Casual but elegant, seasonal but not doctrinaire, Maldon & Mignonette has opened in Sea Cliff. Overseen by chef-owner Robert Occhipinti, it replaces the Crispy Pig and evinces a vibe about 180 degrees away from that gastropub's slapdash pork-bellied exuberance.
The name refers to salt (Maldon, the English sea salt) and pepper (“mignonette” is a blend of peppercorns). “Season with authority” is emblazoned across one wall and this motto is accompanied by photographs and quotes from three of Occhipinti’s chef idols: Anthony Bourdain, Marco Pierre White and Massimo Bottura.
Occhipinti, 29, graduated from Manhattan’s French Culinary Institute and cooked in kitchens run by Jean-Georges Vongerichten (Mercer Kitchen) and Andrew Carmellini (Locanda Verde) before heading to Italy and cooking at Zeppelin, the celebrated restaurant in Orvieto.
But the Smithtown native’s most recent mentor was Franco Sampogna, executive chef at Huntington’s late, lamented Jema. He served as Sampogna’s sous chef and, he said, culinary translator. “ ‘These are your people,’ he would say to me,” Occhipinti recalled, “and I’d explain to him that people on Long Island love pasta, they want salad even in the winter.”
At Maldon & Mignonette, Occhipinti hopes to honor his former boss’ emphasis on seasonality and refinement with a menu that changes every three months and is not just for special occasions. Right now the seven starters ($12 to $18) include a salad of bitter chicory with prosciutto and hazelnuts, charred octopus with roasted peppers and confit potatoes, and grilled bacon with peanut butter (yes, peanut butter), roasted carrot and red quinoa.
Among the five pastas ($20 to $28) are pumpkin ravioli with celery root and toasted pecans, and squid ink linguine with a spicy crab sauce. Mains ($25 to $36) include roast Poulet Rouge chicken with autumn vegetables and a prime strip steak with broccoli rabe and mushroom strudel.
Working alongside Occhipinti in the kitchen is pastry chef Victoria Roland, also from Jema. Her avant-garde desserts ($9 to $10) include the "citrus meringue," a soft ball of lemon curd piped with meringue and “three shades of Valrhona” with dark, milk and white chocolate.
The 50-seat restaurant has a small bar and two round tables for larger parties. The décor is a thoughtful blend of sleek wood and teal upholstery. Plates are handmade as is the steam-punk-inspired flatware.
Maldon & Mignonette, open for dinner every night except Monday, is at 243 Glen Cove Ave., Sea Cliff, 516-801-3250, maldonmignonette.com.