John Peragine, co-owner of the PeraBell Food Bar restaurants on Long Island, is quick to say he’s a chef first, businessman second.
And of all the food he enjoys, pizza is first on the list.
“Pizza has always been a passion of mine, and I like to eat,” he says. “I’ve always loved pizza. It’s my favorite food.”
PeraBell in Patchogue doesn’t serve pizza, but the layout at PeraBell East in Riverhead, which opened in 2015, allowed for a wood-fired pizza oven that cooks up Neapolitan-style pies in 90 seconds.
So PeraBell began offering the little pies along with its regular menu.
Word spread seemingly as fast as those pies could bake.
“The buzz started to happen, then eventually everyone was asking for our pizza in Patchogue,” Peragine said.
Those people about to get their wish — and then some.
Peragine has just signed a lease for the former Subway sandwich shop and convenience store at 18 West Avenue, just south of West Main Street.
About 70 percent of the 2,400-square-foot space will be dedicated for sit-down dining with an emphasis on the gourmet pizzas, pastas and rotating specials.
The remaining space will be serving traditional, New York-style pizza slices.
Related to that, Patchogue is about to get its first grab-and-go dining establishment for late night snacking. Donatina will be open until 2 a.m. to 3 a.m. on weekend nights, Peragine said.
“Patchogue never had that place to go late-night like Little Vincent’s” in Huntington or Lake Ronkonkoma, he said.
Peragine opened PeraBell in 2006 with partner Scottie Campbell in the building that now houses The Tap Room on West Main Street. They moved to the current location at 69 East Main Street in 2010.
Before opening a business, Peragine served as a chef at such known NYC locations as the Rainbow Room and Coco Pazzo, as well as the now-closed Sapore di Mare in East Hampton.
He graduated from Patchogue-Medford High School in 1988.
The son of Italian immigrants, Peragine grew up in Medford, where he still lives today.
“My backyard growing up was a garden,” he said, before correcting himself. “It wasn’t a garden; it was a farm. My father planted and picked, and it was my mother’s job to cook everything.”
(It later became John’s job to water the plants daily.)
“We would make 150 to 200 jars of tomato sauce every year, all with our own tomatoes,” he recalled.
In keeping with the family tradition, “Donatina” is named after he and his wife’s 5-year-old son, Donato, and their daughter, Valentina, 4.
“It might sound sentimental but I wanted to build something for my family, for the kids to always work at as they grow up; to never have to worry about finding a job,” he said. “And I want somewhere nice where a family with five kids can go out and afford to have a good time.”
Peragine is hoping to renovate and re-open within the next few months, with plans to add a patio with outdoor seating and umbrellas next year.
“This is my hometown and I love this community and I have so much support here,” he said. “It’s gonna be awesome; I can’t wait.”
Top: Chef and restaurateur John Peragine helps out at the Island to Table outdoor fundraiser dinner in 2016. (Credit: Benny Migliorino/Benny Migs Photo)
The pizza photos below come courtesy of PeraBell Food Bar East in Riverhead.