Anyone wanting chef-made dinners but doesn’t have the time or will to wait at a restaurant (read: has young children) can now get a meal at the Bistro GoFood Marketplace in Huntington.
The new culinary market at 90 New York Avenue celebrated its grand opening earlier this month, when several local business leaders and elected officials come out to support owners Karen Melanie LaRocco, who goes by “Chef Melanie,” and her husband, Peter.
Within a half hour of the ribbon cutting, at least 20 different faces circulated in and out of the narrow retail space, walls and shelfs crammed with jars, bottles, bags and boxes with labels from mom-and-pop companies.
“It’s high-end retail with high-end food,” LaRocco said, dressed in her black double-breasted chef jacket and Day of the Dead non-slip shoes.
“They’re smaller companies that are just doing small batch products. A lot of organic, a lot of artisanal things.”
Patrons, some filling their shopping baskets with products, were treated to palmiers with pesto and parmigiana cheese, spanakopita with spinach, feta, lemon and dill, French puffs with chicken salad and a touch of curry, apricots and coconut, crepes with herb goat cheese and crushed pistachios, shrimp tostadas, lamb chops with salsa verde and crostini with roast beef, horseradish, mayo and crispy onions.
Oh, and red and white wine.
The “GoFood” portion of the marketplace involves a rotation of a-la carte, finish-at-home diner items and grab-and-go lunches, displayed prominently in a display case at the shop’s rear.
Among many choices, Faroe Island salmon, lentil and wild mushroom cakes, roasted baby carrots and orecchiette pasta and spared shrimp were ready to order that Tuesday evening of the grand opening.
“Really you can make your own dinner,” LaRocco said. “You can mix-and-match, and it’s finished at home when you want to, not like when you pick up hot food that you really need to eat right away. It’s just fresher tasting.”
From restaurant to retail
The couple, married 18 years, owned and operated their Bistro Etc. Restaurant in Port Washington for 10 years.
While they had plans to alter the business model in the next five years, according to LaRocco, the pandemic accelerated the transition.
“I always wanted a culinary market when I was ready to not do the heavy-duty kitchen stuff,” she said. “But COVID just kind of advanced the whole thing a little bit.”
Their restaurant, with only 35 seats, could not be sustained at limited capacity with state COVID-19 dining restriction. To adapt to the circumstances, they entered the to-go food arena with freshly prepared offerings curtesy of Chef Melanie herself, who’s culinary background is in French cuisine.
“Classical French is really the basis for a lot of food, lot of technique, a lot of sauces, things like that,” she said. “It’s just your baseline, and then from their you expand.”
After offering ready-made meals for a year in Port Washington, the couple opted for a change of scenery and brought their venture to Huntington, where the couples lives, as do Chef Melanie’s parents.
With LaRocco in the kitchen, Peter works the front of the shop and handles the marketplace’s online presence.
“I’m sunk without him,” she said. “And he’s sunk without me.”
Walk in or pick up
For Huntington, the Bistro GoFood offers hope for a pre-pandemic boost to the local economy.
“I think we’ve done more ribbon cuttings now, after COVID,” said Leanne Gelish, director of operations for the Town of Huntington Chamber of Commerce. “A lot of different businesses are opening. Where something dies, something grows. What we’ve seen in our town is that while businesses have closed, and it’s so unfortunate, we’re actually seeing a rebirth in a lot of places too.”
Gelish added that the shop is unique in the town, and the storefront extends the appealing walkability of New York Avenue.
Although offerings may change on a weekly basis, Chef Melanie said hungry customers can keep in the loop through the Bistro GoFood marketplace website.
“Everything that we have here in house, and all our retail, is online too,” she said. “So you can order online, you can come and pickup, or you can come in and pick what you like from the case.”
“There’s something for everybody.”