It takes a chef who is very confident in his food, in his craft and in his restaurant to respond with, “Doesn’t matter! Everything is frozen!” when asked what menu items he recommends.
How’s the tuna tartare? Fresh from 7-Eleven, just down the street, apparently. Maurizio Marfoglia, executive chef and managing partner of Sag Harbor’s Tutto Il Giorno, never misses a beat. “We just have a giant microwave in the back,” he reveals, as he pretends to give away the restaurant’s best-kept secret. But he isn’t fooling anyone. We were there on April Fool’s Day, afterall.
The secret sauce to the success of the popular Italian restaurant is in its meticulously crafted menu, which is at once innovative and comfortable; and its inviting but chic ambience. The combination of the two resonates with locals and visitors alike, as both the Sag Harbor and Southampton locations remain open year-round, spurring the recent creation of a third branch, in New York’s Tribeca neighborhood.
Those well versed in feng shui organize their spaces in such a way as to promote a calming environment. Driving into Sag Harbor on a Friday evening and seeing available parking spots has the same effect on one’s psyche. Blinker on. Pull in. Silence. No honking horns. No road rage. No fear of hitting the car next to you when you open the door. The only thoughts are of the tantalizing dinner that awaits.
The Sag Harbor location is Tutto’s original. Situated on Bay Street, the restaurant is housed in what could easily moonlight as a seafarer’s home reminiscent of the village’s bygone whaling days. Large-paned windows overlook the harbor from the bar, and during the summer months, the restaurant plays host to an inviting outdoor dining scene.
A front corner table was open on a recent Friday night, two of its sides flanked by the comfy banquettes that surround the restaurant’s perimeter. Diners are invited to settle into the many pillows that cover the banquettes. The effect further blurs the line between a restaurant and an upscale-but-homey personal kitchen.
Tutto has a handful of signature drinks, but the bartender is more than open to crafting a cocktail that fits your preference. The Mint Limonata, made with vodka, mint, limoncello, fresh lemon juice and a splash of soda, was refreshing, evoking summer memories. It proved to be the perfect complement to the sunset as night settled over the harbor. Warm bread came next, but be forewarned—you do not want to nosh on too much before the main courses arrive.
Tutto Il Giorno crafts its Southern Italian menu with local influences. Dining is appropriately divided into four courses—antipasti, primi piatti, secondi piatti and dessert.
A satisfying tapas-style meal could be made from just the antipasti menu. A delightfully fresh spicy tuna tartare, served with marinated cucumbers and avocado, is a seafood lover’s dream, while Italian purists will be seduced by the burrata served with organic tomatoes and fresh basil. A wild mushroom polenta with truffles is a sweet treat for those who aren’t quite ready to order the tiramisu—which should, certainly, be ordered at the end of the meal. The combination of textures between the slick truffles and more substantial polenta makes for a unique, delicate way to whet the palate.
Primi piatti dishes consist of pasta in every iteration—linguine, rigatoni, penne, spaghetti. Sweet and hot homemade sausages dance with peas and oversized rigatoni in a vodka sauce that’s just a tad spicy. The seafood-inspired tagliolini is flavor-packed with squid ink tagliolini, bay scallops, shrimp, calamari, Calabrian peppers and tomato sauce. But seafood lovers would be remiss not to order the branzino, a staple among the secondi piatti selections. Imported Mediterranean sea bass is poached in white wine and served with fresh tomatoes. The chef lets the fish speak for itself—complicated combinations of flavors are not needed, and the light bites disappear quickly.
Care should be taken, however, to save room for dessert. The dessert menu isn’t printed, only recited at the end the meal by a server who acts as if he is letting you in on an age-old family recipe. And maybe he is.
Tutto Il Giorno Sag Harbor is located at 6 Bay Street, Sag Harbor. For more information, call 631-725-7009 or visit tuttoilgiorno.com.
Other locations in Southampton and Tribeca, New York.