Now that “the season” has passed, and Tumbleweed Tuesday is but a memory, and a time of year that finds just as many people returning to our environs as those who departed, we had a chance to catch up with the very busy Leyla Marchetto – one of the owners of Navy Beach. Leyla, a world traveler, returned to her roots in New York to open the Hamptons hotspot in 2010, along with her husband, Franklin Ferguson, and friends Kristina and Frank Davis, and Martin Cabrera.
Expressing her love of the beaches and oceans after travel in such fabled spots as Barbados, St. Bart’s and St. Tropez, Leyla brought her considerable hospitality expertise to the sandy beach in Montauk. The daughter of Silvano Marchetto (owner and chef of the well-known and popular New York City eatery, Da Silvano, which opened its doors in 1975, and specializes in authentic Tuscan cuisine), Leyla and her partners expressed a unique approach to family friendly dining with a menu of fresh seafood, local produce and internationally inspired cuisine. The beautiful sunsets are free, and if you don’t want to fight traffic to get there, take your boat which you can anchor in the protected waters of Fort Pond Bay!
Having experienced working relationships with both the Cannes and Sundance Film Festivals, attendees at the Hamptons International Film Festival (running October 6 through October 10) will find Navy Beach open this Saturday for lunch and dinner, and Sunday for lunch, but alas the restaurant will then close for the season. Navy Beach offers a relaxed picturesque locale situated on a private beach that requires no staging, and will certainly prompt unscripted dialogues relaying sheer delight at the elegant simplicity of sitting at a picnic table on the beach with your toes in the sand. The menu may change seasonally, but the view is a constant reminder of coastal dining at its best.
The concept of casual dining on the beach is a tremendous plus for residents and visitors to the Hamptons. Why this idea versus a more traditional restaurant setting?
LM: Each of us has lived and worked in Manhattan at one point in our lives, so when we decided to pursue this project in Montauk, I think we all agreed that we wanted to make it as Montauk as possible – keeping the venue and the atmosphere, and the food and service approachable, comfortable, and relaxed, thus taking advantage of our unique location on a 200-foot private bay beach in Montauk.
With such a vast coastline, why Montauk?
LM: My husband (then fiancée) Franklin and I had been looking for new opportunities in the City. We went to dinner with mutual friends Frank and Kristina Davis, and found out that they were also interested in the industry. Frank had attended Cornell University and studied hospitality and was looking to get into the industry after years of working mainly in finance. In 2009, they heard through friends in Montauk that the Sunset Saloon space on Navy Road might be coming available, so we all spent the day in Montauk that summer, and fell in love with the location.
What inspired your wanderlust that led you to travel so extensively?
LM: My parents. My father is from Italy, and my mother is from Chile, and both have traveled extensively throughout their lives and lived in several different countries. As a kid I was lucky to fly around the world with my dad on many vacations. We went on safari in Kenya, we traveled to Italy every summer and we spent some winter vacations in St. Bart’s. We spent more time in Fire Island than the Hamptons back then but we even came to Montauk a few times in the ’80s via seaplane!
Given the generosity of Navy Beach to the Navy SEAL Foundation, and having raised approximately $90,000 over the last four years, how important do you believe it is to establish an on-going and sustaining relationship in the Montauk community?
LM: Montauk is a tightly knit year-round community. Summers can be challenging for both residents and business owners – being that we are both, we certainly feel both sides! Since before we opened we knew that becoming a part of the community was going to be essential to the survival of the business. Frank and Kristina had been coming to Montauk to fish and visit friends over the years, and decided to begin renting in Montauk every summer. Franklin and I found a house on Old Montauk Highway and began renting year-round even before we signed the restaurant lease. Martin joined us soon after. Since then we got married at Camp Hero, purchased a home, and had a child who now goes to St. Therese Parrish School in town. We’ve really made this our home and I think that helps us understand the community better.
Our fundraising efforts for the NSF began a few years after we opened and just seemed like a natural next step for us to find a way to put some of our success towards helping others in a way that made sense. With the local ties to the Navy and our location on Navy Road, it seemed to make sense on many levels. Frank was introduced to the organization by a friend, and the relationship grew from there. It is a wonderful organization with great people working for it, and we really enjoy supporting them.
Do you feel the laid back atmosphere Navy Beach creates could be replicated in other areas of the East End?
LM: We have discussed this at length and it wouldn’t be easy, but it might be possible! There are some areas farther west and north that might offer similar atmospheres, but none quite like Montauk.
Navy Beach represents a collaborative effort with not only your husband, but with good friends as well – many might feel that could be a recipe for an unnerving undertaking – what sustains this collaborative to the benefit of all?
LM: The off-season! Ha! No, really. The summers are quite stressful, particularly on the more operational partners – Franklin and Martin – but on everyone. It’s a short and intense season and by August everyone is ready for it to be over. Each of us has our strengths and weaknesses and I think that after seven seasons now, we have found it easier to divide and conquer without biting each other’s heads off. It’s not easy but come October when things wind down and wedding season ends, we usually have enough down time (and cold weather) that by the time we get to March we’re all itching to do it over again!
Finally, what is the most exotic cuisine and locale you have enjoyed, and where do you hope to travel to next?
LM: This is a tough one! I would probably have to say Egypt! It’s been about two and a half decades since I went there with my father – in August no less!, since that is when he used to close Da Silvano for a month in the summer, when most Italians take their long vacations – and I can still remember the smells and sounds (and heat) from that trip to this day! Franklin and I are looking to plan a trip to Costa Rica in the coming years as well as a trip to East Asia – neither of us has been and we’re both looking forward to exploring and enjoying a vacation there for a multitude of reasons!
Navy Beach is located at 16 Navy Road in Montauk. For more information or to make a reservation visit navybeach.com, or call 631-668-6868.