Executive Chef Joe Realmuto is the reason behind Nick & Toni’s reign as one of the top restaurants in the Hamptons. Competition is fierce in this Long Island, NY summer celebrity haven but Nick & Toni’s regulars include Alec Baldwin, Paul McCartney, Sarah Jessica Parker, Steven Spielberg and Martha Stewart. The Italian-infused hot spot is built around a massive wood burning oven where Chef Realmuto works his magic. He also oversees the menus at La Fondita, Rowdy Hall and Townline BBQ and recently sat down to discuss summer cuisine, Iron Chef and his three essential ingredients.
Karen Jones: What is the secret to preparing a 4-star summer meal?
Chef Joe Realmuto: Buy local produce and fresh fish and then let the products speak for themselves. I use minimal ingredients so as not to overpower the main ingredient. I love to shuck fresh corn and toss it raw with some sweet diced Heirloom tomatoes and chopped basil, red onion, oil and red vinegar. This makes a great accompaniment for some great grilled local striped bass which I season with a little Amagansett Sea Salt Lemon Blend salt and fresh pepper. Summer is all about the grill and for a meal like this I would pick up any other nice vegetables at the farm stand and grill them off as well.
KJ. What do you enjoy about cooking in the Hamptons region?
JR: All the local produce and seafood that we have access too. At Nick & Toni’s we have a 1 acre garden which allows me to go right from garden to plate in season. We grow a whole list of items which include mixed baby head lettuce, arugula, red and green leaf, pea shoots, spring onions, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant and much more as well as herbs and berries. Last year we even planted 5 fig trees.
KJ: If you were stranded on a desert island what 3 ingredients would you want with you?
JR: Olive oil, garlic and salt. With these items as a base you can make a lot of different foods taste delicious. You have to have flavor in your food no matter what you are eating! Can I also request fire? That way I can cook.
KJ: If you were battling an Iron Chef in Kitchen Stadium what would be your preferred secret ingredient?
JR: Amagansett Sea Salt. The salt just bursts in your mouth with flavor. They have an array of different salts which we use in appetizers, poultry, beef and fish and also in our desserts. Sea salt is great to pair with chocolate and caramel and also just sprinkled on fruits.