Perched perfectly on the shorefront of Peconic Bay, Pepi’s Ristorante Italiano in Southold offers more than just an unbeatable dining experience. The serenity of the bay and the accessibility of the beach bring a certain charm to the outdoor patio, while the indoor area is gorgeously appointed and often opened up to allow the breeze to keep patrons cool.
The family behind Pepi’s has run a number of other successful ventures before—the original Pepi’s was located in Whitestone, Queens, and the family maintains a second location, Red Rooster Bistro, in Cutchogue. The secluded Southold location, however, has garnered a number of rave reviews from pleased critics and satisfied guests alike. This summer, I took off a couple of afternoon hours in order to see for myself what all the fuss was about.
Inside, the tables are draped in pristine white tablecloths, leading me to opt for an indoor seat (though I could still see the water through the open doors and patio). The bar, too, was a delight for the eyes, featuring a dazzling array of wines from Italy, California, New Zealand and Long Island (with Southold’s Mattebella Vineyards and Cutchogue’s Bedell Cellars in pride of place). Pepi herself was behind the bar, and sat me down with a menu while my smiling server Alexandria brought ice water.
Feeling a bit parched, I ordered the Raz Martini, a signature cocktail developed at Pepi’s that combines raspberry Svedka vodka, champagne, white cranberry juice and Chambord. The effect was deliciously fruity—it was basically cold, refreshing juice with a kick.
I began my meal with an order of the antipasto, which certainly didn’t disappoint. Composed of mushrooms (drizzled in a deliciously spiced oil), red peppers, mozzarella balls, asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes (chewy, almost jerky-like, and full of zest), zucchini (tasty, if a bit soggy) and olives (absolutely bursting with flavor), this appetizer was so excellent that I couldn’t stop myself from finishing every bite. Even the tangy oil left behind wasn’t wasted, as I mopped it up with the crispy, flaky bread Alexandria brought a few minutes later.
For the main event, I ordered the fried flounder, served on ciabatta with a chipotle-based sauce, accompanied by a side of choice greens and house dressing. I elected to sample a glass of the Kim Crawford sauvignon blanc with my meal. This New Zealand white maintained a slight hint of dryness while still providing an overall fruity and refreshing flavor, and proved itself to be an effective complement to the meal. The flounder was perfectly crunchy, fried to a golden crisp and spicy without being overwhelmingly so. I also managed to snatch up an order of thin-cut fries, which were just the right mix of salty and crisp.
For once, I wasn’t able to make any room for dessert (this is why I should never go out to eat without a dining companion), but I made time for a little chat with Pepi after my meal came to a close. “This menu always changes,” she said, referring to the eclectic Italian spread featured on the summer menu, which included pasta, seafood and chicken entrees. “In the winter we’ll have a new one—but we can make basically make anything. Whatever people are in the mood for, all they have to do is ask their server.” If that’s not a reason to visit Pepi’s, I don’t know what is.
Pepi’s Ristorante Italiano is located at 400 Old Main Road in Southold. Call 631-765-6373 or visit pepisrestarant.com.