Heath Freeman, Valerie Mnuchin lead new restaurant boom in Hamptons

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

The roster of restaurateurs includes the first venture from Valerie Mnuchin, the socialite sister of former US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and hedge fund vampire Heath Freeman — known 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 among others looking to expand their posh footprint amid the onrush of power brokers escaping COVID-wracked big cities.

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

Freeman, managing director of New York-based Alden Global Capital — notorious for buying up struggling papers like the Daily News, slashing costs and firing journalists – will add Sunset Harbor to his Hamptons portfolio.

He’ll open the new restaurant in East Hampton after buying the 4.3 acres of land that was home to Harbor Bistro for a reported $4 million and not renewing its long-term lease. The property is next to his EHP Resort & Marina, which features Si Si Mediterranean Restaurant and Buongiornos. He owns another Buongiornos branch in Montauk.

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

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

Freeman is also reopening the now-shuttered Red Bar, a former staple outside Southampton — as a French-inspired bistro, Enchanté. It will have an outdoor patio and predictable but popular French classics, like French onion soup and salad Nicoise.

In addition, Freeman expanded to Hampton Bays, where he bought the Inn Spot and — along with renovating waterfront bungalows — opened Crash Cantina on May 16. The open-air, Latin American restaurant is seafood focused, with Montauk fluke ceviche and local oysters on offer along with tacos, salads and bowls, and apple cider smoked chicken with mole verde — and lots 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 will seat 70 people when it opens this July. While her brother Steve — the banker, film producer and former US treasury secretary — does not 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 new concepts at the newly revamped The Chequit hotel, run by new 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 19th 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 first time will 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 seafood
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 seafood.
Colin Quinn

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

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

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

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

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 new South American-inspired cocktail program.

There’s also a new group taking over food and beverage at Rushmeyer’s, where Little Ruby’s Mountauk will launch, with 120 seats inside and out  — from the Wish You Were Here group, which operates restaurants in New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. It will be an outpost of Ruby’s Cafe in New York — which has three locations in Soho, the East Village and Murray Hill; a fourth location is slated to open later this year in 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. In addition, 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 pizza
In Montauk, Bushwick’s beloved Roberta’s is opening in the former Arbor space.
Brandon Harman

The 200-seat eatery will focus on local fish and produce from New York farms. 

Tutto Il Giorno also expands its wings this season, opening Tutto Cafe in East Hampton — the 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, known as Dopo Il Ponto.

Lobster Roll, known as “Lunch” in Amagansett on the Montauk Highway — and known for its semi-starring role in the series “The Affair” — is also opening its first outpost in Southampton since 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 new executive chef there will 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 outdoor space. The pool and private Crescent Beach areas will also offer food and beverages. 

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 inside and out. 

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

In East Hampton, Kissaki — which launched in Water Mill during lockdown — has opened O by Kissaki with a new Japanese-Italian “Itameshi” menu curated by owner Garry Kanfer and consulting chef Chris Jaeckle. The 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 daily 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 up to $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 founder of NAIA Beach Club.

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