And, Finally, the Lobster Rolls
According to numerous blogs, magazines, and a July article in the New York Times, this summer's hottest Hampton restaurant is Tutto Il Giorno, which opened in May in Sag Harbor, New York. Scott Conant of the New York City restaurants L'Impero and Alto is the consulting chef. By all accounts, the food is excellent. The Times reviewer praised the food but found the service unaccommodating to the point of rudeness.
Propelled by excitement and trepidation (would I be poisoned for my unfashionable purse?), the 30-seat restaurant's no-reservations policy, and theater tickets to The Lady in Question at 8 p.m., we show up at 5:45. My mother and J. and I are seated immediatelywhich might have made us feel cool if we weren't the only people there. The waitress treats us warmly. The light-yellow room is the only place we want to be. We share a number of appetizers that pair a bracing bite with a lulling counterpart. Flavorful shrimp curl over peppery arugula over creamy potato salad; spicy sprouts top a dollop of burrata (fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream) on a small heap of heirloom tomatoes; piquant branzino tartare is studded with cubes of avocado. The entrées are good, too, if less exciting than the appetizers. Often the appetizers are my favorite part of a mealsometimes I order multiple appetizers, forgoing the entrée altogether. Perhaps it's an attempt to sustain the tangy promise of the beginning, where the best is always ahead.
By the time we leave, Tuto Il Giorno has filled out. The crowd can be called chic only if you believe white-pants, striped sweaters, and tow-headed children qualifies as chic. Certainly, it does not qualify as intimidating.
We buy the long-titled cookbook The Lobster Roll: And Other Pleasures of Summer by the Beach, From the Famed Hamptons Restaurant Known as 'Lunch' for the lobster roll recipe. It turns out to have many appealing recipes, from New England clam chowder to strawberry rhubarb pie.
The head note to the lobster roll recipe says, in part, "It takes so many lobsters to yield 2 pounds of lobster meat, and the process of steaming and cleaning is so labor intensive, that we think the time you save by buying fresh lobster meat from your local seafood purveyor is well worth the added expense."
That's all I need to hear. The weather is too lovely to stay indoors killing and cleaning crustaceans. We buy two pounds of lobster meat from The Seafood Shop, put them in the fridge and traipse to the beach.
Later, I clean and chop the gorgeous lobster meat into generous chunks. I chop the celery fine and, following a note from The Lobster Roll, dry it in paper toweling in the refrigerator. One of the very few things that can go wrong is if the salad gets too watery. I mix the meat with celery, mayonnaise, salt, and pepper, and put it in the fridge to chill. Does this count as cooking? We do use heat to cook the buttered hot dog buns face down on a skillet.
We load the rolls up with salad. There are six of us and the recipe (for six) makes eight very generous rolls. We serve them with corn to my mother, father, aunt, and uncle, who are appropriately wowed. Really there was nothing to it. Next time I'll kill and clean the lobsters. Probably. That might make the compliments feel more earned. And as my father points out, you can use the lobster shells for stock.
"It must have been expensive," my aunt says.
Yes, we admit, but we did not tell them how expensive, and I cannot tell you, cannot tell anyone. It cost a lot. It made us blush. It is by far the most I've ever spent, per pound, on anything edible. Still, as we keep telling ourselves, it was cheaper—far cheaper—than footing the bill for dinner for six at Mary's Fish Camp. If you're spending the Labor Day Weekend at someone else's house consider making this a gift to your host.
Tutto Il Giorno
Address: 6 Bay Street, Sag Harbor NY 11963