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Southold General has given new life to the original Rothman’s Department Store building. (Photo Credit: Matthew Williams)

A year after his successful reopening of the North Fork Table and Inn, Chef John Fraser continues to expand his footprint in the area. Southold General, a café and gourmet market under Fraser’s direction, officially opened last week in the building that for a century housed the original Rothman’s Department Store.

“We wanted to offer a daytime destination to the community that focuses on local produce and coffee. That has since expanded into a greater offering of gelato, pizza, salads and sandwiches, with more to come,” said Fraser, a Michelin-starred chef whose current NYC restaurants include The Loyal and Iris.

Fraser suggested foodies might be especially excited about the pizza at Southold General. Varieties include pesto and veggie pizzas as well as an indulgent pie absolutely loaded with pepperoni. “Our pizza is grandma style, which was invented on Long Island,” Fraser said. “I’m calling it ‘vacation pizza’ because it doesn’t belong in a category and it’s pretty over the top.” 

It also has an impressive pedigree. Fraser teamed with renowned French pastry chef François Payard for the Southold General project. The pair have collaborated on the gelato program as well all the onsite baking, from the pizza dough to delicate pastries, focaccia and sandwich breads.

Fraser said he had long admired Payard, who has a home on the East End, and finally got a chance to meet him this summer. Of their partnership, he said he was “a friendly editor. My hands are off the wheel enjoying the ride.”

The design of the space, meanwhile, is by Elizabeth Roberts. The aim was to create “a warm and inviting space that appealed to both locals and visitors, filled with natural woods and stones together with vintage and new furniture,” according to a release. Whimsical pegboard shelves, in natural ash, wrap around the market and display sauces, jams, chips, granola, cookies and other well-curated prepared foods. There is an interior dining area as well as seating in the open courtyard now known as Einstein Square.

Southold General’s soft opening earlier this summer has had locals buzzing, with Northforker’s Instagram followers praising the “next level” pizza, “delicious” coffee and pastries and the spot as a welcome new meeting place that is “just what downtown Southold has needed.”

Fraser’s team has still more ambitions for the North Fork, with at least one more hotel and restaurant project in the works. Although his entrance into the North Fork market was a unique one — coming as it did mid-pandemic and involving the renovation of a beloved property — “we never felt unwelcome here,” he said. “I hope that we are a value add to the community. Myself and my team spend a lot of time here and we are always energized by the amount of engagement by locals and visitors.”