Successful with restaurant chops, he starts steak place called Chops

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Sometimes, when you’re not looking, opportunity knocks.

“We do a football trip every year,” said Village Idiot Pub owner John Sarno, of his journey last year to Philadelphia to watch the Philadelphia Eagles play. “My wife Shannon made a reservation at a steakhouse. It was small and quaint. I looked around at the décor and lights and thought it would be perfect for Patchogue. There are great dining options in Patchogue, but no true steakhouse.”

The Philadelphia restaurant was Alpen Rose, and its upscale ambiance kicked off Sarno’s newest venture, Chops, at the old Flo’s location, 38 West Main Street. Sarno signed a 10-year lease two weeks ago. He’s aiming for an end-of-January 2022 opening.

“I knew the spot, called the broker and got a tour. It was in pretty good shape,” he said, referring to renovations from former establishments, Flight, and then Flo’s. “It’s 14 tables and fits up to 56 people,” Sarno said. “The décor has a nice chandelier, wallpaper and drapes. It has a Prohibition look with white linens on the table, 10 leather barstools, vintage lighting and wall sconces.”

The new restaurant will encourage a bit of glamour. Besides the décor, “People will get dressed up,” he said of the dress code.

Sarno tapped his general manager and head chef at Drift, Fred Norton and Luis Juarez, respectively, as well as Village Idiot Patchogue chef Edwin Hernandez as partners. “They all had previous experience working at a steakhouse,” Sarno said. “I gave them the whole concept.”

Aged steaks, fine wines, and sides like classic creamed spinach will be offered. Also, some chicken and fish dishes. But the emphasis will be on gorgeous beef and a fine-dining experience.

Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce executive director David Kennedy was asked if historically, there were any well-known steak restaurants in Patchogue Village. Kennedy recalled South Shore Restaurant in the 1970s and 1980s on Route 112 that was known as a fancy restaurant, but others in the village, like J & R Steakhouse, were more of a family restaurant. “David Bustamente of Gallo Restaurant offers a tomahawk steak [a large ribeye beef steak with 5 inches of rib bone left intact], which John will offer, but the establishment John is proposing is a Peter Luger’s-type steakhouse. I don’t think downtown Patchogue has ever seen a restaurant like that before.”

Sarno’s dad James, a former 5th Precinct police officer, started Budget Buy & Sell in 1983, which his brother Jimmy now owns and runs in its respective corner building on Main Street. Jimmy Sarno’s building ownership includes the Village Idiot Pub space and wraps around partly to South Ocean Avenue.

It’s an evolving family dynasty, which John, who lives in Patchogue, is building on with restaurants.

“I worked at Budget Buy & Sell for years,” he said. “My father emphasized hard work. I went to college, I started student teaching and subbed at Bayport-Blue Point as the lead replacement in phys ed for a year,” Sarno said. “Then I went to Bellport Middle School for a short time.” After that, he headed to Prime Steak House in Huntington. “That’s where I learned about high-end dining. I worked there for two years as a bartender.”

In 2010, Sarno started Village Idiot Pub in Patchogue. He’s added a few places since then: Village Idiot Irish Pub in Oakdale, Village Idiot Pub III in Lake Grove, and Drift 82 in Patchogue.

“If you told me 15 years ago I’d have three businesses here, I would have said, ‘You’re crazy,’” he said in amazement. 

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