If she sails by your table in Il Cappuccino warbling “fried calamari, here we come” chances are it may be Sue Vinski, who pulled off two wins in last year’s Dan’s Best of the Best contest—gold for Best Local Band and platinum for Best Waitress. Performing double duties in the restaurant and music businesses—two of the most unforgiving industries—is no easy feat, but the local crooner’s breezy attitude no doubt helped her garner the dual recognitions in the East End’s most all-encompassing best-of competition.
The Sag Harbor native sings with the three-piece group, Suzy on the Rocks, founded in 2010 by Dan Koontz, who plays keyboard, guitar and bass “with his feet,” joined by Bruce Beyer on drums. Koontz wanted a name that featured a female singer, she says, and “Suzy on the Rocks” sounded “kind of sixties” and bar-scene intimate. A musician most of her life, singing primarily in church but also doing some jazz, she and the boys in the band mainly do “classic” numbers from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, “things that harmonize.” A lot of bands don’t do that, she notes, but the three of them instinctively, intuitively, hear the pitches and tones and overtones. She thinks the main reason Suzy on the Rocks won last year was a sense in audiences that they really enjoyed themselves, not only with the music but with each other. “The chemistry came across,” Vinski believes.
When she won the award (a plaque, actually) for waitressing as well, it was also a twofer for Il Cappuccino, which got the number-one prize for Best Restaurant. The band sings down the street, though, at the newly revamped restaurant Page at 63 Main. They just put up a website www.suzyontherocks.com and yes, they are there, the three of them, smiling and…sitting on rocks! On occasion, Vinski can also be found in the soprano section of The Choral Society of the Hamptons.
If there were an award for Best Diverse Life, she might win that, too. Vinski waitresses four nights a week in summer but only two nights in winter because she’s busy studying for a Masters at Long Island University in Riverhead. In a former life she taught English at Stella Maris in Sag Harbor, having earned a degree from Fairfield University in Connecticut. It was her work at the Child Development Center of the Hamptons, however, that prompted her interest in Special Education, which she’s now pursuing.
She didn’t even know she had been nominated for Dan’s Best of the Best but was delighted that Il Cappuccino’s faith in her was rewarded. When she first applied for the job, she knew nothing but what she lacked in experience, she thinks she made up for in personality. Her take on the job, which includes hostessing as well, is to make the night fun. It’s a challenge in summer when, despite reservations, customers can be kept waiting, but she tries to keep the mood light. As soon as diners are seated, she will come to their table to chat, and if there’ a special day she finds out about, she just may belt out Happy Birthday or Anniversary, operatic style.
And just in case that’s not enough, Suzy on the Rocks will be playing at the 2012 Best of the Best party in November.
Nominations for Dan’s Best of the Best are underway, and readers are invited to head to www.danshamptons.com/bestofthebest through Sept. 4 to nominate their favorite East End establishment or personality in more than 200 categories. Check back online on Sept. 14 to cast your votes. Voting will continue through Oct. 2, and the winners will be announced in the Oct. 19 issue of Dan’s Papers. All Best of the Best honorees will be recognized at a celebratory fete later in the fall.