Photo Credit: Eric StrifflerAs Executive Chef of the Honest Man Restaurant Group, Joseph Realmaluto oversees some of the buzziest Hamptons restaurants, like celebrity mecca Nick and Toni’s and perennial East End favorite, Rowdy Hall. Here he talks about what to eat in the Hamptons, where he goes when not dining at one of his restaurants, and the night Barbra Streisand came to dinner.
What brought you to the Hamptons?
I moved out here when I was 21 to get a feel for the country life. I had worked at the River Cafe for a year and a half and wanted a change for the summer. I got an offer to come back out east for the following summer and take a sous-chef position. I never left. I really fell in love with the people I was working with, there was a real sense of family and team. I was also drawn to the local bounty, which surrounds us.
For someone coming to the Hamptons for the first time, give us three locally sourced dishes they should try.
The lobster roll at Rowdy Hall: whole roasted fish at Nick & Toni’s, the veggie combo at Townline BBQ which most of the veggies like. The corn, collards, tomatoes and potatoes come from Balsam Farms.
Best dish you’ve ever eaten in the Hamptons?
I got some local scallops from the Springs Farmers Market and just sliced them raw with lemon, oil, sea salt and jalapeno. Simple and fresh!
Best Hamptons dessert?
Sorry, but I have to plug Rachel Flatley at Nick & Toni’s, who makes the most amazing ricotta budino with Oyster Ponds fresh berries.
What are the most popular dishes in the restaurants you oversee this summer?
Any dish where we use local tomatoes and corn. We have some of the best corn and tomatoes on the East End so people tend to gravitate to those items. You will see it in multiple menu offerings in the group.
What’s your favorite dish to prepare?
Panzanella in the summer is my favorite. It can be used as a garnish for fish or poultry in the restaurants as well as a salad. It just speaks summer to me. By the end of August my family is telling me how tired they are of it.
Describe a perfect summer dinner.
Sitting in my yard with good friends and family eating clams and oysters on the half shell followed by a big pot of blue claw crabs, some grilled skirt steak with salsa verde, panzanella (there it is again), grilled veggies and lots of cold rose.
Favorite farmer’s markets?
The East Hampton Farmers Market and Balsam Farmstand
Favorite purveyors for bread?
What are the restaurants you like to go that aren’t your restaurants?
Bell & Anchor in Sag Harbor for raw clams and oysters, the Clam Bar on Napeague for fried clam bellies, and the Highway Restaurant in East Hampton for the meatballs.
What were the most unusual celebrity requests you’ve received at your restaurants?
Not many I can think of. They usually like to fly under the radar. Barbra Streisand once asked to eat an hour before we opened so she could catch an early movie and ended up staying most of the night and missing it.
What’s new on the menu at your restaurants for August?
Our culinary team Bryan, Mark and Rachel are constantly changing the menu at Nick & Toni’s with seasonal items and produce from our garden, so every other week you will be surprised! At Townline my chef is specializing in some really nice sides using Balsam Farm corn and tomatoes to make salads; with watermelon and feta as well, which is really refreshing when eating BBQ on a hot day! Rowdy has a great lobster roll using fresh picked lobster warmed with butter and thyme (no mayo, no fillers) and at Fondita this time of year the tacos al pastor are a great special.
Favorite month in the Hamptons.
September is my favorite month as we get to take a breather from the summer push, and still enjoy the weather and the local bounty which is at its seasonal height.
How do you relax once the season is over?
I love to cast a line and hope to catch a fish, but if not who cares I’m fishing and usually smoking a nice cigar.