Subtly, almost quietly, Rugosa slipped into the Hamptons this summer. Now, it's making lots of noise. Bill Mammes, the Massapequa-born chef-owner, prepares refined and unfussy New American food that matches a handsome, refreshed dining room. His familiar stage is last season's Almoncello and, before that, Almondito. The address also has hosted a VFW hall. And for years, a landmark military tank has stood guard, as if protecting the parking lot. Hard to miss. You shouldn't, either.
Mammes' resume includes stints at Las Vegas winners ranging from Thomas Keller's Bouchon to Hubert Keller's Fleur de Lys, Bellagio's Le Cirque to Wynn's Alex. He also helped open Indian Wells Tavern in Amagansett. His approach here is both relaxed and precise. Try the savory starter of duck cannelloni: a pasta packet flavorfully filled with duck confit, finished with mushrooms, spinach and a hint of star anise. Very summery gazpacho floats a squash blossom packed with delicate scallop mousse. Soy-marinated quail finds a fine foil with lentil salsa and ginger vinaigrette. And loin of lamb, rosy and delicious, is nearly outdone by its accompaniment, a braised escarole, raisin and pine-nut tart that suggests a Sicilian reverie. The seared duck breast, tender and juicy, gets its spark from curry-seasoned polenta, date chutney and five-spice-spiked duck jus. Roasted cod benefits from white beans, garlic and chorizo sausage in artichoke broth; crisp-skinned, local black bass, from savoy cabbage and house-made gnocchi. A small rum baba, flanked by blackberry compote and honey ice cream, enriches the sweets.
Underseasoned: crab salad with zucchini, apple and toasted almonds. But the drawbacks mostly are desserts. Chocolate rice pudding with milk sorbet, and mascarpone cheesecake with poached rhubarb each sound better than they are. Chocolate cake with caramelized beets, a riff on the carrot-cake theme, delivers diversion, but that's it.
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