Osteria Salina, at 95 School Street in Bridgehampton, takes its name from the island of Salina, located off the coast of Sicily. And situated on a side street off the main Hamptons drag, Osteria Salina is its own little island of authentic Sicilian cooking in the Hamptons. You know, differences in climate and language aside, the Hamptons, with our fresh seafood and natural bounty, may have more in common with Sicily than we know. At any rate, Osteria Salina brings to us the simple, unpretentious (yet delicious) fish and seafood dishes that Sicily is known for, using the freshest ingredients from East End farms and waters, with authentic preparation and presentation.
Despite being so close to bustling Main Street in Bridgehampton, the picturesque sidewalk tables at Osteria Salina on School Street are surprisingly relaxing. On a recent Wednesday, my dining partner and I settled in at one such table for a twilight dinner, and we were able to watch the steady stream of trucks and buses as they made their way towards Southampton—and yet it all seemed so far away. Call it schadenfreude, but there’s something refreshing about taking a turn at sitting enjoying a cocktail and an appetizer while watching the rest of the world go about its daily grind. For a while, it really was as if we were actually on our own separate little island!
For a cocktail, I tried the Cucumber Frizzante—Crop organic cucumber vodka, agave, club soda and muddled fresh lemons over ice create a subtle mix of flavors with a layered complexity, not too sweet. It paired nicely with the fresh Kirby cucumbers coated in coarse sea salt that manager Timothy Gaglio brought around to every table pre-meal as a kind of field-to-table amuse bouche, a gesture of simple hospitality to set the scene for the rustic Sicilian fare that follows. If you’re not interested in a cocktail, you might order a glass of wine from Osteria Salina’s extensive wine list, which is heavy on Italian wines, but also includes numerous East End selections.
For antipasti, we tried the salad of baby red and yellow beets, a plate of very tender beets served with a creamy sheep milk ricotta and orange vinaigrette. The fresh cheese, garnished with chives, nicely offset the sweetness of the beets. We also enjoyed the caponatina, a Sicilian variant of caponata, the classic Italian eggplant antipasto: made with eggplant, tomato, golden raisins, celery, capers, and agro dolce (a Sicilian sweet-and-sour sauce), and served with toasted bread, this caponatina was pleasingly rich yet not so oily as most, with a slight roasted flavor.
It seemed like it would be remiss for us not to sample Osteria Salina’s pasta. The Bucatini con Sarde, thick spaghetti-like noodles with a sauce of sardines, onion, baby fennel, pine nuts and currants sounded promising. Despite what seems like a lot of strong-tasting ingredients, the dish was quite delicately flavored, with the fennel providing a certain freshness and the sardines evident primarily as a briny backdrop. On the whole, it was quite novel and delicious. It paired well with the Montepulciano d’Abruzzi “Torre Migliori” recommended by Gaglio.
Our appetites by now fully whetted, we dug into our main courses, a grilled piece of Organic Scottish Salmon and the Gamberoni con Cous Cous, a skewer of jumbo shrimp served with a pilaf of cous cous, pine nuts and raisins. The salmon was perfectly done, with a nice crisp top-crust and a peppy garnish of fresh fennel and celery leaves. The shrimp skewer was simply prepared, and the cous cous a pleasant, rustic foil.
As night fell, we began to face the fact that our time on the island that is Osteria Salina was coming to an end. As much to forestall this eventuality as to answer any lingering hunger, we decided on a simple dolce—a scoop of pistachio gelato and a scoop of raspberry sorbetto. The gelato had a delightfully vivid pistachio flavor, while the sorbetto was like a cold summer day. And with that, we were forced to rejoin the rest of the world—but first we took a little stroll down Main Street Bridgehampton. It’s best to ease your way back.
Osteria Salina, 95 School Street, Bridgehampton. 631-613-6469, osteriasalina.net