As a local real estate salesperson in Garden City, I try to encourage everyone to visit and enjoy the neighborhood. Part of that is knowing what amenities and local businesses are available. In this local business segment, I was joined by Peter Mistretta, the chef and owner of Perennial Restaurant located at 990 Franklin Ave in Garden City.
Perennial opened its doors in January of 2018 and hasn’t looked back. The farm-to-table restaurant has already received many accolades including being named a top 100 restaurant on Long Island by Newsday. Even more impressive, Perennial is an independently run restaurant that isn’t part of a big restaurant group. Peter and his wife Ashley run the day-to-day operations themselves.
Because Peter & Ashley are providing a great dining experience, truly executing the farm-to-table concept, and giving back to the community, it was a pleasure to talk about Perennial on GC Real Estate Guy. With some new menu options coming out this fall, it’s a great time to head over to Perennial.
You can listen to the full audio or read a summarized version below. Enjoy!
-Chris Martocci, Coach Realtors
Here’s a quick summary of the interview:
1) Tell us a little about yourself and how you got into this business.
I was raised in NYC and went to college at NYU. Afterwards I realized that working a “real” job wasn’t for me so I went back to culinary school at the French Culinary Institute. After culinary school I worked at various restaurants in Manhattan but it was always my ambition to have my own restaurant.
2) What was involved in getting Perennial started from initial planning to the grand opening?
The concept of Perennial had been in my head for about 7-8 years. My wife and I looked at real estate in the City but the cost was prohibitive. It later dawned on us that the type of restaurant we wanted to open would be very unique on Long Island. We consider Perennial a neighborhood bistro that is very casual and informal but with attentive service, has a real beverage program, and has a menu that changes seasonally based on the products that we get from local farms and producers.
Once we started looking at real estate on Long Island, it became hard to find the right location. One main factor was parking. Once we found our location in Garden City we started getting permits and doing construction. All of that takes a tremendous amount of time and patience. You have to have a thick skin because there’s a lot of paperwork and you can easily have setbacks. Our contractor also finished building out the restaurant three months later than originally planned. This was a little devastating because when you are paying rent on a space, time is money. We were supposed to open in the fall and wound up opening on January 10th. Looking back on it, we learned a lot. We were really just making it up as we went.
3) You’ve successfully been in business since early 2018. What has been your biggest learning experience so far?
I’ve learned a lot. For the most part I think it’s been learning about the clientele, the community, and what they care about. We’re also trying to have a flexible menu that will reach out to a larger amount to people. So for example you can come here and have 3-4 courses on a Saturday night, or you can sit at the bar and have a glass of wine and bowl of pasta during happy hour. We try to fulfill every need of the community.
4) You mentioned to me that you moved to Garden City about 9 months ago. Between starting Perennial and moving to GC, what have you learned about the community?
We’ve learned just how small the community is. Something that still amazes me is that on a weekend night two parties will be on either side of the restaurant and then at the end of their meal they will meet and be like “oh hey how’s it going” and it becomes the meeting point for just spending time together. I love that - it makes me feel like we are in the right place and doing something right.
5) What was your buying experience like when you first started looking in Garden City?
It was very fast and expedited. My wife and I were renting in Mineola and were casually looking. I think the house we’re in is probably the fourth house we looked at. We were going to Sunday open houses and we found a home in the Mott Section that we loved. We also wanted to put roots in the community and not just be business owners, so we were aggressive and proactive about it.
6) You have a seasonal menu, but are there any staple dishes that you don’t plan on taking off the menu?
Certain items will always be there like the Parker Rolls. We bake our own bread every day and make butter a couple of times a week which is unique to us. The burger is also a popular choice that we are very proud of and is here to stay. The brussell sprouts as well – that seems to be on every table and are vegan as well which is a bonus. Certain things will always be on the menu, but one of the fun things about a seasonal menu is that things are always changing and when people come back there are new items they haven’t seen before.
7) We’re heading into fall now. Which new menu items are you most excited about?
Right now is actually the best time of year for produce. The vegetables that we are getting from our organic farm in Brookhaven are incredible. We’re at the end of the tomato/pepper/eggplant season and coming into the squashes and root vegetables, so it’s the best of summer and fall right now. In my opinion that’s the best time to eat local produce, and we try to let the farm drive the menu selection.
The fusilli with butternut squash will back this year – that was very popular last year. We’ll come up with some new dishes as well. The kitchen is very collaborative and is always coming up with new ideas.
8) In my opinion you have some of the best cocktail selections on LI. What was the thought process when planning out the beverage selections?
Like our food, we try to start with the best products. We don’t have low end liquors, and we also juice fresh lemon and lime juice every single day. Those things make a big difference and they require a lot of work and cost more money to make, but people notice the difference in flavor, and it makes it all worth it. A familiar drink like a Daiquiri will taste different here, and that’s because of the quality of ingredients.
9) What message do you have for the nearby residents:
We are an independent mom & pop restaurant which is rare on the Island and we are very focused on value. Whether it’s a $20 beer and burger or a four-course meal, we put the same amount of effort and care into both of those things. It’s very important for us to start with high quality ingredients and fill a lot of different needs in the neighborhood.
My wife and I are homeowners here. We love Garden City and really love the community. We’re looking forward to getting to know more people