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August 1, 2012
Review: Osteria Salina
By Laura Donnelly
A number of restaurants over the years have resided at 95 School Street in Bridgehampton, most recently Copa, and now Osteria Salina. Do we really need or want another Italian restaurant in the Hamptons? In the case of Osteria Salina, a predominantly Sicilian establishment, the answer is a resounding "yes!"
The space has not changed too much, a dining room to the right has been opened up, giving the place an airy feel. The bar in front and dining room to the left have been painted a warm yellow on top and deep royal blue below. Some bright and swirly paintings adorn the walls along with many wine bottles. A comfy red leather banquette dominates the rear and the waitstaff are clad in red shirts, yellow belts, and white pants, the colors of the flag of Sicily.
Upon being seated we were offered nibbles of salted and spiced cucumber being passed around by the owner, it was a refreshing and charming touch. We began our meal with the fritto misto, mussels, charred octopus, and yellow fin tuna tartare. All of them were absolutely delicious. The fritto misto was nice and crisp, not oily, and filled with a great variety of seafood, zucchini, and bits of fried parsley. The arrabiata sauce served with it was excellent, zesty and fresh tasting. The mussels were served in a big bowl surrounded by slices of grilled bread and the sauce was a little bit different from the usual creamy, buttery white wine sauce. It was lighter and full of herbs and bits of diced tomatoes. The charred octopus was a beautiful and original presentation of octopus, perfectly cooked, with roasted fingerling potatoes and a lightly dressed arugula salad with fava beans. The yellow fin tuna tartare was a very generous portion, again beautifully presented. The tuna was molded into a timbale, spiced with tomato pepperoncino oil, with a layer of avocado on top of cucumber slices drizzled with more spicy pepperoncino oil. The tuna was sprinkled with dried, salted capers giving it extra flavor and punch.
For entrees we ordered the linguine with clams, rigatoni alla Siciliana, New York strip steak, and one of the evening's specials of grilled striped bass. The linguine was perfectly cooked al dente, the sauce was rich and buttery with just enough garlic and the whole clams were fresh as can be Napeague littlenecks. Extra bread for the table, please! The rigatoni, tried by everyone at the table, was hearty and light at the same time; cubes of eggplant mingled with olives, basil, garlic, and gooey melted bits of mozzarella. The New York strip steak was cooked as ordered and was well seasoned. The best part was the Nebrodi mushrooms, a type of mushroom native to Sicily, similar to oysters but better. A rich, meaty brown sauce and grilled asparagus rounded out the dish. The grilled striped bass was served on a bed of fresh corn, more divine fava beans, mushrooms, and little dabs of tapenade. The bass was cooked just right, seared and crisp on the outside and still moist within.
Osteria Salina was packed on the night of our visit, and for a brand new restaurant they handled the crowds very well. Our waitress was great, friendly and knowledgeable. The patrons were happy and the owner and his wife were making the rounds to each table greeting guests. I had the authentic feel of a truly Italian restaurant, warm and welcoming with delicious food prepared with fresh and simple ingredients.
When we inquired about desserts we were informed that they are all made in house by the owner's wife. Every single one was delicious. We tried the flourless chocolate cake, almond cheesecake, plum cake, and an orange cannoli. The flourless chocolate cake was dense and bittersweet, just as it should be, with a generous dollop of freshly whipped cream. The almond cheesecake was probably made with ricotta which made it lighter than the usual American style cream cheese cheesecake. The plum cake was like a torte, rich and moist cake topped with glazed slices of plum. It was outstanding, sweet cake, tart fruit. The cannoli was also excellent. A fresh and crunchy cannoli shell was filled with orange flavored ricotta cheese filling and the ends dipped into crushed pistachios.
Our group was fairly large on our visit with people of varying tastes. We were unanimous in our judgement that "everything was prepared just right." One guest also reminded me to point out that they had very good and very reasonable wines by the glass. What more could you ask from a charming Sicilian restaurant in the heart of Bridgehampton?
Long Island Restaurant News Plate Rating System:
Laura Donnelly is the pastry chef for The Living Room Restaurant in East Hampton and the Food Editor of the East Hampton Star. She has developed recipes for Equal sweetener, Sheila Lukins's cookbooks, and has appeared numerous times on The Barefoot Contessa TV show. She has written for Town and Country, Hamptons, and Texas Monthly magazines. She does not have time for a website or Twitter.
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