Not that East Hampton’s 1770 House is unpopular in summer (it isn’t), but the restaurant truly comes to life in winter, when its cozy, 18th Century atmosphere — emphasized by plush antiques, low ceilings, and original wood beams — provides respite from the elements. The restaurant has been functioning, in one capacity or another, at least as far back as 1942, and its richly embroidered history is part of East Hampton.
In 2002, restaurateur Ben Krupinski purchased the restaurant, which he ran — along with Cittanuova and East Hampton Point — until his untimely death in a plane crash this June.
The building itself — the actual 1770 house — enjoys a storied past. Erected in the 1600s, the building was initially owned by William Fithian, an English settler who lived in East Hampton with his wife, Margaret, beginning in 1640. Later, Jonathan Dayton, a third-generation resident of East Hampton, purchased the property, which was inevitably passed down to his grandson, Dr. Bolivar Dayton.
Dr. Dayton served as a surgeon in the Civil War and as East Hampton’s town doctor until 1886. Regardless of the home’s origin (and Fithian’s role in creating it), the 1770 House was regarded as “The Jonathan Dayton House” for many years. Its current name, however, refers to its roots as an inn. In 1770, the house became an inn for travelers, and its modern-day identity was born.
Today, the 1770 House is both inn and restaurant, restored to reflect its original Colonial architecture (white clapboard exterior, for instance). The staircases and exposed beams within are all original. On a cold winter evening, there are few spots more inviting than the restaurant’s wood-paneled parlor, equipped with one of several working fireplaces. Oriental rugs, candlelight, and elegant appointments define the space. It’s impossible to feel anything but Colonial in the warm, inviting, historic space.
But the 1770 House, décor notwithstanding, is more than a one-trick pony. The food is noteworthy, too. At the helm since 2013, Chef Michael Rozzi curates an impeccable menu, highlighting local ingredients, like fluke and local produce.
The basement’s tavern (which also boasts its own fireplace) serves more casual cuisine, included a much-lauded meatloaf. Rozzi’s spicy Montauk fluke tartare, adorned with pickled cucumber and wasabi tobiko, is an admirable take on an old classic, and local beets shine in conjunction with Mecox Dairy Bascom Blue cheese, sunflower seeds, endive, and bacon. Summer striped bass, also local, benefits from the season’s bounty: sweet corn, Dutch runner beans, and a potato ragu.
And then there is, of course, the wine. In 2006, Michael Cohen took over the restaurant’s wine program, a position he has held ever since. In the intervening years, he has built a 250-bottle wine list, which has garnered national attention. Since 2007, the list has held a coveted Wine Spectator Award. The expansive list includes verticals of Opus One and Bond, top growth Bordeaux, and a panoply of wines made by Italian legend Angelo Gaja.
As for the inn, well, it’s more than just a stopover for passing travelers these days. The inn has six suites, as well as a two-story carriage house, most of which are equipped with their own fireplaces. The carriage house comes with its own kitchenette, as well as a porch and private garden, divine even in the cooler months. Summer is a lovely time to visit the restaurant, too, to be clear. An intimate patio, flanked by hydrangea, sparkles under strung Edison bulbs.
It may not have been exactly what William Fithian envisioned when he built his home nearly 400 years ago, but something tells me he would be fine with how everything turned out.