Fifteen years ago, when Patrizia Spafford decided to expand her Oyster Bay catering business, Periwinkles, to include a small café, the tiny storefront at 6 Audrey Ave. seemed the perfect spot.
“It was one of my catering clients, who also happened to be a realtor, who said it was time for me to get a place,” Spafford recalled. “When I saw this place, it was small, and I remember thinking, ‘Oh good, I can manage this.’”
Periwinkles has always been a family-oriented eatery true to its motto — “From our kitchen to your table.” The restaurant celebrated its grand reopening on March 4 with a ribbon cutting and an array of menu samples. Periwinkles offers a variety of coffees and teas, cookies, pastries, sandwiches, soups, and now complete dinners.
The main renovation was an enlargement of the café area to include more seating, something Spafford’s customer had long desired. But the renovations aren’t the only change at Periwinkles. For the first time, the café will offer family gourmet dinners to go.
“We’ve been ordering dinners from Pat for years,” said Rebecca Lawton Flotters, of Oyster Bay. “Now it’s an official service for everyone.”
Lawton Flotters, who attended the reopening with her husband, Chris, and their two children, Eleanor, 9, and Teddy, 3, was referring to Periwinkles’ new Gourmet to Go service. “The service is really for families that are busy and don’t have time to cook dinner after they pick their kids up from school,” said Alexander Spafford, Patrizia’s son and business colleague. “They can pick up our dinners to go and have more time to spend with their families.”
The difference between traditional take-out and Periwinkles’ dinners to go is that each meal is made to order. Chefs Craig Carlstrom and Noelle Grant treat each order like a miniature catering job. Dinner choices include steak tips, penne pancetta and crispy-breaded chicken parmigiana. With classic sides like macaroni and cheese and garlic mashed potatoes, there’s sure to be something to satisfy even the pickiest palates. And of course, Spafford continues to offer client favorites like the eatery’s famous chicken salad, made with cranberries, apricots and slivered almonds, and a turkey and avocado sandwich, which is a favorite among her regular customers. The employees at Periwinkles are attentive, friendly and caring. Spafford said that it was important to her to keep that small café atmosphere even as the business expanded.
In order to offer the new service, Spafford hired Carlstrom to help veteran chef Grant. “It’s been exciting to see this grow,” Grant said. a Carlstrom agreed.
Alex Gallego, president of the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Chamber of Commerce, was on hand to celebrate the reopening. “What Pat is doing affirms the chamber’s mission and dream to make Oyster Bay a desirable destination,” Gallego said. He added that the fashionable café reminded him of a “little street in Paris.”
Sophistication coupled with a sense of small-town community is what Periwinkles brings to the hamlet. Spafford knows almost everyone who comes into the café, and those she doesn’t, she treats with the same warmth and kindness she would show a good friend. She sits next to her customers and chides, “Are you ready to eat yet?”
Cecilia Corradi, who has known Spafford for almost 10 years, says that she spends so much time in the café that it feels like home. “When I’m here, I feel like it’s my kitchen,” Corradi said. “Pat makes everything feel like you’re getting together with friends, whether it’s a cup of coffee or a whole spread.”