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Heath Freeman, Valerie Mnuchin lead recent restaurant boom in Hamptons

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A coterie of economic elites — from the unseasoned to the unsavory — are launching greater than a dozen restaurants within the Hamptons and on the North Fork to serve the moneyed masses starved for dining options because the East End booms.

The roster of restaurateurs includes the primary enterprise from Valerie Mnuchin, the socialite sister of former US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and hedge fund vampire Heath Freeman — referred to as the “grim reaper of American newspapers.”

Stacey Soloviev — ex-wife of billionaire Stefan Soloviev, the heir to the late Sheldon Solow’s real estate empire — is amongst others trying to expand their posh footprint amid the onrush of power brokers escaping COVID-wracked big cities.

“People moved out East or bought second homes throughout the pandemic and there wasn’t enough product,” said Don Evans, organizer of Dan’s Taste of Summer — the most important food-based series of events on the East End. “Now there’s major billionaire money out East, and the openings are more sophisticated.”

Freeman, president of Latest York-based Alden Global Capital — notorious for getting up struggling papers, slashing costs and firing journalists — will add Sunset Harbor to his Hamptons portfolio.

He’ll open the brand new restaurant in East Hampton after buying the 4.3 acres of land that was home to Harbor Bistro for a reported $4 million. The property is next to his EHP Resort & Marina, which features Si Si Mediterranean Restaurant and Buongiorno. He owns one other Buongiorno branch in Montauk.

Harbor Bistro’s popular chef/owner Damien O’Donnell moved to Chris Eggert’s and Kevin Boles’ Hamptons classic, where he’s now chef and partner of Bostwick’s on the Harbor.

Heath FreemanHeath Freeman owns EHP Resort & Marina and Si Si Mediterranean Restaurant in East Hampton, and Buongiorno bakery in Montauk. EUGENE MIM/PatrickMcMullan.com

Freeman can be reopening the now-shuttered Red Bar, a former staple outside Southampton — as a French-inspired bistro, Enchanté. It’s going to have an out of doors patio and predictable but popular French classics, like French onion soup and salad Nicoise.

As well as, Freeman expanded to Hampton Bays, where he bought the Inn Spot and can open Crash Cantina on Memorial Day weekend. The open-air, Latin American restaurant is seafood focused, with Montauk fluke ceviche and native oysters on offer together with tacos, salads and bowls, and apple cider smoked chicken with mole verde — and a lot of mezcal and tequila cocktails and housemade margaritas. 

On Shelter Island, Valerie Mnuchin is opening her first eatery, Leon — a French-Italian style bistro named after her grandfather. It’s going to seat 70 people when it opens this July. While her brother Steve — the banker, film producer and former US treasury secretary — doesn’t have ‘restaurateur’ on his resume, their father, Robert Mnuchin, owned the Mayflower Inn and Restaurant in Washington, Conn., from 1990 to 2018. 

Popular chef Noah Schwartz, of Noah’s in Greenport, is opening three recent concepts on the newly revamped The Chequit hotel, run by recent owner the Soloviev Group under the vision of  Stacey Soloviev, its director of community relations and the mother of 11 children with Stefan Soloviev.

The Soloviev Group has invested heavily in renovating the charming nineteenth century inn overlooking Dering Harbor. Schwartz will open Weakfish Sushi & Noodle, The Tavern and Heights Cafe & Wine Bar — with Glen & Co Architecture and Design as architect and designer. 

Also dipping his ladle on the East End for the primary time will likely be famed French pastry chef Francois Payard, who opens Southold Social on the North Fork as chef and co-owner with Adam Lovett. Payard currently runs Southold General, a grab-and-go market/cafe at Edison Square. 

Andrew Molen, who worked for Jean-Georges Vongerichten, is now executive chef at Brad Kitkowski's Isola, where he plans to serve up whole fish stuffed with seafoodAndrew Molen, who worked for Jean-Georges Vongerichten, is now executive chef at Brad Kitkowski’s Isola, where he plans to serve up whole fish filled with seafood.Colin Quinn

Payard will likely be the primary James Beard-award winning chef on the North or South Fork, Evans said.

“More serious restaurant persons are opening restaurants year-round,” he said, adding that this yr’s Dan’s Taste of Summer will showcase 65 restaurants over six events, with the primary happening on June 9 at EHP.  “The North and South Forks are each red hot.”

In Montauk, Bushwick’s beloved Roberta’s is opening in the previous Arbor space, inside walking distance from the Long Island Railroad and Surf Lodge. Roberta’s co-owners, Brandon Hoy and Carlo Mirarchi, reportedly bought the constructing at 240 Pond Road for $3 million in an off-market deal.

It’s going to serve its renowned wood-fired pizzas on the 5,400-square-foot space, which seats around 165 people — including the surface patio space and two bars. The menu will offer its signature  “Ursula’s Parade,” with Little Neck clams, mozzarella and Calabrian chili, and likewise feature local fish and shellfish pastas. Roberta’s, founded in Bushwick in 2007, now has locations in LA, Singapore, Nashville, and Williamsburg. 

O by Kissaki — from the owners of Kissaki in Water Mill — opens in East Hampton and can offer a Japanese-Italian “Itameshi” menu in its stylish recent digs.

Also in Montauk, Marram, a 96-room resort, is opening its South American cafe, Mostrador Marram — helmed by Fernando Trocca of Mostrador Santa Teresita and Martin Pittaluga of Parador La Huella — for the second season with a recent South American-inspired cocktail program.

There’s also a recent group taking up food and beverage at Rushmeyer’s, where Little Ruby’s Mountauk will launch, with 120 seats in and out  — from the Wish You Were Here group, which operates restaurants in Latest York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. It’s going to be an outpost of Ruby’s Cafe in Latest York — which has three locations in Soho, the East Village and Murray Hill; a fourth location is slated to open later this yr within the West Village.

Dishes will include their ‘fan favorites’ — from a crispy rice salad, ricotta hotcakes with honeycomb butter, nutella, banana and maple syrup, to crab linguine and a wood-fired pizza program. As well as, chef Jeremy Blutstein, former executive chef of Gurney’s Star Island Resort & Marina, and sommelier Vanessa Price are opening Mavericks, for surf and turf, overlooking Fort Pond in Montauk.

Roberta's pizzaBushwick’s beloved pizza joint Roberta’s will likely be serving up its famed “Ursula Salad” pie — with Little Neck clams, mozzarella and Calabrian chili — in the previous Arbor space in Montauk.Brandon Harman

The 200-seat eatery will deal with local fish and produce from Latest York farms. 

Tutto Il Giorno also expands its wings this season, opening Tutto Cafe in East Hampton — the brand new cafe concept runs the gamut from breakfast pastries to evening drinks.  

And in Bridgehampton, World Pie’s space has been rented by Dopo La Spiaggia’s fourth Hamptons spot, referred to as Dopo Il Ponto.

Lobster Roll, referred to as “Lunch” in Amagansett on the Montauk Highway — and known for its semi-starring role within the series “The Affair” — can be opening its first outpost in Southampton because it opened in 1965. 

The revamped Pridwin reopens on Shelter Island following a $28 million renovation from Curtis Bashaw’s Cape Resorts, as my colleague Steve Cuozzo reported. The brand new executive chef there will likely be Drew Hiatt, formerly of the North Fork’s Preston House and Bridgehampton’s Topping Rose House, Side Dish can reveal.

The 1,500-square -foot restaurant — featuring local fish and seafood, Shelter Island produce and East End wines — also boasts an adjoining horseshoe shaped Crescent Bar, plus 1,500 square feet of outside space. The pool and personal Crescent Beach areas may also offer food and beverages. 

The renovated Pridwin on Shelter Island will feature executive chef Drew Hiatt, formerly of the North Fork’s Preston House and Bridgehampton’s Topping Rose House, Side Dish can reveal. Photo by Preston Camp

Also on Shelter Island, rising star chef Andrew Molen, who worked for Jean-Georges Vongerichten — is now executive chef at Brad Kitkowski’s Isola, where he’s cooking up cauliflower cacio e pepe with pecorino cream parmesan and cioppino with mussels, claims, shrimp and calamari. The restaurant seats 140 people in and out. 

Beloved go-to local joint Astro’s Pizza in Amagansett has a recent chef and owner — PJ Calapa, who owns Scampi and The Spaniard in Latest York, and investor Ben Levanthal, a founding father of Resy. The restaurant will likely be open year-round. 

In East Hampton, Kissaki — which launched in Water Mill during lockdown — has opened O by Kissaki with a recent Japanese-Italian “Itameshi” menu curated by owner Garry Kanfer and consulting chef Chris Jaeckle. The brand new menu features unique dishes like uni and lardo on crispy rice, and dashi spaghetti, Kanfer says. 

Finally, in Southampton, the Capri is launching a “Vegas and St Tropez” style AIA Beach Club, with fresh-caught whole fish day by day deliveries from Europe, a raw bar and a rotating list of European DJs. A pool deck table has a $1,000 minimum while cabana-style perches could run as much as $5,000 for the day.

“It’s a cross between the islands of Mikonos and Manhattan,” says Michael Pitsinos, operating partner of the Capri Southampton and founding father of NAIA Beach Club.

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