South Country Tavern

Like so many local collaborations, the newfound relationship between two partners launching the South Country Tavern in East Patchogue next month can be traced to Facebook.

And helped get things started.

We published a poll in January asking readers what type of restaurant they’d like to see in a vacant space on Station Road in downtown Bellport.

That post got circulated on Facebook — resulting in a string of comments and opinions — and soon after, Lois Piro of Bellport and Dave Hampson of Brookhaven were on the phone with each other.

Hampson had been looking to invest in a restaurant, and Piro — who has extensive restaurant and hospitality experience — had been kicking around her own ideas for a laid back, family-friendly neighborhood spot.

Here’s how Piro’s Facebook comment on the poll read:

“I have a business plan for this restaurant … Need someone to be the money partner.”

A mutual friend saw that remark and immediately got the two in touch.

“We started talking, and she laid out, almost word-for-word, what I would have described to her,” Hampson said of the initial conversation. “We both had the same vision for this restaurant.”

While their ideas for the Bellport Village space didn’t work out, the partners quickly zeroed in on the former Peppercorn Café on South Country Road — just west of Dunton Avenue — which had closed nine months ago.

They’re cleaning the place up now and looking to open in early May.

On Saturday, they both had family and friends over to the future restaurant to help with those efforts.

“Now that we’re in here and we’re away from the village, I see so much more potential,” said Piro, who just left her longtime post as business manager at Mediterranean Manor Caterers. “It’s a beautiful area with great people, but no local spot. Bellport Village has that; East Patchogue doesn’t.”

“This will be a neighborhood spot that’s affordable,” she continued. “It’s someplace where you can go out on a date, or you can go with you friends, or you can go with your kids.”

Piro is a culinary school graduate and longtime chef at Bellport area mainstays like Painters Restaurant and Bellport Country Club. She also managed the Club Med Sandpiper Bay restaurant in Port St. Lucie.

In all, she’ll be bringing more than two decades of experience to the South Country Tavern, which Piro will be running not unlike her own big family dinners at her Bellport home.

Piro described another meeting with Hampson; this time the two spoke over dinner at her house.

“I cooked a whole bunch of stuff … and afterward, I was like, ‘How do you feel right now?’” she said. “And Dave sat back and was like, ‘I feel wonderful.'”

“I told him that’s the feeling I want every guest to have when they leave,” she said. “That we took care of them. They’re not just dollars on a seat. They’re going to get great food at a good price and leave with a smile on their face. I’m basically going to treat you like you’re at my own dining room table, eating.”

Although the South Country Tavern’s menu hasn’t been finalized, Piro described the fare as “high quality comfort bar food.”

As for why the partners went with tavern and not bistro, café or restaurant, Piro said she isn’t a fan of any of those other words.

Tavern is old-school.

“And South Country is a great road, it’s a great school district, it’s a great ambulance company,” she said. “It’s synonymous with the whole area.”

Top: Bellport seventh-grader Erika Johnson helps in the cleanup efforts. (Michael White)