Amagansett, (631) 267-3695
The East End beckons! Once again the big city types have abandoned the Hamptons for the canyons of Manhattan. The golden days of autumn offer in-the-know diners opportunities to sample the best of the East End’s restaurants without fighting for a reservation, without elbowing through a packed, frenetic madhouse, without having to shout at tablemates in order to be heard and without feeling pushed and rushed because of a barroom overfilled with people waiting to be seated.
Even the newest darlings that took off during the busy season are now easily accessible and available for civilized, relaxed dining. That means you can get a table at some of the hottest of the hot spots, even the almost instantly popular newcomers like the six-month-old Sotto Sopra in Amagansett.
This Northern Italian destination restaurant, where Gordon’s had presided for years and then was briefly replaced by the likes of Mezzaluna and Exile, has been acquired and rejuvenated by some of Bobby Van’s partners. Although they haven’t done a wholesale revamping of the property, they have made one or two important innovations. Most significant is the acquisition of Josh Savi, a chef who saw previous service at a Michelin two-starred restaurant in Dublin. They’ve also expanded and beautified the outdoor garden setting behind the long, narrow, beamed ceiling dining room of overhead fans, posters, plants and blond wood walls dotted with sconces. Another step forward has been the assembling of a top-notch, well-trained waitstaff.
The first salvo at Sotto Sopra (“above” and “below” in Italian) is the outstanding breadbasket of focaccia and warm pizza squares. Then pay attention to the formidable wood-burning oven in the dining room. It turns out tasty, nicely charred, though slightly limp, pies ($18 to $20) that are worth ordering. A standout starter is the refreshing Robiola Crostini ($45), a combination plate of delicate bread strips covered with melted cheese, delicious grilled figs, a sprightly salad, spiced walnuts and a nest of thin-cut Robiola. The smooth, velvety potato leek soup of the day ($11) had a subtle, spicy kick to it (pepper?).
Main events included spaghettini à la Greco ($26), a heavyweight pasta infused with shrimp and spinach given a big spicy bang from its arrabiatta sauce; vitello saltimbocca ($29) that was flavorful but a tad chewy; a tall, pristine, ivory-white, pan-roasted halibut on a bed of orzo ($35); and buttery tournedos de manzo or medium rare beef fillets and sautéed mushrooms in a heady red wine sauce ($39).
There were no weak sisters among the desserts ($9 to $11). Most outstanding was the 21-layer crêpe cake, but the chocolate pecan cake and raspberry sorbet with a shot of lemoncello had their adherents as well.
The only exception to the first-class food and service at the rather pricey Sotto Sopra is a somewhat cavalier and casual attitude about pricing. Diners have a right to know how much their food will cost without having to ask. But wines by the glass and house bottles of wine on the menu as well as the recited list of desserts contain no prices, forcing patrons to guess or to ask.
Photos by Stephen Lang