The Petulant Wino is new to the North Fork restaurant scene, but the masterminds behind its creation are not. Chef and restaurateur Tom Schaudel, along with daughter Courtney and fellow chef Lenny Campanelli, have created an eatery that offers diners an eclectic array of dishes, from snacks and pastas to small plates and charcuterie platters, along with carefully chosen wines and inventive cocktails.
To start we snacked on herbed goat cheese, served with crusty country bread and spicy pepperoncini. The cheese was mixed with tons of fresh rosemary and sage—it was herbaceous, creamy and tangy. Alongside our meal, we enjoyed a refreshing summer wine, the 2013 McCall “Marjorie’s” Rose Merlot. The wine was light and crisp, with subtle fruity notes.
Next we had the heirloom tomato salad, served with my favorite—burrata. The locally grown heirlooms—red and yellow—were almost too gorgeous to eat, and the vibrant smell of the tomatoes made my mouth water. The burrata, a type of mozzarella cheese, was simply delicious. Creamy and fresh on the inside with a thick mozzarella shell on the outside, burrata is best when paired with tomatoes, and Chef Lenny adds a twist to classic flavors with his basil aioli and Saba, a type of balsamic vinegar. Simple, classic with a twist and delicious.
The crispy fried kale salad caught my eye. Kale is so popular these days, and that’s a good thing because it is packed with vitamins and beta-carotene. The fried kale is served with roasted mushrooms, grilled onions and a crumbled hard-boiled egg, dressed with a mustard vinaigrette. Although the stalks were a bit tough, the leaves were perfectly crisp and paired well with the earthy mushrooms and tangy mustard vinaigrette.
Grilled octopus salad was next, served with crispy potatoes, spicy-sweet-smoky chorizo, fried garbanzo beans and roasted piquillo peppers, with a robust romesco vinaigrette drizzled on the plate. The grilled octopus had a pleasing crunch, while the inside was still tender and nearly melted in my mouth. The char from the grill lent a pleasing smokiness to the dish and I especially loved the roasted piquillo peppers.
Next came a dish I’ve been talking about since I ate it—buccatini pasta with guanciale, which is a hard salami made from pork cheeks. Guanciale is deliciously porky, similar to pancetta, and in this dish it is cubed and sautéed until it becomes crisp on the outside and it’s tossed in a fresh tomato sauce with red onion and chili flakes. I’m not ashamed to say we ate every bite of this dish.
There was grilled cheese on the menu, but it was like no grilled cheese I’ve ever had before. Made on French bread, my gourmet grilled cheese consisted of braised short ribs and Taleggio cheese, with a bowl of savory au jus for dipping. The sandwich was pungently cheesy, and every bite was pure bliss. The meat was tender and juicy, the cheese was salty and tangy, the au jus earthy with the juice from the short ribs, and it was all brightened by slivers of pickled red onion—this was the best grilled cheese I’ve ever eaten!
Our last savory course was beef and broccoli. Perfectly seasoned sirloin steak, cooked to medium-rare perfection, is served with charred broccoli on top of a fresh broccoli purée and drizzled with a warm black bean sauce. The steak was impeccably tender, and the lightness from the broccoli purée combined with the mellow essence of the black bean sauce was heavenly.
Not only was the food at the Petulant Wino some of the best, freshest food around, but each plate had a distinctive look all its own, with attention to colors and shapes, all meant to dazzle the first sense we eat with: our eyes.
We had to leave some room for dessert—no meal is complete without it. We tried two—first, the peach and brown butter tart, which was incredibly decadent. The brown butter flavor exploded in my mouth. The peaches lent a subtle sweetness to the tart, which was served with a beautiful blueberry gelato. The other dessert was a brioche bread pudding, which had pecan and cherries inside. It was served floating in the most delicious crème anglaise, and flavored with bourbon. The plate was drizzled with a caramel sauce that I could have eaten all on its own!
The Petulant Wino Bistro & Wine Bar, 739 Main Road, Aquebogue; petulantwino.com, 631-779-3900.