Best known for helming the kitchen at Della Femina until its closing in 2011, Chef Michael Rozzi is a third-generation East Ender now heading up the kitchen for at The 1770 House Restaurant & Inn in East Hampton. We spoke to this famed chef to find out more about his locally focused cooking style.
You grew up on the East End. What made you stay?
I love the East End—the nature, the fishing, the beaches, the geography… I’m not a city boy; I love the great outdoors.
You’re well known for working with local bounty. Can you highlight some favorites?
I like taking advantage of the true seasons of the East End. Our maritime climate is a little later than the calendar says. When people are doing beans and mushrooms in March, we’re doing it in June. With each season, there are different favorites. I shift gears for the weather and what people want to eat. Personal favorites are corn, tomatoes and late-season squash. All winter I use what the farmers are holding in their root cellars: apples, beets, potatoes with hardier greens. When spring comes, it’s leeks and onions. Of course, all year-round we have terrific seafood. Cooking seafood is one of my favorites.
Any favorite East End wines?
I’m a lover of all the work the wine makers have done on the East End; particularly Wölffer on the South Fork and Raphael on the North Fork. Just like my cooking, they are understated. I like the unpretentious country approach that those of us who were raised here continue to pursue.
What attracted you to The 1770 House?
The high level of service, its quality accommodations, and the historic building. I wanted to cook what I call “Hamptons cuisine” in a boutique dining room on Main Street.
Any all-time favorite dish to prepare?
It’s got to be rolled pastas and meat roasts. The feeling I get when I’m rolling out fresh pasta or shaping dough is close to my heart. It’s an ethereal sensation almost like being a sculptor. That said, at this time of year, I am a big fan of roasts whether it’s a prime rib of beef or a whole roasted rack of pork. It looks really beautiful on the plate and in the oven. It makes the whole kitchen and restaurant smell good.
Favorite ingredients to work with?
First, local bounty. Next, truffles. I’ve been in love with them since I began cooking. I do so many things with them from raw fish preparations and pasta to sauces. They are incredibly versatile. There is a much longer season than people are aware. I have a great truffle source out of Italy. She’s called The Truffle Lady, Francesca Sparvoli. Every Thursday, she comes in with pounds of truffles. We sit in the parlor, we weigh them and she picks the ones she likes for me. Truffles are a real romance of the job.
Favorite cities for food?
There are not many cities better for food than New York. That said, golf takes me to a lot of places. A sleeper foodie location is Dublin, Ireland. Not the land of the bland at all. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the level of hospitality and the incredible talent of Irish chefs who have traveled the world and come home to open restaurants.
Can you walk us through an ideal food day?
It actually starts at night. I’m thinking about what I’m going to do the next day. I’m contacting local farmers and local fish purveyors. I go home and think about what I’m going to cook. When I get into the kitchen the next day, the fresh produce and fish is on the back step. Then starts the process of cooking, tasting and sharing recipes. First with the staff and then with diners.
The 1770 House, 143 Main Street, East Hampton, 631-324-1770, 1770house.com