This was to be my first Hamptons restaurant dining experience since early March 2020! My friend Matt Culen and I had just completed a wonderful sunset sail in Gardiners Bay and we were famished. After being turned away at two venues because they were closed I was worried. It seems the coronavirus had changed the hours restaurants will be open until. I was surprised that at 9:28 p.m. on a Friday night we might not find a place for a late dinner. Finally CittaNuova in East Hampton Village was still open. We entered wearing our masks. The smartly masked hostess said, “Your table is ready!” She then led us to a make shift table in front of the restaurant, between the sidewalk and Newtown Road right in the very heart of East Hampton Village. She handed us two menus then disappeared back inside CittaNuova. There were three other tables in front of the restaurant along the street, obviously safe spaced, but still close enough to the restaurant that you knew they were set up for dining and not a night bridge game.
When the appetizer, fried calamari, was put on the table it felt great to be sampling fine restaurant food while it was still hot from the oven. This is a privilege I had taken for granted pre-COVID-19. The anticipation of my first restaurant meal thankfully lived up to my expectations. It ended with a very wonderful hot latte in a porcelain cup!
Welcome to Phase 2 of the coronavirus recovery in the Hamptons. Masks on, safe spacing and a mentality well in place in everyone’s mind to be safe. Add to that the experiencing of the new rules of outdoor dining. I wondered since it’s outdoors, right off the street, could one smoke while they eat or sip the post meal coffee like folks do in Europe? Seventeen years ago when I was a smoker, I used to go out of CittaNuova to have a cigarette in the very spot I was now dining!
When I had the luxury of going to the washroom/restroom again because for a while such places were locked up I was thrilled. Once inside, I was able to pay homage to J.J. Jensen who now is well beyond his 30th year behind the bar at this location. This is his 17th since it was rebranded CittaNuova by Ben Krupinski. Before that it was a sports bar. That first year as CittaNuova, Ben and Bonnie Krupinski were in attendance almost every night to greet everyone from their table right across from the hostess. In fact, that very first year I lived 1,000 yards from CittaNuova on Barns Lane and celebrated New Year’s Eve/Day there with Ben and Bonnie and J.J. behind the bar. Dick Clark was on all three of the large TV screens behind the new modern bar. I remember that night to this day because walking that short distance home I was wondering if I’d get a walking-under-the-influence citation after indulging in all the champagne provided!
Dining out in the Hamptons with family and friends is a huge part of the Hamptons experience. I am so glad it’s coming back, even if it’s safely only outdoors for now. I am able to greet my old friends who are the proprietors, service folks, and bartenders with whom I spent many a World Series and football playoff games with. Many times sitting on their bar stools eating and watching the games while sipping libations. Dining out in restaurants was something I missed during the worst of COVID-19. It was sad that I wasn’t able to celebrate my wife’s birthday and our wedding anniversary with a nice special night out. Now I can!