Anthony Carcaterra has been invested in the restaurant business for as long as he can remember. His parents, Cathy and Niel, first opened a small pizzeria in 1984 named Papa Joes in Deer Park where he spent a majority of his time growing up.
“As a little kid, I used to wash dishes [there],” Carcaterra said. “I’ve been in the business my entire life.”
Carcaterra put his vision into focus nearly five years ago when he teamed up with Chef James Ahearn to launch Verde Wine Bar and Ristorante in Deer Park. The popular restaurant will be on hand to serve Long Islanders a favorite dish when Pulse hosts the North Fork Summer Social Sunday, Aug. 6. I spoke with both Carcaterra and Ahearn about the influences behind creating the sophisticated Italian restaurant and what they’ll be making at the foodie event of the summer.
What inspired you to open Verde Wine Bar and Ristorante?
Anthony Carcaterra: One day James and I went to dinner at a restaurant in New York. We were inspired by the food, the cocktail program and the atmosphere of the space. My dad called me and said he wanted to retire. We felt based on the experience at dinner that we could do something very similar.
Why Italian cuisine?
AC: Our beginning menus were very mixed between Papa Joes, the old and the new. Now as time has gone on there’s not as many [dishes from Papa Joes]. The guests came with us on this journey to where Verde is today.
I read Verde uses mostly organic ingredients. Where do you mainly get your produce?
James Ahearn: We work pretty closely with the surrounding farms. I shop the right way and plan menus according to what is available.
You are known to go off the beaten path for ingredients. What do you think your daring style brings to the table at Verde?
JA: It brings a different experience. You can have something you have never had before or you can have it in a different way. You have to go against the grain with giving more adventurous people something to seek.
Roughly how long does it take you to perfect a new dish before it gets added to the menu?
JA: It goes through a formula as far as the balance of flavors. Every dish is pretty much a thought process and I try each component on its own and then together to critique. One dish can take one week. Other dishes, I can try it one time and don’t have to change a thing. It is really trial and error.
What’s your favorite thing on the menu at Verde and why should we order it?
AC: An item on our menu that is an old-school favorite even from the Papa Joes era would be the Chicken Sorrentino.
JA: The Fluke dish because it is an evolution. It constantly changes.
Which cocktail at Verde is your personal favorite and why?
AC: We added a new martini list. Out of my new cocktails I would say the Vesper is my favorite. It is made with Perry Tot Navy Strength Gin, High West Vodka, Channing Daughters Vermouth and lemon twist.
What’s your favorite guilty pleasure meal?
AC: Cavatelli Bolognese is shut my office door and please don’t talk to me while I’m eating it meal.
Anthony, what’s the best slice of pizza you ever had?
AC: My favorite regular slice is Joe’s Pizza right in downtown New York.
James, if you weren’t a chef, what career field do you think you would have pursued?
JA: I would be a lawyer.
What is your favorite thing about being a chef and why?
JA: To be able to do what you love every day. It makes working fun.
You are a partner for Pulse’s North Fork Summer Social. What are you most excited about?
AC: For me it’s getting out in front of people that we normally don’t have the opportunity to get in front of. Being in the middle of the island our seasons are a lot different than the average restaurant. Right now, everybody on the shores is busy…and we are kind of in off-season.
Any idea what Verde will be making?
JA: I will probably do the Fluke.
Proceeds go to Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. Why is that such a worthy cause to support?
AC: Helping children is a huge part of society today. We do a lot of philanthropy and are very active in local soup kitchens. Giving back and making sure we can help in any way is great.
Do you visit the North Fork often? What are some of your favorite places to go?
AC: We are picking up from local farms all the time out east so I take a ride at least once every few weeks. I really like Shinn Estate Vineyards. You can stay on the vineyard and it’s a bed and breakfast.