Culaccino. The word, in Italian, means the mark left on a table — presumably from a wine glass. “I want to leave a positive mark on the clientele who comes in and dines,” said chef and owner of Water Mill’s newest eatery, Jon Albrecht. “We want them to come back again and again.”
Albrecht has been a chef in the Hamptons for 25 years. His career has been expansive. He was the original chef for Tutto il Giorno, as well as the chef de cuisine for Madison and Main, the bustling and, sadly, ill-fated Sag Harbor restaurant that closed a few years ago. Albrecht was also the opening chef for Montauk’s Flagship, which opened in 2017 in the former Dave’s Grill space on East Lake Drive.
But, through his restaurants, Albrecht maintained one dream. “I was thinking of doing this for 10 years,” he said. When a space in Water Mill became available — the space was once Mirko’s and then, later, Manna Restaurant & Bar — he jumped on the opportunity. “I have a long and friendly relationship with the landlord,” Albrecht said. “I’ve known him for over 20 years. I said, ‘This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.’” The restaurant will open its doors this Saturday.
Albrecht defines Culaccino as modern Italian cuisine with a Michelin star style of plating and service. He likens the dining style to EMP Summer House, a 2017 East Hampton newcomer.
“It’s casual chic, edible art,” he said. The restaurant offers a small bites menu, available for happy hour daily from 3 to 7 PM, and also at the bar until close. The bar is open for late-night service nightly, until 1 AM on weekdays and 2 AM on weekends.
Menu items are all gifted with Italian names. The Che Figata (What a Fig) is a small bite featuring black mission figs, roasted hazelnuts, a balsamic reduction, and purple African basil, while a pasta dish entitled Sicuro nel Nido (Safe in the Nest) is a take on carbonara: buccatini with rosemary-smoked pancetta, grana padano, course ground pepper, and an egg yolk.
As a general rule, dishes highlight what is fresh and seasonal. Take, for instance, a dish of local purple carrots, puréed and served with pancetta, foie gras, and sea scallops over an arugula and crushed red pepper pesto. Food is sourced locally, whenever possible — Albrecht uses the Halsey family’s Water Mill farm, Green Thumb, for instance, for much of its produce — and cooked simply. All seafood comes from Montauk’s Gosman’s dock.
Pricing can be considered “Hamptons affordable,” with small plates ranging from $12 to $15, antipastos ranging from $12 to $16, pastas capping out in the low $20 range, and entrées ranging from $32 to $45. Much of the fresh pasta will be made in-house. The menu, according to Albrecht, is “mostly freshly made” with “hardly anything out of a can. Everything that we can do will be done from scratch. Ninety-nine percent of the menu is fresh.”
In addition to the small plates and regular menu, Culaccino will offer two additional options: a chef’s tasting from the a la carte menu, and a private dining option. The chef’s tasting menu, which must be reserved ahead of time, is a six-course menu that comes with a choice of house red or house white wine. The menu is $70 per person and will be set.
The private dining menu, on the other hand, is a multi-course menu, similar to omakasé, which will honor the chef’s discretion. The meal can accommodate from four to 12 people and costs $200. The price includes wine and a pre-meal cocktail. Reservations for this dining option are required.
The restaurant’s all-Italian wine list features reds, whites, Proseccos, aperitifs, limoncello, and high-end Italian spirits. Reservations can be secured both by telephone and on OpenTable. The restaurant plans to remain open year-round, with the exception of a hiatus from January 10 to February 11.