At Nick & Toni’s (and Beyond), the Hospitality Gene Shines in August

Bonnie Munshin is a big part of the reason that diners say Nick & Toni's feels like home, even in harried August. Photograph by Gordon M. Grant for Newsday,

In case you missed it, a week or so back, Newsday ran a front-of-the-lifestyle section profile of one of our favorite front-of-the-house ladies, Bonnie Munshin, general manager of Nick & Toni’s in East Hampton. The piece epitomized the juggling act that happens this time of year at many East End restaurants, where the number of diners might exceed the number of tables by a factor of 2 or 3 or more.

Last summer, we went behind-the-scenes at Nick & Toni’s too for our Back of the House feature. What we saw wasn’t just the mad chops in the kitchen (the butter-doused lobster sliders and porcini-crusted scallops were just some of the delish dishes we had recently), but also the first-hand display of that rare hospitality gene that Munshin carries and that allows her to do all that she does and, in her words, “make it look easy, like ballet.” It’s that same gene that allows David Loewenberg to accommodate guests when there isn’t room for them, or calm an addled staff, or make things better when a a kitchen has run out of a popular special. That same gene allows Danny Meyer to, as reported in the recent New York Times dissection of the Union Square Hospitality Group’s awesome growth, to take Shake Shack Uptown, Downtown, into Connecticut, and beyond, as well as carry a conversation and never break eye contact even as he is choreographing a half dozen other things.

In the Newsday piece, Alec Baldwin says, with Munshin at the helm, Nick & Toni’s feels like home. Russell Simmons says the feeling is closer to old Hollywood and old Hamptons (whatever those were). The ethereal, light-tinged images from Gordon M. Grant do, in fact, encourage nostalgia–for past dinners with old friends, for berry patches that won’t yield again until next year, for one more summer (nearly) gone.