After years of commuting to the city, financier Fred Mandato wanted to try something new. His latest entrepreneurial project, the waterfront, new Mediterranean eatery Aria Melanie on the Lake in Bay Shore, opened in July.
“I was a customer of the LakeHouse and knew it was a fabulous location,” said owner Fred Mandato, who named the restaurant after his two granddaughters. “The space was badly in need of an update and renovation and I knew it would be successful with my new design concept for the dining rooms and outdoor patios.”
He signed the lease and then went in search of a chef. Mandato needed a well-seasoned person running the kitchen to help Aria Melanie stand out.
“When I met Fabrizio [Perinelli], I knew we could have tremendous success together from his talent at previous restaurants. Every week, he made different dishes for me to taste so we could develop the menu.”
Blending traditional Italian food with French and Mediterranean influences, head chef Perinelli has created an innovative menu. Popular dishes include Pappardelle Allo Zafferano with sausage ragu, fennel mirepoix and pecorino as well as Duck Leg Confit with mixed greens, grilled asparagus and red wine vinegar gastrique.
“Our menu is a fusion of flavors. It’s not hardcore Italian or French,” said Perinelli. “I do everything the way we did it in Italy. There are no short cuts here.”
This means that Perinelli makes everything from scratch. Veal stock is simmered and reduced down for days to create a strong base. Pasta is rolled out by hand to ensure freshness and authenticity. The Fish en Papillote with sauce americaine changes based upon what the fishmonger has to offer each day.
Perinelli mentioned that while growing up on a farm in Priverno, Italy, he ate fresh, seasonal produce for weeks on end and when it came to meat, they ate whatever they raised in the backyard. His childhood influences every dish he creates at Aria Melanie.
“Consistency is key so everything is fresh and plated with precision,” said Perinelli. “There’s no being in a rush and just putting it on the dish. If I see a dish and I don’t like how it looks, it gets replated. The first thing you eat with is your eyes. Then, your sense of smell. Finally, your mouth. If a plate doesn’t look good or smell good, what makes you think it will taste good?”
It’s this attention to detail that makes Aria Melanie stand out and it’s not just confined to the kitchen. Mandato invested much time and energy into the décor and ambience of the restaurant, too. In addition to new furniture, lighting and bathrooms, he also made the decision to remove all of the bench seating in the restaurant.
“The key to the dining experience is the lake,” said Mandato. “I was troubled by all of the people with their backs to it and the view being blocked by the bench seating. Now, almost every seat has a fantastic view of the lake.”
Mandato also built a stone patio and installed a gas fireplace off of the back sunroom. Whether diners are enjoying appetizers and watching the sun set or having a digestif by the fireplace, he just wants people to go outside and stay awhile.
“People are now opening their minds to new ideas,” said Perinelli. “I’m happy to see that. They are learning to enjoy the experience of eating again instead of just running out to a movie afterwards.”
Richard Jay Scholem will review Aria Melanie in the November issue of Pulse.