Patrick Gaeta really likes bacon.
“Who doesn’t?” asks Mr. Gaeta, a Wading River resident and owner of just-launched North Fork Bacon.
Indeed. Bacon enjoys a level of popularity arguably unmatched by any other food. A Google search for “bacon merchandise” generated 3.7 million hits. There are “I love bacon” T-shirts, of course, and consumers can even buy wallets and blankets designed to resemble the cured meat. You can’t say that for Mom’s meatloaf.
Mr. Gaeta knows this, and he’s confident his own mouth-watering product, made locally, is going to be a hit. He started two months ago by curing, smoking and selling bacon out of My Butcher, a shop in Wading River. This came after he’d already made a name for himself on the local barbecue circuit and was approached by Adrian Seliciano, a My Butcher co-owner.
“We’re using the best pork, so we’re starting with a good, quality product,” Mr. Seliciano says when asked what makes Mr. Gaeta’s bacon stand out. “It’s not overdone. It’s not processed.”
Mr. Gaeta says it was surprisingly easy to develop his own bacon.
“With Google, it’s pretty simple to get a recipe and develop it into something that’s your own,” he says. “Our second batch of bacon sold out, and we’ve pretty much been selling out every week.”
Mr. Seliciano calls his bacon-maker “a natural.”
“He doesn’t overdo it,” Mr. Seliciano says. “That’s why it’s creating such demand already.”
On a recent afternoon, Mr. Gaeta paces outside Jamesport Vineyards. He’s just signed on as the winery’s weekend chef, and he’ll cook lunches that include flatbread pizzas topped with duck bacon. On this particular day, the 31-year-old seems unable, or perhaps unwilling, to sit still.
Business at North Fork Bacon is similarly on the move. Mr. Gaeta’s locally cured and smoked bacon, made from Berkshire pigs sourced out of upstate New York, is now on the menu at The Frisky Oyster and Bruce’s Cheese Emporium, both in Greenport.
“It’s unlike any other bacon,” says Scott Bollman, the owner of Bruce’s Cheese Emporium. North Fork Bacon is now being used exclusively at Bruce’s, a restaurant well known for its brown sugar candied bacon.
“It just so happens that his product is ideal for what we do, and to top it all off, it’s sourced locally,” Mr. Bollman says. “We’re very happy to support Patrick.”
Mr. Bollman first became familiar with Mr. Gaeta through his wife, Kassata Bollman, who runs the locally sourced food delivery service Farm 2 Kitchen Long Island.
“I got a message from Adrian at My Butcher saying he had a product I might be interested in,” Ms. Bollman says. “I was like, ‘Whoa; yeah! Let’s get on that.’ There is no meat processing facility on Long Island and I’m always looking for locally sourced meat. Since week one, people have been buying it.”
Mr. Gaeta’s first foray into the restaurant business came early, at 14 years old. His first job was at the now-closed Trotta’s Pizza Café in Wading River and by his own admission he “grew up working in restaurants and catering halls.”
After graduating from Shoreham-Wading River High School in 2000, Mr. Gaeta opted to study radiology at Peconic Bay Medical Center, graduating in 2004. Today, he’s a full-time X-ray technician at Long Island Bone and Joint.
“But I still wanted to cook,” he says. “So I started doing barbecue competitions.”
In 2008, Mr. Gaeta competed in the “Battle of the BBQ Brethren” in Manorville. Last year, he and some friends won second place for their pulled pork at “Smokin’ at the Maples,” also in Manorville.
What makes North Fork bacon so good?
“The flavor,” Mr. Gaeta says without hesitation. “It’s not like commercial bacon. It’s done by hand, the old-fashioned way. We get the bellies in, we trim them up, and they’re packed in salt, sugar and spices for seven days. They sit for a week and do their thing. After that, we air dry them. Then we smoke it. The bacon is smoked, peeled and hand-sliced. A machine doesn’t touch it except to slice it.”
Taking the extra time to guarantee that North Fork Bacon meets his high standards is something Mr. Gaeta says he’ll gladly stay up late to ensure.
“It’s something I love,” he says. “When I talk about it I light up. If it’s 11:30 at night and you’re peeling the skin off a cooked slab of bacon, it’s because you really wanna be there.”