A gleaming walnut and white oak bar stands in front of an exposed brick wall inside Riverhead's newest eatery. Photo: Denise Civiletti

PeraBell Food Bar East opened its doors for the first time last night for an invitation-only “friends and family” event to introduce the upscale new Main Street eatery to the Riverhead community.

The interior has the same look and feel as the popular Main Street, Patchogue restaurant: upscale metropolitan.

“We tried to keep it very much in the same style, with the same atmosphere,” said PeraBell partner John Peragine — the “Pera” in the restaurant’s name.

The totally renovated interior features exposed brick, with the same color scheme and lighting design as PeraBell in Patchogue. The main dining room, like the one in Patchogue, has a long bench seat against one wall, lined with two-person tables. Booths line the opposite wall. The street-facing wall is built of floor-to-ceiling windows. The furniture was custom-made by an Amish family using reclaimed wood.

When he wasn’t working the crowd, shaking hands and kissing visitors, Peragine was sliding specialty thin-crust pizzas into the wood-fired pizza oven installed behind a counter opposite the bar.

Pizza is a new addition to the PeraBell menu just for the Riverhead location and Peragine is excited about it. PeraBell in Patchogue can’t serve pizza because their lease prohibits it, Peragine explained. The building is owned by a za who owns a pizza parlor in the village, so there’s a non-compete clause in the lease. PeraBell’s owners bought the property in Riverhead last year.

At last night’s party, Peragine was experimenting with pizza toppings that included mushroom truffles, clams and a variety of cheeses — to the delight of his hundred or so guests. They were also treated to passed hors d’oeuvres like spicy short ribs on raman noodle crackers, sliders, two varieties of chicken wings and tuna tartar.

The menu at PeraBell in Riverhead will be the same fare that’s won accolades and awards —and drawn crowds — in Patchogue. It’s American but eclectic — “all over the place, really,” Peragine said. “We will serve fresh, local food, so the specials will reflect what’s in season. We’re into the farm-to-table experience.” Executive chef James Klein will oversee the kitchen. PeraBell Food Bar’s price point is reasonable, with most dinner entrees offered at or under about $20.

Beer from Riverhead’s three craft breweries flows from taps at the restaurant’s two long bars, alongside a variety of domestic and imported brews. The restaurant’s wine list includes offerings from Long Island wineries. The bar itself is an impressive, gleaming walnut wood bar, wrapped in white oak. Several flat screen TVs are mounted on the exposed brick wall behind the bar.

Peragine said he and his partner Scotti Campbell are eagerly looking forward to a grand opening some time soon after July 4. Until then, he said, they will have a few “soft opening” events “to iron out the kinks.”

If there are kinks to iron out, they weren’t obvious last night, according to guests, who raved about the food, the service and the atmosphere.

“They really know what they’re doing. You can tell that right away,” said Riverhead Chamber of Commerce vice president Bob Kern. “Everything is perfectly smooth.”

Owners of local breweries and other Main Street restaurateurs were on hand to welcome PeraBell to town, among them: Greg Martin and Dan Burke of Long Ireland Beer Co., Ray Dickhoff of Joe’s Garage, Dee Muma of Dark Horse Tavern, Duffy Griffiths of Crooked Ladder Brewing Company, Ed Tuccio of Tweed’s, and Christina Mantzapoulos of Mazi (the former Athens Grill), which is set to open by the end of this month.

“This is wonderful,” Mantzapoulos said. “There is going to be great synergy with all the restaurants downtown.”

“I’ve always had a vision of a real restaurant row here on Main Street,” said Muma. “It’s happening.”

Suffolk Theater owners Bob and Dianne Castaldi were sampling appetizers and sipping beer and wine near the wall of windows looking out on Main Street, across from the theater. PeraBell in Patchogue is right next door to the a former movie theater renovated and reopened as a performing arts center.

“It’s a perfect fit and he’s done a beautiful job in here,” said Castaldi, a builder who specializes in historic restorations. He’s now renovating the former fire house on Second Street, where he’s leasing the ground floor to a new microbrewery.

“This is an exciting addition to Main Street. With Mazi and Sonoma also opening this summer and other stores filling in, and a full schedule of shows at the theater, there’s going to be a lot of foot traffic downtown,” Supervisor Sean Walter said.

“Riverhead is very much like Patchogue was when we first opened there,” Peragine said. “We believe it’s on the verge of the same kind of resurgence and we’re glad to be here and be part of that.

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