Nick & Toni’s is NOT Closing Here

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Eric Striffler photo.

No need to panic fellow East End foodies. Contrary to what you might have read quickly in your Facebook feed, the original East Hampton Nick & Toni’s is NOT closing. Alas, the Manhattan-based Nick & Toni’s Cafe is however. Sad for Manhattanites but so very relieved for us Hamptonites.  : ))))

From Nick & Toni’s Cafe Facebook post 23 hours ago:

To our Neighbors, Loyal Customers and Friends,

It is with great regret that we will be closing the restaurant at the end of service on January 7, 2017. Being part of this community for 20 years has been a tremendously rewarding experience for us. We have fostered great relationships with many of you in our neighborhood. The challenges of running a restaurant in the city are great and continue to only get more challenging. 

That being said we want to thank you for the many years of patronage.
We leave here with many fond memories and a proud sense of what we accomplished.

With gratitude,
Nick & Toni’s Cafe Family

Here’s the original press release announcing the closure, courtesy our friends at Wordhampton:

 

Who:          Nick & Toni’s Cafe
What:         To Close
Where:       100 West 67th Street, New York, NY 10023       
When:        January 07, 2017


NICK & TONI’S CAFÉ TO CLOSE
VENERABLE CAFÉ COULD NOT REACH AN AFFORDABLE LEASE AGREEMENT

Nick & Toni’s Cafe (100 W. 67th Street, NYC, {212} 496-4000) has announced it will close its doors following dinner service on January 7th. “Twenty years is a lifetime in the restaurant business. We are very proud of what we have accomplished in that time. Between rising rents and other financial challenges, the reality of running a restaurant in the city is no longer financially viable for us,” stated co-owner Mark Smith, who along with Toni Ross, own and operate the Upper West Side institution in addition to Hamptons power restaurant Nick & Toni’s. The duo also co-owns Rowdy Hall, Townline BBQ, La Fondita and Honest Catering – all located on the East End of Long Island. There are no plans to open the café at another location.


Wine & Dine: Rowdy Hall

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Everybody knows that Rowdy Hall in East Hampton is the place to go for a great burger. But the Main Street stalwart, which just celebrated its 20th anniversary, also does a heck of a gourmet spread. During a recent visit, I had one of the best meals I’ve ever had out East. Clearly, chef Ed Lightcap knows his way around a kitchen.

I started with a gorgeous glass of Iona Sauvignon Blanc, recommended by General Manager James Weir, who was super duper attentive and awesome and did an extraordinary job of curating the entire incredible tasting meal experience for me. Thanks a million James!

For apps, a trio of tastings appeared–Serrano Ham Croquetas with Pimenton Aioli; Shrimp Corn Dogs with Honey Sriracha Dipping Sauce; and the Duck “Banh Mi” Wontons with Duck Confit, Soy Honey Glaze and Pickled Vegetables. The Croquetas–fluffy mashed potatoes with chive and chopped ham in a crispy fried shell and served with a super mild chipotle mayo–were absolutely yummy. The Shrimp Corn Dogs–just as the name implies–were inventive and tasty and a fun elevated take on a carnival-type classic. But it was the Duck Wontons starter that really got me. They  were out-of-this-world delicious! Confit is a huge time-consuming preparation but it really pays off. This take–featuring perfectly cooked and shredded duck topped with plentiful julienned carrots and sweet hoisin sauce, all in a fried banh mi-inspired shell–was so well balanced and refined, yet it could easily just be enjoyed as a really outstanding pub grub staple too. The dish was like a little appetizer hug for your tummy.

For main coursing, I had the Fluke Meuniere with Baby Vegetables and Parsley Potatoes and the Butternut Squash Lasagna with Creamed Spinach, Sundried Tomato Vinaigrette and Crispy Leeks. Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! I couldn’t stop eating either of them. Flipping fantastic! The perfectly cooked Fluke (right-out-of-the-water fresh and local-caught), delicately battered and served in a light brown butter sauce with delicious pattypan squash and fingerling potatoes, was super buttery and tender. Every bite was heaven. And then there was the vegetarian Lasagna–an explosion of beautiful and bold flavor. I was crazy tempted by the colorful visual and the savory aroma before I even took my first bite. OMG! Amazing!  So many layers of great tastes and textures. There’s so much going on but man does it really work!!

Then there were the desserts. Holy cow! Rachel (Cronemeyer) Flatley, who does the desserts here and at Nick & Toni’s, La Fondita and Townline BBQ, can absolutely do no wrong. Finishing the meal in superfine fettle were the Campfire Brownie Sundae–a Warm Brownie with Toasted Marshmallow Ice Cream Graham Cracker & Dark Chocolate Cremeux– and the Halsey Farm Apple Sticky Cake–a Cinnamon Spice Cake Glazed in a Maple Brown Butter Sauce Served with Halsey Farm Apples & Whipped Cream. From the homemade “graham cracker” shortbread to the dehydrated apple chips served alongside the best damn sticky apple cake I’ve ever had in my entire life!!!, every single component here was made with loving care. It was like my birthday, Thanksgiving and Christmas all rolled into one. Yowsa!!

Totally blown away by the entire experience, I’m just going to say it. Rowdy Hall, with its house-made everything, might just be the best English pub in America.

Rowdy Hall is open seven days a week serving lunch from noon to 3:30 p.m., a midday menu from 3:30 to 5 p.m., and dinner Sunday through Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m. and on Fridays and Saturdays from from 5 to 11 p.m. For additional information, call the restaurant at (631) 324-8555.

* Please pardon the terrible photos. They are the result of an iPhone on its last legs, and definitely do not do the incredible food true justice. Apologies. 

Wine & Dine: Nick & Toni’s

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Brunch has never been better at Nick & Toni’s in East Hampton. Dawn Watson photos.

Whenever you go to Nick & Toni’s in East Hampton, you know it’s going to be a treat. This past Sunday’s brunch was no exception–though the food and service were, as always, exceptional.

After having learned that brunch had returned at the notable restaurant, I reached out to my friend Lisa Tamburini, with whom I’ve shared many a fine meal at place that is catnip to the most famous of Hamptons celebrities. Given the option of seating, we choose our favorite cozy spot next to the windows by the pizza oven. It’s great for the sunlight, though the shadows didn’t do my shoot-from-the-hip food photography any favors. Apologies for my selfishness.  : )

Before our starter came–the Romaine Salad with Caesar Dressing, Garlic Croutons, Grana Padano (with optional chicken), which was delicious–we were treated to raspberry mini muffins that were absolutely incredible. They were baked by Rachel Cronemeyer, who is the pastry chef at all Honest Man Restaurants, including Nick & Toni’s, Rowdy Hall, La Fondita and Townline BBQ. I just love getting those little extras, especially when they are so fantabulous! Yum, yum, yum!

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Dawn Watson photo

Later chef de cuisine Bryan Futerman came out to join us and talk food. In addition to adding to making us feel like bigshots by stopping by, he let us in on the secret that the legendary Nick & Toni’s chicken (one of the eatery’s most popular items on the menu no matter the time of day) comes from a place called Super Bird. Fitting.

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Dawn Watson photo

Next were the entrees; the special Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Mozzarella Pizza for me and the Eggs Benedict with House-cured Pancetta, Poached Organic Eggs, Fine Herbs Hollandaise for Lisa. Wowsa. Bonus: there was more than enough to take home.

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Dawn Watson photo

We finished up with cappuccinos and a shared dessert unlike any other I’ve ever had. It was some type of ice cream apple cake concoction and man oh many was it incredible! Get it. You’ll be very happy that you did.

Sunday Brunch is back at Nick & Toni’s, every Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.  Brunch features an a la carte menu with specialty brunch cocktails. Can’t make brunch, then head out for dinner. Bonus–there’s a new fall menu, and the wood-burning oven pizzas are back. The pizzas are available Sunday – Thursday all night. And, the Choice Prix Fixe has returned as well. The special prix fixe dinner menu comes with three different price points for diners to choose from and is available Sunday through Friday starting at 6 p.m. The restaurant is closed on Tuesdays.

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This little table setup at Nick & Toni’s says it all: rustic luxury at its finest. Dawn Watson photos.

Party Like Leonardo DiCaprio

The house where Leo stayed, according to reports.

The house where Leo stayed, according to reports. Photo from Douglas Elliman listing.

Leonardo DiCaprio, a man who certainly recognizes beauty when he sees it, spent this past weekend in the Hamptons. The actor/model aficionado and his gang, including Sports Illustrated “Rookie of the Year” model Kelly Rohrbach and Butter owner Richie Akiva, apparently spent most of their time at a $5,000 a night rental in Wainscott. But they also made it out to see-and-be-seen-spots 75 Main and Akiva’s own 1 Oak in Southampton on Saturday night and Nick & Toni’s in East Hampton (MUCH more my speed) on Sunday before hopping a seaplane out.

Have some “Wolf of Wall Street”-type money burning a hole in your pocket and want to bunk where Leo did? His alleged crash pad was located at 2 Oakwood Court in Wainscott. The property, which will be hosting open houses on Sunday June 7, Saturday, June 13, and Sunday, June 14, is listed for $4.995 million with Douglas Elliman. The 8,000-square-foot, six-bedroom, seven-bath house sits on just under an acre, south of the highway. Amenities include a beach-entry swimming pool, swim-up bar, outdoor shower and Jacuzzi, plus an outdoor living area with fireplace and cabana.

Here’s the link: http://www.elliman.com/long-island/2-oakwood-court-wainscott-south-vlakpzk

Hamptons Food News

Estia's Carrot Video

In celebration of the upcoming thirteenth annual Hamptons Restaurant Week, and my love of all things yummy, I thought I’d share some Hamptons food news today.

* First off, Hamptons Restaurant Week is nearly upon us so be sure to make your reservations now before all the good seats are taken. The annual eight-day event is set and will run from Sunday, March 22, through Sunday, March 29. During this time, participating restaurants will offer a three-course prix fixe menu for $27.95 every night they are open, except Saturday when the menu may only be offered until 7 p.m.

Some of the East End’s best and brightest will be participating, including: Nick & Toni’s, 1770 House, Fresno, Fresh, Stone Creek Inn, Bell & Anchor, Page at 63 Main, Le Chef, red|bar, Cowfish, Rumba, and more–as well as boîtes on the North Fork too! Click http://www.hamptonsrestaurantweek.com for the full list.

* Now this is something that is definitely worth watching. Chef Colin Ambrose of Estia’s in Sag Harbor–along with a whole bunch of A-list Hamptons chefs, farmers and assorted food lovers–have come together to create a Seed-to-Plate video series. The first on, “Carrot Palooza,” is now live. Featured in this first of what I’m sure is going to be a mouthwatering collection is one heck of a lineup, including: Matt Lauer’s private chef Christopher Polidoro; Joseph Realmuto and Bryan Futerman of Nick & Toni’s (among other Honest Man ventures); Jason Weiner of Almond; Todd Jacobs of Fresh; Robert Durkin of Roberts; Andrew Mahoney of Bay Burger; James Eu, Cassandra Schupp and and Jeff Negron of Topping Rose House; Bette and Dale of Dale & Bette’s Farm; Scott Chaskey of Quail Hill Farm; Marilee Foster of Foster Farms; and Brian Halweil of Edible East End.

The Seed-To-Plate Series: The Carrot video, along with recipes of the featured carrot dishes, is available on Colin Ambrose’s blog, Recipes & Stories by Colin Ambrosehttp://estias.com/weblog/, where home cooks, chefs, and other foodies are invited to explore new twists on healthy American/Mexican fare, ingredients, and cooking methods used at Estia’s Little Kitchen in Sag Harbor and Estia’s in Darien, Connecticut. I LOVE this!!!

* Also take note that Fresh Hamptons in Bridgehampton is now hosting a cooking class series on Thursdays from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Looks like attendees will learn how to prepare entire meals, soup to nuts if you will. Here’s a sample menu.
Soup:
 Lightly curried local organic butternut squash soup with anise toast
Salad: Raw local organic kale with garlic and hemp seed hearts, tomatoes, peppers, radishes and fine herbs with lemongrass vinaigrette
Entrée:
 Wasabi dusted local skate sautéed ginger and kaffir lime beurre blanc
“Fresh” Sides:
 Organic brown basmati rice pilaf; Oven roasted organic Brussels sprouts; and Thai red curried local organic vegetables
butternut squash, eggplant, spinach, carrots, broccoli, peppers and onions red curry, coconut milk and cilantro

To learn more, call 537-4700 or visit http://www.facebook.com/freshhamptonsny.

* Lastly, I am SUPER HAPPY to report that it looks like the East End is finally going to be getting a chance to expand its palate just a soupçon more. We’ve got some great food already but I’m definitely glad to see a few more ethnic options popping up. Momi Ramen of Miami is looking to open a second noodle shop, here in  East Hampton. They say it’ll be open year-round and that it’ll be operational come summer. Fingers crossed. I love me a good noodle! Learn more here: www.momiramen.com.

Let’s Keep Talking About Food: Bloodys at Nick & Toni’s

Let's Keep Talking About Food: Bloodys at Nick & Toni's

Whilst on the subject of the foodie fantastic, I need to share a few morsels about the delicious brunch I had on Sunday at Nick & Toni’s.
Yes, I was just there for brunch. And yes, I already wrote about it. But this time was different. This time there were bloodys!
I had vowed to sample the new Bloody Mary Board selection when it was first made available but have been running to and fro, without much time for enjoying some of my favorite libations. That finally changed on Sunday when my friends Judy and Lisa and I ventured over to Nick & Toni’s in East Hampton with the specific goal of tasting the brunch beverage smorgasbord. Needless to say, we were not disappointed!
Because I’m a creature of habit, I ordered the same delicious salad and pizzette that I had enjoyed during my brunch there recently. But I did mix it up by ordering the Chocolate Grappa Torta for dessert and boy am I glad I did! It was literally one of the best desserts I’ve had in my life. Seriously. Order it–you won’t be disappointed.
This time I managed to not make an ass out of myself (see previous N&T post). At least I don’t think I did, though I showed Dan Rizzie–who was dining with his wife, Susan Lazarus–a photo of a painting of his that I recently purchased at a charity auction. I think that was okay, right?

Photo by John Musnicki, courtesy WordHampton.

Sunday Brunch at Nick & Toni’s

Sunday Brunch at Nick & Toni's

Everybody knows that Nick & Toni’s in East Hampton is the place to see and be seen. More importantly, to me, the food is terrific-tasting rustic Italian and a real treat.
Lisa Tamburini and I decided to go for brunch yesterday before taking in a movie during a rare free Sunday. We headed to my favorite area in the restaurant–right in the back by the pizza oven, which is always warm and yummy smelling, and where we could enjoy Eric Fischl’s beautiful tile mosaic–when I spotted a friend at the next table. Or so I thought.
Lisa looked at me and gave me a “You know who that is?” look and I nodded. “Yep. I’ll go over and say hi in a bit,” I mouthed.
We sat down, ordered our Hearts of Romaine salads (get the crispy chicken version–it’s decadent!) and Pizzetta al Rucola (with mozzarella, local arugula and Prosciutto di San Daniele) and caught up on Hamptons news. Lisa told me a terrible tale about how she had seen Alec Baldwin being stalked by a handful of paparazzi at Mary’s Marvelous in Amagansett. They goaded him and he didn’t respond, didn’t even look their way. But the next day The Post ran a mean-looking photo of him looking like he was scowling with a caption stating just that, which was totally made up and gross.
Anyway …
Finally, deciding since I didn’t want to interrupt my friend Mark and his two friends but also not wanting to appear rude, I got up and took the three steps to his table. In a playful mood–again, since Nick & Toni’s is always filled with notables–I walked up to him and grandly announced, “Oh, aren’t you somebody famous?” Because I’m funny.
Ugh.
It wasn’t Mark.
It was somebody else who I’ve met a few times, architect Paul Goldberger, a Contributing Editor at Vanity Fair and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. But it was clear that he couldn’t place me and I looked kind of like an ass. Serious crickets.
Then I looked back over to my table, where Lisa was quietly and calmly reading the menu. –She told me to put that part in. : )
I slunk away the three teeny tiny steps back to our neighboring table feeling sheepish about my grand mistake, which was meant to be funny.
Lisa looked up from her menu and whispered to me.
“I thought you knew who that was,” she said.
“I did too. I thought it was Mark ____,” I said.
“No, sitting next to him.”
She waited a beat.
“That’s Toni Ross. The artist. And owner here,” she informed me.
“Great. Now I look like a stalker idiot,” I sighed.
Oh well. So I made a slight social faux pas. The food was delicious.