Peasant’s Frank DeCarlo is a chef’s chef, having opened his first restaurant in Nolita in 1999, which features an elaborate brick hearth he built by hand. It’s where former Obama White House chef Sam Kass held his wedding rehearsal dinner, Daniel Boulud hosted his 50th birthday party, and people like Eric Ripert and Jean-Georges Vongerichten visit often. Though DeCarlo been a restaurateur for decades, it’s been awhile since he’s opened a new place following Bacaro in 2007 on the Lower East Side. Now, he has one in progress on the North Fork, in a waterside building slated to open after Memorial Day. Here’s how DeCarlo and his wife Dulcinea Benson have decided to open what’s they’re calling Barba Bianca in Greenport.
Back when James Beard was alive and Institute of Culinary Education was Peter Kump, DeCarlo was the guy who renowned French chef Jacques Pepin would often call and ask to help him with an event. And it was surrounding one of these events at Kump where DeCarlo met Rosa Ross, a chef who’s originally from Macao, grew up in Hong Kong, and is recognized as one of Marcella Hazan’s first students. DeCarlo sat in on a Chinese cooking class she led back in 1986. He hadn’t crossed paths with her until 25 years later, on the East End, where he was catching a ferry to his house on Shelter Island, a little place he and his wife bought nearly 15 years ago.
“For many years, I’ve been looking at that big building and wondering what it was,” says DeCarlo. “One day I was in town walking around and I realized it was actually a restaurant called Scrimshaw (now closed). So I go inside and I’m looking at this woman, and I’m like ‘I know this woman from somewhere,”’ he says. He realized it was the woman whose class he sat in on way back when.
Following that meeting, he and Ross kept in touch for the next six years and when she was ready to retire, she gave DeCarlo a heads up. But it wasn’t until two years later that he’s opening his restaurant, in part because a developer stepped in and tried to buy the building and a handful of others. The deal fell through and the landlord approached him and has offered him a ten year lease with an option to renew.
Barba Bianca — named in honor of the white beards of longtime fishermen — will serve “what’s out of the water and from the farms” surrounding the North Fork, which means porgy, little- and topneck clams, razor clams, bluefish, skate, and eel for example, as well as by-catch, fish often overlooked by commercial fishermen. And while Peasant covers different regions of Italy by season, this spot will pretty much focus on simple seaside Italian fare with a mostly-Italian wine list, along with from wines from the East End.
With nearly the same number of seats as Peasant and more than his Lower East Side Bacaro, the 100-seat Barba Bianca will be open for dinner Thursday through Tuesday from 6 p.m. to midnight. Expect things like sunset apertivi on the dock offered daily from 4 to 6 p.m. a late afternoon free snack that could be fried smelts, polenta cakes with crab, and other savory bites. Check out the dinner menu below.