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Every year, Greenport becomes more and more inundated with day trippers and Air B&B-ers, not to mention "gift" shops selling everything from unmarked bulk olive oil ("Persian lime olive oil," anyone??) to "artisan" soaps and Indian-made mu-mus. And over-priced, under-staffed, and utterly boring restaurants. (Noah's, Frisky Oyster--oh how you cruelly dashed our early hopes! The Halyard... what's happening there now that Galen has departed??)
We are happy to have 1941 Pizza in Greenport, and we adore Grana in Jamesport, although that is too far from our summer home to lure us more than a few times each season. We've had some good dinners at the (very noisy) Caci in Southold. Love the chowder at First and South, too. And there are few very much under-the-radar Latin restaurants tucked away here and there that might not appeal to the average local visitor. But for the most part, our options for dining out on the extreme East End of the North Fork are not great. And so , like many of us locals, we choose to take most meals at home.
All this is to say that we were more than thrilled to learn that Frank DeCarlo of Peasant and Bacaro in Manhattan, was to open in the former Scrimshaw space on the wharf in Greenport. Two happy dinners last summer made us eager to see what was going on in their second season.
I'm happy to report that this restaurant is the brightest dining star to come along in these parts in many a year. And I'm writing this with trepidation cause, assuming that anyone reads this post, it will become more than difficult to snag a table at the already jammed prime dining hours.
So, dinner last night was very good. Unlike many a local eatery, Barba Bianca benefits from a seasoned staff. Many of the wait persons are Italian, relocated from Manhattan to the area for the summer season. Service a cut far above the usual.
And the food: As you might expect from a chef who has operated two highly successful Nolita establishments for many years, and who is committed to using local fare when possible. (Whelks, Peconic snails, Montauk smoked eel, whole porgy, etc)
I was disappointed that the much-vaunted skate was replaced last night by flounder, but the menu holds many treasures, some not often found on local lists.
We began with two antipasti: Fiore di Zucca stuffed with ricotta and dipped into an aioli fragrant from saffron, were superb. Perfect fry technique, crisp, no grease, as good or better than any we've had in coastal Campania. Essential. For that alone, the restaurant is worth your time!
My single globe artichoke was stuffed with the gooey goodness of melted cheese and a bit of breading. I could eat that sauce with a spoon, although the vegetable should have been pared a bit more to remove the tougher outer leaves. Why or why do artichokes figure so rarely on local menus, and in local farmstands??
Gnocchi al Pomodoro sounds simple, but simple here meant perfect--perfect consistency of the gnocchi, lovely light tomato sauce, ample Reggiano brought to the table. Oh, yes! I've not had Scarpetta's famous spaghetti with tomato sauce but I'd bet this was close to that much-talked-about dish in quality.
Finally, I chose the risotto of the day, with lobster. Rice a tad too al dente for my taste but otherwise an ample portion (enough to bring home quite a bit), with a deep flavor base. Thirty eight dollars seemed a tad high but we are used to the seasonal pricing in the area.
With one glass of a rose, the tab with tax and before tip came to $111 for the two of us. Before I sign off, compliments to the seasoned and personable Andrea, who took care of us very well at this, which I hope will be the first of many dinners at Barba Bianca this summer.
Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays; book by Reserve.