way. It’s about seeing what works and what doesn’t in this type of setting. But we’re trying to incorporate something we’re growing into each of the 10-12 cocktails—from the lavender we infuse into a simple syrup for our mojito, which we also make with our mint, to the tequila we infuse with our jalapeno, serrano and poblano peppers for the Sandia.
Pulse: What’s your favorite cocktail on the menu?
AT: Sentimentally, I love The Ernesto, a sweet, earthy drink with sage-infused agave nectar, El Buho mezcal, chilled black tea and a touch of lemon juice in a Collins glass. It’s named after our taxi driver from Mexico City. But my favorite is probably our version of the Donaji, a popular Oaxacan cocktail inspired by the Tequila Sunrise, but with mezcal. I know of a famous version at the Rivera in LA that uses chapulin salt-which is grasshopper, very popular down there-but ours uses another popular ingredient in Oaxaca: hibiscus. We use Del Maguey Vida mezcal, housemade hibiscus grenadine, fresh squeezed orange juice and fresh pomegranate seeds as a garnish. The smoky, sweet and tartness all go very well together.