St. James, the little town that can definitely eat, has a polished new-American spot in its midst: NoCo Kitchen Wine & Cocktails, which has opened on North Country Road.
NoCo (which stands for North Country) replaces the more casual Liberty Burger, which closed this summer. Joe DeNicola of DeNicola Brothers Concepts, NoCo’s owner, led a monthslong renovation of the space that replaced Liberty Burger’s vivid hues with soothing neutrals, leather seating and an airy feel. An open kitchen still anchors one side, a sleek bar the other.
DeNicola and DBC executive chef Anthony D’Amico, frequent collaborators, have hatched a menu that marries local seafood (Peconic Bay scallop ceviche, for instance), humanely raised meats and seasonal produce with rigorous technique. Under the small plate banner ($10 to $16), diners will find fried oysters with Thai green-papaya slaw and soy-miso aioli; heirloom beets braised in wine and spooned over whipped ricotta; and local clams al forno with chorizo, fennel and toasted rye crumbs.
Entrees ($26 to $39) cover almost equal measures of meat and seafood, from breast and confited leg of locally raised duck with chanterelle risotto and strozzapreti with wild-boar Bolognese and carrottop pesto to scallops with toasted farro, butternut squash puree and haricot verts.
The $12 House cocktails include numerous twists on martinis and a house take on the Manhattan called High Society. There are also a dozen wines by the glass, several beers on tap and, only a few days after opening, a lively faction of locals eating at the bar — some of whom were already on their second visits.
DeNicola Brothers Concepts owns seven other restaurants around Long Island, including four Del Fuegos (the one directly across the road used to reside in NoCo’s space) and Ruvo East in nearby Port Jefferson. That restaurant flooded in heavy rains this fall, a setback that delayed NoCo’s opening date. (Ruvo East reopened after a feverish two-week cleanup and renovation).
NoCo opens daily for dinner at 4 p.m.; DeNicola said Sunday brunch is in the works.
NoCo Kitchen Wine and Cocktails, 429 N. Country Rd., St. James. 631-250-9600.