It’s Long Island’s own summertime manifest destiny: Go east! Whether you are planning a close-to-home vacation or a play-hooky weekday in the sun, the South and North Forks beckon with beaches and vineyards and, of course, restaurants. Each season brings a new crop; here are our picks for 2022’s most exciting openings. (Note: Many of these places have just opened or are just about to — always call first to check hours of operation, which tend to lengthen as the summer gets into full swing.)
As the revitalization of downtown Riverhead continues, restaurants are stepping up to the plate. Insatiable Eats (300 E Main St., 631-726-4444, insatiableeats.com) is a restaurant-bar-pizzeria-market from Marco Barrila, a Sicilian-born chef who moved from New York City to the East End in 2005 and became a Hamptons caterer. The original intention was to make it casual but, Barilla said, “as soon as we opened, people were telling us Riverhead needed a nice Italian restaurant and so, that’s what we became.”
Stop in for a Caprese panino ($13) at lunch, an espresso and a slice of Roman pizza in the afternoon, a fine Italian meal at dinner, or a postprandial digestif at the bar. Or pick up a pound of homemade pasta and one of the hand-painted ceramic pieces Barilla imports from Italy. The menu ranges, but keep an eye out for regional specialties such as braciole di pesce spada (Sicilian grilled swordfish rolled around fresh herbs, $38), or fettuccine Bolognese ($21).
Lucharitos Mexican restaurants owner Marc LaMaina, opened LuchaCubano (87 E. Main St., 631-591-3575, luchacubano.com) in the shuttered space of the 90-year-old diner, Sunny’s Riverhead Diner & Grill. The restaurant got a tropical makeover in shades of hot pink and turquoise, and the menu features all the Cuban classics, from ropa vieja (braised beef, $22) to Cuban sandwiches ($14.95). Because the spot has been serving breakfast since 1932, LaMaina offers sweet plantain-chocolate-chip pancakes and classic French toast (both $12.99), LuchaCubano also serves a bacon-egg-cheese sandwich on a Cuban roll ($8.99).
NORTH FORK: SOUTHOLD, JAMESPORT, MATTITUCK
The big news in Southold is the arrival of François Payard. The former pastry chef at Le Bernardin and Restaurant Daniel went on to open his own pastry shop chain in New York as well as dozens of restaurants for clients. Last year, he quietly took over the pastry operation at Southold General (54180 Main Rd., 631-458-1275, southoldgeneral.com), the market-cafe-gelateria that was opened by John Fraser, chef-partner at North Fork Table and Inn. Both properties are owned by an investment group headed by Jonathan Tibett.
This year, Payard and Tibett opened Southold Social (56125 Main Rd., Southold, 631-765-8888, southoldsocial.com). Social’s menu is composed of refined crowd pleasers such as “Marrakesh” chicken with couscous, raisins and preserved lemons ($27), a Caesar salad with romaine hearts and white anchovies ($16), and, of course, a lobster roll seasoned with Meyer lemon and espelette pepper ($28). A half-dozen pasta dishes include cavatelli with veal ragu ($29 for main-dish portion) and rigatoni with vodka sauce and mussels ($26). There’s a fixed-price brunch menu ($42 for two courses, $49 for three) and, at every meal, a selection of fantastic pastry.
There’s seating for about 40 downstairs and the same upstairs (which can also be a private room). A tented patio accommodates another 80. Open for dinner Wednesday to Sunday, brunch on Saturday and Sunday.
Down the road, the Tibett team also transformed the old Heron Suites hotel into The Shoals, a luxury hotel with 20 rooms / suites, 20 boat slips overlooking Peconic Bay. Payard provides continental breakfast, caters events and also oversees The Shoals Food Truck (61600 Main Rd., 631-765-5121, theshoalsnorthfork.com) parked there from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday to Monday. On the menu are a lobster roll ($28), Niçoise salad ($16.50) and freshly shucked local Ram Island Oysters. How local? They are grown a short boat ride away on the east side of Shelter Island. “Because we raise the oysters in Gardiners Bay and not Peconic Bay,” said partner Stefanie Bassett, “there’s a massive flow of ocean water, giving the oysters a lot of minerality and brininess.”
The oyster processing plant is in a building just feet away from the truck and, on Wednesdays from 4 to 7 p.m., the oysters headline a happy hour at The Shoals. You can also arrange tours and tastings at littleramoysters.com/experiences.
The Jamesport Manor Inn, which opened in 2007, has been transformed into The Dimon Estate (370 Manor Lane, 631-722-0500, thedimonestate.com). Chef Christopher Kar (whose father, Matt, has owned this property since 2004) said that the name honors the historic property’s original owners, the Dimon Family, who built a farmhouse here in 1723, made a fortune in ship building (and guano sales) and erected this imposing structure in 1850. Kar, the younger, got rid of the tablecloths, streamlined the design and introduced a more casual, global menu that includes Thai coconut mussels with lemongrass and toasted ciabatta ($18), chicken with smashed potatoes and corn-tomato salad ($32), Crescent Farms duck breast with coconut polenta and Asian marinated snap peas and carrots ($36). The restaurant sits on four acres of garden and orchard. Stroll around, have a drink or your meal in the garden with a view of the horse farm across Manor Lane.
For all its culinary variety, The North Fork has been light in the barbecue department. That lack was filled in May when Larry Mondello opened Meat’s Meats BBQ (13175 Main Rd., 631-298-7251, meatsmeat.com). The name’s first “Meat” refers to Mondello himself — it’s the pitmaster’s nickname, earned during 10 years of smoking meat. The former welder started fabricating his own barbecue pits and advanced to outfitting food trucks. His first barbecue truck started rolling around Long Island in 2016, a second one followed in 2020.
Meat’s Meat’s menu is short and savory. Mondello said he spent five years perfecting his brisket, which is juicy and flavorful without being overwhelmed by smoke. St. Louis ribs are “competition style”: they are tender, “but you need teeth to eat them.” The pulled pork is not pre-shredded; the whole shoulder just sits in its own juices until the cook pulls off some meaty hunks. Outside of the overstuffed sandwiches, meat is sold by the pound and ranges from $19 for the pulled pork to $30 for the brisket. The shop is takeout only.
Speonk is a burg that has fewer restaurants than it has letters in its name. It has a destination-worthy spot now, since Little Gull Cafe (54 N. Phillips Ave., 631-801-2176, littlegullcafe.com) opened late last year. Chef-owner Will Pendergast is sublimating his fine-dining experience (NYC’s ABC Kitchen, Marlowe & Sons) to offer homestyle breakfasts and lunches in a decommissioned LIRR station. Highlights include buttermilk biscuits ($8), egg sandwiches ($9) and lobster rolls ($39) on homemade buns, sourdough pancakes ($11), local fruit buckles ($12) and a pistachio-olive oil Bundt with a tunnel of chocolate ($6 for a slab).
The 2020 opening of Flora was a home run for Westhampton Beach; now the Rooted Hospitality Group has opened a partner restaurant, Fauna (6 Parlato Dr., 631-288-3500, faunawhb.com) in the spacious, gracious building that housed Starr Boggs for almost 20 years. The menu features four prime steaks ($50 to $60) plus such steak-adjacencies as a raw bar, wedge salad ($22) and several spud sides, but most of the dishes are contemporary, imaginative and season-driven, from an appetizer of sea scallops with polenta croutons, creamed corn and Dijon-truffle honey ($22), to mains like seared Long Island duck breast with grilled frisée and turnips and radishes on a honey-carrot purée ($40).
One of this summer’s hottest Hamptons scenes is where Heath Freeman (whose group launched the luxe EHP Resort & Marina in East Hampton last year) has taken over the old Inn Spot on the Bay; it’s now called the Inn Spot. The six bungalows have been chicly beachified and the main building now boasts Crash Cantina (32 Lighthouse Rd., 631-728-1200, crashcantina.com) with a wide porch spilling out onto a lawn with picnic tables, cornhole and spectacular views of Shinnecock Bay. The restaurant has a contemporary Latin décor to go with the menu, whose highlights include Yucatan ribs in a sticky mango-habanero glaze ($23), tempura fish tacos with corn and daikon slaw ($24), and Ora King salmon with leek cream and chive oil ($38). Top shelf tequilas and mezcals find their way into a number of specialty cocktails.
Last year the EHP group bought East Hampton Point and remodeled it into a Mediterranean-inspired resort EHP Resort & Marina. This year, EHP bought the neighboring property and installed Sunset Harbor, (313 Three Mile Harbor Rd., 631-658-9380, ehpresort.com/sunsetharbor), whose menu skews toward grilled fare, fish and a handful of sushi rolls.
Water Mill’s highly regarded Japanese Kissaki, (a Newsday top 100 sushi restaurant) has expanded to East Hampton with O by Kissaki (47 Montauk Hwy., 631-604-5585, exploreobykissaki.com), with a menu that owner Garry Kanfer describes as a Japanese twist on Italian food.
When World Pie closed last year after 22 years, Bridghamptonians wondered where they would get their pizza fix. To the rescue: Dopo il Ponte (2402 Montauk Hwy., 631-536-6006, ilpontehamptons.com), the latest venture from the team responsible for Dopo La Spiaggia in Sag Harbor and East Hampton and Dopo Argento in Southampton. Chef-partner Maurizio Marfoglia is using the wood-fired oven to make, among other things, artisanal pies topped with everything from San Daniele prosciutto and Fontina Valdostana cheese to summer truffles and Taleggio ($26). Pastas include fusilli al pesto (done the Genovese way with potatoes and string beans, $37) and tonarelli cacio e pepe ($32); rack of lamb is crusted with herbs then roasted in the wood oven ($51).
In Springs, the tavern at 15 Fort Pond Blvd. that was once a watering hole for local painters Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning will reopen in July as Springs Tavern & Grill (15 Fort Pond Blvd., 631-604-6944, springstavernandgrill.com). The year-round venue is low-key and local-friendly. Look for burrata with grilled endive, a “Tavern” burger, fish and chips and Rubrio Rossi Pasta alla Bolognese, a recreation of a dish from Manhattan’s famed Parioli Romanissimo.
Ruschmeyer’s hotel has turned its restaurant into an outpost of Manhattan’s Australian restaurant, Ruby’s Cafe. The menu at Little Ruby’s (161 Second House Rd., 631-668-2877, ruschmeyersmontauk.com/restaurant) features “fan favorites” such as crispy rice salad ($18), rigatoni with spicy sausage and peas ($24) and, for breakfast, ricotta hot cakes with honeycomb butter, Nutella, banana and maple syrup ($18).
The waterside Fort Pond spot that was once East by Northeast was purchased in 2019 by sommelier Vanessa Price. In July it is due to open as Mavericks Montauk (51 S. Edgemere, mavericksmontauk.com) with Jeremy Blutstein running the steak-centric kitchen. Blutstein, a born-and-bred East Ender who is bullish on local produce and fish, previously was chef de cuisine at Almond in Bridgehampton.
A mile up the road, Brooklyn’s Roberta’s (240 Fort Pond Rd., robertaspizza.com/montauk)) has opened a satellite in Montauk. Since it opened in Bushwick in 2007, the cult pizzeria has expanded as far as Singapore. Now it takes over 5,400 square feet and more than 150 seats including an outside patio and two bars. Wood-fired pizza is the main event, from simple Margherita ($22) to the “famous original” ($23) topped with tomato and mozzarella, Parmesan and caciocavallo. The rest of the menu concentrates on seafood: roasted day-boat scallops with husk cherries and ramp oil ($35), crispy squid ($21) and Maine sea urchin served with buckwheat crepes and horseradish ($54).