Chef Carmine Di Giovanni has never been one to shy away from a challenge. Not when working under culinary stars like Eric Ripert and Mario Batelli, not when competing under the bright lights of cooking shows, and especially not now, as he takes on the discerning palates and crowded landscape of the Hamptons culinary world.
Over Memorial Day Weekend, Di Giovanni, who helped former Manhattan eatery Picholine earn two Michelin stars while working as chef de cuisine, opened The Greenwich in Water Mill, an outpost of his Manhattan restaurant, Greenwich Project. The motive behind the 100-mile move east was simple: “It was a chance to try something different with new ingredients…and of course I enjoy the challenge.”
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Task one: create a distinct eatery, but still personal and part of a larger tradition. “It will certainly have its own style, but like the Greenwich Project, we will be focused on finding the best ingredients and local flavors,” Di Giovanni said.
The menu, both in form and substance, epitomizes Di Giovanni’s culinary philosophy, one rooted in his heritage. “My cooking is personable and approachable because it relates to the way I was taught to cook growing up and eating in an Italian family. I tend to use Italian flavors in my dishes making them my comfort ‘soul food.’”
Di Giovanni’s comfort-style cooking is evidenced by a menu that includes familiar items like lobster broil, calamari salad and even tater tots; no surprise coming from a chef whose favorite meal to cook is roasted chicken and vegetables.
But it’s his classic techniques that elevate these dishes, creating an eating experience that feels simultaneously familiar and exotic. You’ve eaten steak before, but you probably never shared a whole roasted chateaubriand with crab fries and braised escarole and tomato. “My cooking is simple, straight forward. I pride myself on giving the appeal that you can make it at home…even though you probably can’t.”
But distinguishing The Greenwich from its sister restaurant is only half the battle; standing out in the congested field of Hamptons restaurants is the other. To accomplish that, Di Giovanni also offers a whole roasted menu for two, from which dining pairs can choose items including a rack of lamb, and yellow fin tuna chop.
So now Di Giovanni has one last challenge: making East End eaters content. “I want people to love the food I make as much as I do and that from the minute people walk in they are enjoying themselves.” From the looks of things, it may be his easiest task yet.