August 30, 2006
Mediterranean Tastes in Sag Harbor
Squint a bit and you could imagine yourself on Italy's Portofino coast. Take a bite of the Involtini di Melenzane at Daniele on Water Street in Sag Harbor and you may just be sure of it.
The building, which previously housed Rocco's de le Playa, has been transformed into a little Italian seaside eatery that has many patrons singing its praises.
Under the direction of Chef Massimo Esposito, the heavy influence of Mediterranean cooking is easy to spot in his dishes: like mussels and clams in a wine/tomato broth spiked with regional herbs and an eggplant roulade appetizer that's filled with fresh ricotta and basil. Esposito, formerly of the Bice worldwide restaurant network that originated in Milan, has devised a menu that covers a lot of gastronomic territory.
The huge awning drapes over most of the outdoor seating at the restaurant which is exclusively al fresco dining. (The interior of Daniele is reserved for its late-evening nightclub scene.) Umbrella-topped tables on the perimeter of the Water Street promenade afford very pretty views of Sag Harbor Cove, a waterway that's dotted with sailboats and motoryachts.
We began our dinner on a recent brilliant summer evening with a chilled bottle of Zuani Vigne ($46) from the Collio region in Italy. Composed of a bracing blend of Tocai Friulano, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon grapes, the wine packed a pleasing punch of bright fruit and citrus.
We then sampled a dish of Speck Dolce (smoked prosciutto Parma) that was accompanied by white beans, marinated Roma tomatoes and homemade crunchy croutons. Another insalate winner was the arugula with baby artichokes that came dressed with balsamic vinegar and shaved Parmesan. The Zuani Vigne was the perfect pairing for this starter.
The pasta portion of Daniele's menu has many good choices. We loved the creamy and flavorful fettuccine bolognese estiva ($18) and savored a luxurious version of shrimp and asparagus risotto ($21) which was composed of creamy camaroli rice and finished with extra virgin olive oil and fresh herbs. A dish of tossed linguine also won raves with its generous big chunks of fresh lobster meat in a light cherry tomato sauce. Molto buon!
Daniele at Water Street's service is efficient and cordial. The place is also kid-friendly and our server delighted the small child in our party by presenting her with a mini-menu from which she chose a plate of zesty penne. From the child's menu, kids can also order their own version of "cocktails" like Shirley Temples or Rob Roys. Cute!
On to the entrees.
We adored the main course of pan-seared sea bass filet that was tossed with a Mediterranean-inspired blend of tomatoes, capers and briny Gaeta olives ($30). The tomatoes rendered their juice from the sauté, giving a caramelized effect to the super-fresh fish. Also very good was the grilled tuna steak that was brushed with lemon oil and sided with a vegetable caponata. Those into steaks and chops will be happy here. An aged NY strip was accompanied by sautéed spinach and mushrooms ($36). Also on the menu was a grilled veal chop ($42) and filet mignon topped with a truffle sauce ($38).
Among the desserts offered were cannolis filled with fresh sweet ricotta and a selection of gelati and sorbetti. After the filling pasta and risotto, however, we skipped the sweets, instead opting for a round of robust espressos.
Ci sentiamo bene!
Daniele at 21 Water
21 West Water St.
Sag Harbor, 725-7500