Bridgehampton, (631) 613-6469
Hamptonites and tourists alike quickly targeted Osteria Salina at 95 School Street in Bridgehampton during its first season on the East End.
This authentic Sicilian spot opened in May and was packed by the time I got to it on a mid-summer weekday. There is good reason for all the foodie frenzy. Osteria Salina, named for an island off Sicily, serves excellent, interesting Sicilian dishes with a Salinian spin (think sardines, raisins, pine nuts, fava beans, etc). It’s a sunny, cool, comfortable place done in the island’s colors of admiral blue and deep yellow with shiny hardwood ceilings and floors, French doors, white tablecloths, oversized abstract art, tiny floral arrangements and sidewalk seating with colorful ceramic pitchers on each outdoor table.
The dining room wraps around both sides of the expansive upfront bar and the red-and-white-clad waitstaff is informed and pleasant. When service stalls, and it sometimes does, leaving gaps between courses, one feels it’s the result of a capacity crowd causing a kitchen backup. Aside from runners who rarely knew who ordered the dishes they were delivering, and occasional cacophonous noise, I detected few if any flaws at Osteria Salina. Certainly not in Cinzia Gaglio’s creative cooking, honed by her Italian roots, travel and her family’s restaurant history. Her distinguished-looking husband Timothy, the genial general manager, greets newcomers with a welcome and refreshing platter of salted, peppered cucumber chunks touched with olive oil.
Meatball lovers can’t do better than the three gargantuan world class Popette ($14) with a heady pomodoro sauce enhanced with Sicilian Pecorino. These are hair-on-your-chest big-flavor beauties. The Polpo Eoliana ($17) or two strands of soft, delicious charred octopus surrounded by fingerling potatoes, arugula and fava beans, runs a close second. We had no complaints about the dinner-sized portion of grit-free mussels ($15) in an herb, garlic, white wine and tomato broth that begs to be sopped up with bread, or the outstanding timoteo salad with its Gorgonzola, delicate mélange of greens and tiny, ripe split tomatoes.
Entrées did anything but break the momentum. A rustic eggplant studded mezze rigatoni ($22), alive with tomatoes, olives, buffalo mozzarella and basil was a winner, as was the moist, flaky spada alla griglia ($35) or line-caught swordfish with a noteworthy Sicilian caponata. Vitello alla griglia ($35), a tender, lightly-breaded, sensitively-seasoned veal Milanese-like dish is another success. So too was a perfectly deep-fried, easy to eat, soft shell crab special that unfortunately was wildly overpriced at $38.
Unlike the crab, desserts at $10 are well worth the tab. Choices include the house-made Sicilian cannoli, a luscious, fruity peach cobbler, a deeply-flavored chocolate cake with plenty of whipped cream, and a velvety wedge of memorable cheesecake. Every one of them scores big time, as does Osteria Salina itself.
photos by stephen lang