TRANSPLANTED: The Mayor of Bridgehampton

pierres

The Main Street bistro open every day of the year offers even more.

If you see a 1966 two-horsepower, cornflower-blue Citroën outside of Pierre’s restaurant on Main Street in Bridgehampton, you know the owner, Pierre Weber, is in the house. Weber is usually at his French bistro, unless, of course, he is in his native France. Weber is headed to France for two weeks, days after we speak in late October, with his head chef in tow; first a visit with his mother in Alsace and then a week in Paris, including culinary classes at Le Nôtre. “It’s like Picasso is explaining what to do,” he says of the prestigious chef’s school. Weber prefers to work the front of the house these days as opposed to cooking in the kitchen, but the Friday afternoon I visit, he has his hand in all the pots, working the front desk, greeting guests with a bright bonjour, taking reservations on the phone and busing tables.

Pierre’s is open 365 days a year and the restaurant is nothing if not consistent, and its aproned staff consistently welcoming, which can be refreshing in a resort town where most establishments take the summer money and run. This past summer, Weber further expanded his welcome mat on Main Street—annexing a bit more awning space with his blue and white signage—when he opened a new takeout section next door. Gleaming counters, glass cases, juicers, presses and other appliances proffer all manner of delectables: pastries, croissants, danishes, cookies, grab-and-go sandwiches, prepared foods such as chicken, pasta and vegetable salads, gelato, sorbet, smoothies and specialty items from France. My addiction here is the puff pastry with crème fraîche and smoked salmon. For $6.50, I have it cut in fours for lunch with a little bottle of spicy ginger beer. “Everything you would need for a picnic basket,” or a mid-winter hiking snack, he says, standing in front of a black and white photograph of his grandfather in his bakery. Weber is a fifth-generation baker dating back to 1820. His parents had a bakery in Paris for 30 years.

Weber opened Pierre’s in 2002 after a long stint in New York City as a wholesale baker. (His excellent bread and baked goods continue that tradition.) He originally came to New York in 1983 to run the marathon. He never left. He may not run marathons anymore (sports fans do flock to Pierre’s to catch the New York City Marathon and tennis matches on the big screen in the back room), but Weber does dart around the restaurant making sure everything is just so. When a regular customer complains that the new waiter forgot to bring cheese to the table, he quickly corrects the situation and the woman is obviously appeased that he comes to the rescue in front of her guests. He leaves her laughing.

“I love my customers,” says Weber, his gray hair long but neat.

He wears a crisp blue-and-white striped button-down shirt under a gray cashmere sweater, jeans and leather loafers. “I’m here quite often. I’ve become friends with many of them. It makes my day agreeable. I don’t realize I’ve spent 15 hours.” He pauses and says, “Let me put music up,” picking plates up off another table on the way.

Over the years, he has renovated the entire space including the bar and lighting. A library was added complete with cozy fireplace and red booths. Last year the market, next door, opened and a new wine cellar was built. Five years ago, Weber decided to stay open seven days a week, a nod to his longtime employees and customers. (“If I have to be here seven days that’s my problem,” he says.) Offseason, Pierre’s caters to the local shopkeepers and real estate agents in the hamlet. A jazz trio entertains on certain weeknights. “The important thing is the locals,” he says, “they share your pain. I try to be part of the community not just interested in bottom line.”

Diners might unwind at the bar before or after dinner or they may eat at the handsome wooden bar, lined with bottles of Moët and Chandon Champagne. Customers driving out from the city on Friday nights pick up food to take home and visit on the weekends for breakfast, lunch, brunch or dinner.

“In the summer,” he says, “the ambience is St. Tropez with good manners. No dancing on bars. My crowd is more 30- to 50-year-old, well-educated, well-traveled.” The second-home owners who frequent the restaurant “eat out five nights a week in the city, which has great culinary experience,” he tells me, but when they come to Pierre’s they crave the warm atmosphere and comfort of simple food like onion soup, escargot, tarte flambée, Peconic oysters or grilled sardines.

“Who wants grilled sardines?” he jokes. “I learned the hard way. My customers, they did teach me, and I did it. I may think this is a winner and a month later it doesn’t go anywhere. People would burn the restaurant down if I take certain things off the menu. Tuna tartare is a refreshing ladies dish with no fat. When it’s taken off the menu people complain. When it is put back on, they ‘ooohh and aaahhh.'”

While fricassee de homard du Maine (lobster fricassee) flambée au Cognac and served with pommes frites for $40 may be the best seller, it’s the $4 fresh-seared tuna panini to-go and other takeout options priced in the single digits that are gaining a following, including Weber himself, who says he stocks only Champagne in his refrigerator. “I come to the market here first thing in the morning and have my coffee.”

And, as befits a tireless, year-round restaurateur, Weber maintains an active email list, to which he recently sent this missive about his Paris trip with chef in tow:

“Eight hours a day, we went back to the fundamentals of cooking.

Eight hours a day we rediscovered techniques we thought we mastered already.

Eight hours a day we learned new ones.

Eight hours a day we were thinking out of the box. Eight hours a day we were banging our heads against the wall. How come I did not think about that earlier!!!

Eight hours a day we were out of Bridgehampton…. What a humbling, strong and so refreshing experience it was! Now, the hard work starts at home.”

Kelly Ann Smith lives and writes in Springs.

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