Farmers and chefs have a lot in common. They work long hours, their jobs are physically demanding, and their goal is to produce the best quality food possible.

It’s a tall order and you need grit, skill, and passion.

The people at Lenny Bruno Farms and Off the Block Kitchen & Meats have plenty of all three.


Chef Stephen Rizzo is teaming up with Lenny Bruno Farms to serve up Long Island’s finest and freshest apps and entrees at the annual Island to Table outdoor dining experience Aug. 26 in Patchogue.

Rizzo is the head chef and owner at Off the Block Kitchen & Meat, a combination butcher shop and 30-seat restaurant in his hometown of Sayville.

The sleek black building on Montauk Highway retains the charm of a small-town butcher shop but with a luxe, modern edge.

The 28-year-old cut his teeth at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park and cooked his way across Manhattan’s fine dining scene. He found the fast pace of the kitchen thrilling, but the late nights and infrequent subways, less so. Then he started working at Lobel’s, a generations-old butcher shop on the Upper East Side.

“Cutting and preparing meat is a totally different exercise than cooking it in the kitchen,” says Rizzo. “You’re standing in one place, you’re focused on getting the precise cut. It’s a different way of experiencing food preparation.”

Rizzo put his passion for cooking and cutting together with Off the Block, which he opened in 2015. Diners can enjoy delicious, freshly-ground burgers, sandwiches, and prime-cut meats in-house.

If they want to take home some cuts, Rizzo’s butcher counter offers prime, dry-aged beef, pork, and D’Artagnan chicken as well.

Rizzo will be showcasing his talents as both a butcher and chef at Island to Table, where he will prepare an appetizer and entree using fresh vegetables from Lenny Bruno Farms in Manorville, as well as choice grass-fed, pasture-finished beef sourced from Acabonac Farms in Amagansett.

For his app, Rizzo plans to prepare a steak tartare using a unique cut of sirloin rarely used by those without a butcher’s background.

“I love the richness of this cut,” says Rizzo. “The grass-fed beef has an earthy flavor that complements it well, and the health benefits are a plus, too. It’s got the flavor without as much fat.”

The tartare will be served with a cured quail egg yolk and crispy chicken chicharrón. (Click here for tickets.)

For the entree, Rizzo is letting the veggies lead the way.

“With fresh vegetables, there’s just so much you can do,” he says. “I’m not 100 percent set on what I want to do [for the entree] because I like seeing what the farms have available that week so it’s the freshest you can get.

“I want to do half a roast quail, prepared with Asian-inspired flavors. I may prepare a house-made kimchi, or miso, using those freshly picked vegetables. I’m excited to see where the inspiration will take me.”

The farmstand at Lenny Bruno Farms, located right off the service road of LIE Exit 69S and from the Sunrise Highway north at Wading River road, is stocked with baked goods and hand-picked produce every morning, guaranteeing freshness.

If the name sounds familiar, that’s because Lenny Bruno vegetables have starred in Island to Table dishes before.

“It’s really rewarding,” farm owner and operator Dominick Bruno said of last year’s event. “I love seeing people get excited about local, fresh produce.”

The Lenny Bruno farmstand is open to the public 7 days a week, May-November. T

Tickets are still available at $150 each for this year’s five-course meal and cocktail hour on the water in Patchogue. Click the button below. Last year’s dinner was sold out.

Button not working? Try clicking here.

Photos: Chef Stephen Rizzo at Off The Block Kitchen & Meats in Sayville. (Credit: Benny Migliorino/Benny Migs Photo)