Like many city dwellers, several Manhattan chefs have made their way to the East End this summer—but not for a vacation. Among them is chef Frank DeCarlo of Peasant in Nolita and Bacaro on the Lower East Side. Amidst several new eateries in Greenport’s booming restaurant scene, DeCarlo brings coastal Italian cuisine to his newest venture called Barba Bianca.
“I’ve been cooking Italian cuisine for 40 years, everything from traditional to Italian-American,” said DeCarlo, who has lived and cooked in Puglia, and whose father hails from Naples. In efforts not to compete with what is already available on the North Fork, the chef aimed to embody the experience of visiting a coastal Italian town. “I’m doing stuff that is multi-regional but really focusing on Liguria, Puglia, Veneto and Sardegna; the coastal regions where the food is so diverse.”
The menu features seafood less conventional than many East End restaurants. Think fried eel, whelk salad and bucatini pasta with mantis shrimp. “We are going for sustainable stuff most people don’t think about like whelk and razor clams, mantis shrimp, bluefish, skate, eel…stuff usually labeled as junk fish,” said DeCarlo. “We want to showcase the seafood most people don’t get to experience. It’s delicious, and more importantly, not overfished.”
For carnivores, the restaurant focuses on local and environmentally friendly meat dishes like fried rabbit with carrot salad, grilled venison with summer vegetables and gnocchi with duck ragu.
Barba Bianca inhabits the former Scrimshaw restaurant near Preston’s Dock, hovering over Greenport Harbor. Though DeCarlo acquired the space just this year, the building is something he has had his eye on for a while. “I fell in love with Greenport the first time my wife took me there in 2000. I remember seeing the building we are now renting and thinking it would be a great restaurant. The space became available just this January and I jumped at the chance after waiting 17 years!”
Bright white bead board throughout the light and airy dining space is beautifully contrasted by black stained ship glass. Walls don old black and white photos of pirates from times past, a nod to the area’s maritime history. Guests also have the opportunity to dine on the dock this summer, as few places can in the village.
DeCarlo’s wife, Dulcinea Benson, is excited about offering traditional Italian aperitivo on the dock, serving free nibbles and bites to be enjoyed with wine and cocktails. It’s like happy hour, but way cooler. “It’s so much fun because that’s what I want to do after I get off the beach,” she said. “We’ll do it right before dinner gets started. People can come and say hi, and enjoy the beauty of this place.”
It is the beauty of the East End that drew the couple out to the North Fork to open their third restaurant. “I have to say, Greenport is the jewel of the East Coast,” said DeCarlo. “I’ve never seen another place so beautiful and small-town and historical, and I hope it stays that way forever. I just want to add to the authenticity of it, farmland butting up to the sea. That’s us–farm to table to sea to table.”
Barba Bianca opened June 9 at 102 Main St.