East Enders who ran across Rugosa restaurant’s basil sorbet this summer, or perhaps it was asparagus with lavender jus, understood with the first bite that chef Bill Mammes has a subtly different take on food. An example on a recent evening is a tuna appetizer that is part of Rugosa’s new special on Sundays: “Bring Your Own Wine Tasting Menu.” The appetizer has sliced inch-wide squares of firm tuna seared then rolled in chervil, tarragon, parsley and chives next to tiny melting heaps of marinated tuna tartare, contrasting in turn with crisp frisée and silky beets. “Instead of offering price discounts on the food, we’re putting out a more fine-tuned product,” says Mammes. “The discount is on the wine.” There is no corkage fee.
Mannes opened Rugosa in 2009 with his wife, Yvette, who greets you at the door, to showcase his French-influenced skills. He came to the Hamptons first as chef at the Maidstone Club, then for a season at Indian Wells Tavern. A 1997 Culinary Institute of America graduate, he was tutored in French nuances under top chefs in Atlanta, Las Vegas and New Orleans, where he met Yvette, then making a name for herself in the front of the house. You’ll find him in his kitchen now all day, every day. “I guess a lot of myself goes into the dishes,” he says.
The BYOW Tasting Menu dinners—$45 for three courses, $50 for four—will run every Sunday through April. Rugosa also offers the ubiquitous Hamptons’ off-season fixed-price menus that offer scaled-back portions of summer fare. Footnote for vegetarians: Mannes’s skill at lifting vegetables to another plane—consider veggie tarts with a cloudlike crust and a touch of hazelnut oil—is woven through offerings of duck, fish, lamb and steak. Advanced reservations are required for tasting or vegetarian BYOW menus.
Rugosa Restaurant, 290 Montauk Highway, East Hampton, 631.604.1550, www.rugosarestaurant.com