I am haunted, sometimes, by a memory of a pasta dish, a dish that never left me. Years ago, a friend of mine came out to Sag Harbor for the summer to help a chef named Scott Conant open a restaurant called Tutto il Giorno. I had only been out to the Hamptons once or twice — and only in childhood — when I agreed to come visit, crashing in the spare bed of her manager share house. The house, the pool, the beaches — those are all dusty memories now. What endures is the pasta.
Tutto served a twirled heap of pasta, every single toothsome spaghetti strand slicked with tomato sauce. Not just tomato sauce, actually. Wunderkind Conant’s secret to success, I would later learn, had to do with the addition of butter, Marcela Hazan-style, to the sauce he so lovingly prepared. Chef Conant later went on to do other things. But I never forgot that pasta.
As it turns out, one of the other things that Conant was doing was establishing his own brand. His new restaurant, Scarpetta, opened in 2008. You could get that same mound of pasta, with its accompanying basil-tomato sauce, in the Meatpacking District in the city. And then Scarpetta came to the beach. The aptly named Scarpetta Beach opened at Gurney’s Resort & Seawater Spa, in Montauk, in 2015.
Scarpetta Beach embraces both the city’s gloss and the beach’s vibe. Décor is macramé wall hangings and soft, globed lighting, along with sea-facing windows that highlight the restaurant’s finest visual attraction: cream-colored dunes and a frothy green ocean. A sunken bar at the restaurant’s front would be an excellent place to grab a drink and impromptu dinner on a weeknight (and, let it be known: on Wednesdays, during the offseason, Scarpetta Beach hosts “locals’ night,” offering 40 percent off all drinks and 30 percent off food).
The spaghetti, of course, is as excellent as ever, a deep dive into the hedonism that is the carbohydrate life. Equally impressive, however, is the restaurant’s pillowy ravioli, filled with cabbage and potato and served with a rich sauce that tastes almost like a demi-glace. As winter approaches, Scarpetta Beach has plenty of warming food on offer. An appetizer of polenta, enriched with cheese, comes with a separate bowl of stewed mushrooms, which create a makeshift vegetarian gravy. And although the planks of yellowtail crudo may not feel particularly winter-specific, the roast chicken and spaetzle definitely is. It would be a mistake to forego it, just as it would be a mistake to forego the fork-tender octopus.
At a recent dinner, I dubiously accepted the “market fresh” strawberries for dessert, despite the fact that November is not strawberry season. No matter. Served as a parfait, with ample spoonsful of whipped cream and granita, they tasted ripe enough for me. A chocolate cake, both bitter and sweet with butterscotch, was gone before we knew it, the highest endorsement of all.
The warm glow of Scarpetta makes it difficult to leave. I would have lingered over that spaghetti, or that polenta, or that glass of Barbera d’Asti forever, the din of the dining room settling the week. Eventually, we all have to get up and go, of course, and so we left the twinkling magic of Scarpetta and Gurney’s and the beach and went back to our cars, which sputtered in the nascent cold. No doubt I’ll continue to be haunted by spaghetti — by butter, and basil, and tomatoes, and candlelight — for many years to come.