One of Montauk’s premier dining destinations, Gosman’s, made its entrée into the world 75 years ago, in 1943. Founders Robert and Mary Gosman were fish packers with a vision — one that included a “fish shack” that could serve a formidable lobster roll.
At first, the business provided chowder — cooked by Mary — as well as breakfast to the local fishermen. When that business thrived, she expanded her repertoire, adding a lunch counter and, yes, lobster rolls. The eight-seat lunch counter, home to a $3 lobster roll served with fries, slaw, and crackers, was immensely popular.
In 1950, and again, in 1958 and, finally, in 1968, the property was expanded to include adjacent buildings, which are now home to Topside (a casual dining spot with a rooftop bar), as well as the Gosman’s fish market, home to some of the East Coast’s freshest fish. The market, which is practically perched atop the dock, is also purveyor to New York City’s finest restaurants.
Robert and Mary, who died, respectively, in 1983 and 1997, raised six children, five of whom retained control of the business’s varied enterprises.
The massive restaurant, which is owned by Robert “Emmett” Gosman (and which many see as the heart of the Gosman’s complex), continues to draw a crowd during its six operational months — May through October. Part of its success can be attributed to a willingness to grow with the times. Seven years ago, the Gosmans hired Chef David Piacente, a New York native who had spent every summer of his life out in Montauk.
“My grandparents bought a house in Montauk in 1961. This will be my 40th year,” he said. In the off-season, he and his family are Montauk residents, helping to shape the small year-round community.
Piacente’s experience out east is vast. “I’ve been cooking out here for over 20 years,” he said. “My early days, I was a chef at Harvest on Fort Pond. I worked at 1770 House as a sous chef. About seven years ago, [Gosman’s] were looking for a change. I pitched them on my idea on what I thought they could be doing. The food was a little dated at the time.”
Gosman’s needed a refresh, and Chef Piacente was there to bring it to the table. With a focus on simple seafood and local produce, Piacente was able to reinvigorate the restaurant, breathing new life into an historic space. “Gosman’s has always been about the seafood,” he said. “It’s very easy to serve incredible food.”
With the docks at his disposal, Piacente enjoys the benefit of the freshest seafood possible. Before trucks are loaded with the finest fish for the city (Gosman’s counts Michelin-starred Le Bernadin among its customers), Gosman’s Restaurant gets its pick of the litter. Arguably, the restaurant serves some of the freshest sea-to-table cuisine on Long Island. “It makes my job pretty easy when I’m starting with food that’s impeccable,” Piacente noted.
For however many years the restaurant continues to serve good food to the good people of Montauk, it will be among the finest available. Fresh fish can build a business, it turns out, and a lasting business, at that.