With 20 years experience in the business, Chef David Intonato, owner of in Northport, can make anything taste good--even health food.
Healthy food often gets a bad rap, said Intonato, though it doesn't have to be that way. By combining fresh, flavorful, whole and organic ingredients in both familiar and unexpected ways, good-for-you grub takes on a whole new life at his gourmet deli and market, opened at Britannia Yachting Center in April.
"I give the people the opportunity to try stuff that they might not normally try," said Intonato. "They see that food can still be healthy and taste good, like the quinoa salads and the wheat berries. It's great to see people who weren't into it, accept it and like it."
Intonato brings two decades of culinary skill to The Purple Elephant as past executive chef of Jamesport Manor Inn and chef at The Mill Pond House in Centerport, rated by Newsday as one of Long Island's top vegetarian restaurants, where he also learned the fine art of sushi preparation.
Prior to a major lifestyle change four years ago, Intonato said he led the typical chef's life of overindulgence and "eating anything as long as it tasted good." Everything changed when he met his fiance, Erin, in Northport.
"She brought me along the healthy path. We started eating more naturally, and doing yoga and things like that," said Intonato, who has since shed about 50 pounds and become a vegan.
The Purple Elephant sells meat items alongside vegetarian and vegan options, and said people constantly ask him how he can cook meat as a vegan. Simple, he replies, it's just second nature.
"Sometimes I taste it the way a wine person would taste wine to make sure the flavor's right," he said. "I always use the same techniques; it's just different ingredients and better products."
Some of the more popular items at The Purple Elephant are the lobster salad and crab cakes, both exceptionally meaty and lean on fillers. The menu also includes a variety of salads and sandwiches such as "The Famous Northporter" with crispy panko breaded all natural chicken cutlet, Applegate Farm’s bacon, Andrew & Everett’s cheddar, avocado on your choice of bread ($8.50); the "RastaFUNian" with organic lettuces, hearts of palm, oranges, almonds, smoky coconut bacon, guava vinaigrette ($9); and "Gonzo's Vegan Chef Salad" with spicy greens, quinoa, chick peas, house baked vegan turkey, crispy smoked tempeh, vine ripe tomatoes, red onion, and Daiya cheese ($12).
The store has a bohemian feel and many of the items are inspired by Intonato's travels abroad, such as the "Nicoya o' Boya" with Tico style rice n beans, grilled shrimp, avocado, jalapeno, organic sprouts, chipotle mayonnaise, Choice of Wrap ($10), from Costa Rica.
In addition to prepared food items, The Purple Elephant also sells produce from east-end farmer's markets, gourmet ice creams, dry items, fresh pressed juices, nutrition supplements, and natural beauty products.
Intonato is looking into expanding the limited seating at "The Purple Elephant" and said he also hopes to open a sit-down cafe nearby with a funky, eclectic vibe sometime next year. The cafe would likely serve healthy, small plates of food in tapas style, perhaps with an organic wine and sake bar, and is in the beginning planning stages.
The Purple Elephant is located at 81b Fort Salonga Road West in Northport and serves breakfast and lunch seven days a week. They also offer catering services. For more information and to check out the full menu and daily specials, visit their website at www.thepurpleelephant.net.
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