18 Bay is a ferry tale with a very happy ending.
Elizabeth Ronzetti and Adam Kopels, the owners and chefs, closed their cozy Bayville eatery in summer 2010. They relocated the restaurant to Shelter Island last summer and now run the ideal country eatery.
They're closer to the farms and markets that drive their Italian-New American cuisine. And 18 Bay is sufficiently tucked away to seem like a mini-vacation.
Relax at a table on the charming veranda, where the pink in the two-tone columns matches the watermelon on the nameplate sign. Or take a seat in the dining room, which will remind you of that summer home in your imagination.
Have a cocktail or a glass of wine and glance at the menu. Ronzetti and Kopels change the dishes regularly, but the structure stays the same. Your price is fixed and your choices minimal. Dinner includes a quartered plate of antipasti, a pasta course, and choices between two main courses and between two desserts. Vegetarians are accommodated with a separate menu.
The concept may not appeal to every appetite. But each generous course is prepared with lapidary precision, coaxing the fullest flavor from any ingredient. Given what you'd drop a la carte at so many awful restaurants, the $50 prix fixe almost seems a deal.
Recently, the antipasti included bluefish crudo paired with celtuce, or celery lettuce: the most assertive local fish treated like sushi and matched with a vegetable that originated in China -- a silky, seductive combo.
Contrast it with grilled lamb meatballs topped with sweet, wilted onions; and a coaster-size potato pizzette showered with summer truffles. Or maybe the trembling, white-carrot sformato, a cousin of a soufflé, accented with roasted baby carrots.
They make outstanding pastas. One: broad cannelloni with house-made goat's milk ricotta, zucchini flowers and a delicate, summer-squash riff on pistou. Another: spaghetti alla chitarra, more flat than cylindrical, with littleneck clams.
Next may be a crisp-skinned, sauteed black sea bass with string beans, pearl onions and chunky, fresh-corn vinaigrette; or za'atar-seasoned Berkshire pork loin and belly, for a Middle Eastern turn that then veers west with grilled fennel, scallions and sour cherries.
A peach-and-cherry cobbler, with a scoop of Tahitian vanilla gelato; and the Venezuelan-chocolate affogato with chocolate biscotti are two delectable desserts.
At lunch, there's an a la carte menu, mostly salads and panini, $9 to $16. Try the panino of speck, caramelized onions and provola; or another filled with a chard-and-ricotta frittata. The duck salad and tuna Niçoise also are recommended.
Buy that ferry ticket.