One man’s trash is Peter Marco’s treasure.
Passersby have wondered what on Earth he has been up to these past two years inside of his and Jeanette Marco’s forthcoming Pookaberry Café, which neighbors The Broken Down Valise on Pike Street in Mattituck.
Well, for many years, Peter collected scraps of wood, pipes and electrical equipment of all shapes and sizes. Among the other oddities large and small he kept locked away in storage were terracotta tiles, old banisters and beams from local houses and dozens upon dozens of mason jars.
Over the past two years, he and a crew constructed walls and set pieces from these materials for a dining room that looks painstakingly created, but he attests the decor came together with no plan whatsoever.
There was, however, one rule the contractors had to follow:
“Sheetrock is not allowed here,” Peter said. “Sheetrock is the enemy.”
In lieu of a more traditional dining room, guests will feast their eyes on an overhead field of lead pipe mushrooms growing out of what could be a ship’s hull and a bar that looks as though it were ripped through time and space from ancient Greece. Both set pieces are adorned with old-fashioned equipment that could have been nabbed from a demolished building’s boiler or electrical room. In fact, Peter said one massive circuit breaker panel came from Brooklyn’s Watchtower building and dates back to 1908.
Fans of the Pookaberry brand will recognize a familiar face across the ceiling’s tapestry, which boasts Peter’s signature “Ollie the Octopus” and other creations in his signature pop art style. For this new endeavor, he opted for a different color scheme from the one he used in the couple’s Pookaberry Café in the Philippines.
Jeanette, a Filipino-born chef, describes the forthcoming restaurant’s offerings as neo-colonial, as many of these various cuisines intermingled as a byproduct of Spanish, American and Japanese colonization of the Philippines.
“We felt that the market is ready for some Filipino fusion foods,” she said. “If there is something good that came out of colonizing our country, that is their food influence.”
Many of the dishes use crops native to the Philippines, such as jackfruit and ube, a purple yam, and will boast Filipino flavors. Guests craving Japanese or American can also order ramen or a steak.
“One of the things that I’m very proud of is coming up with flavors of our spring rolls,” Jeanette added. “Chinese have spring rolls, Filipinos also have their own version of spring rolls. I did a fusion of cheeseburger … pulled pork [and] vegetable spring rolls, and so much more. For the Hispanic or Spanish market, we have tacos and burritos that also have some Filipino flair.”
The cocktail menu will boast drinks imbued with calamansi, a citrus fruit also known as Philippine lime, as well as coconut-based drinks. Guests can also order an espresso with avocado. For dessert, Pookaberry will offer Filipino pastries such as cheesy, spiral-shaped Ensaymada and pandesal rolls.
Peter, a longtime resident of Manhattan’s Lower East Side, found that the neighborly nature that surrounded his apartment also blossomed in both the Philippines and the North Fork.
“New York City neighborhoods, it’s like a small town, I knew everybody on my block,” he said. “It’s like small-town gossip, it’s the same thing… So culturally, there was no acclimatization for me.
“What I didn’t expect was the appreciation,” he added. “People here are much more receptive because I guess this [type of restaurant] isn’t really as familiar to them as it is to people in New York.”
Of course, Peter joked that he needed time to adjust to the rural environment.
“I’m coming from a different world … like just the idea of being able to like go outside and on a lawn is completely alien to me,” he said. “Also, cutting the lawn was alien.”
The couple said they expect to open the long-anticipated restaurant in December, and will likely be open Fridays through Sundays over the winter until a grand opening they hope to host on Valentine’s Day. This will be their period to adjust to the appetites of North Fork clientele.
“As a chef, I think it is also our responsibility to be able to cater to [many tastes] so that they won’t go to another restaurant,” she said. “This would be their go-to place whenever they feel a craving for something that they love and it’s not available on the North Fork. We want it to be a house full of fun when it comes to the decor, the artwork [and] the menu offerings.”