I first met Michael Rozzi at the long-shuttered Della Femina’s Restaurant back in 1999. It was the year we had assumed the proprietor’s reigns at the Mill House Inn. Just a short walk up North Main Street, it was one of our “locals,” a warm environment where we often found ourselves enjoying a late-night dinner. I learned that Michael was a third generation East Ender, he shucked oysters, explored the local waters and farms. In short, he fell in love with the food of Long Island’s East End.
After Della Femina’s shuttered, Michael would take his knives on the road for a bit before returning to East Hampton Village, but before his departure, we enjoyed many a dinner, trusting in this Chef’s capable palate and skilled hands.
The “why” of Michael’s dedication to cooking is well described in Edible East End’s story of a dinner he cooked at The James Beard House. Coincidentally, that monumental meal was also a celebration of the 1770 House’s 15th Anniversary. Michael answers a few questions for Dan’s Papers, talks about being a third generation East Ender, and his love of our local food and wine.
He prepared a tasting menu at 1770 a few years back that I like to describe as an “artist celebrating an artist.” 27East talks about the meal and the inspiration for the good eats: it was an East End cookbook titled Dinner with Jackson Pollack of which the venerable NY Times has an opinion!
Chef Rozzi believes in building as much of his food from scratch using the best fresh and local foods, have a look at ricotta ravioli with local garlic chives and lovage pesto, summer truffle, bacon, pistachio and Grana Padano. Of course the Tavern serves their ‘very special’ 1770 Burger and house made pizza. I have heard wonderful reports on the new Korean BBQ Berkshire Ribs!
Needless to say, the soul of a restaurant lies in the heart of a chef and in 2013 Michael returned to East Hampton and the 1770 House. Perhaps that return to his home town is best celebrated by Open Table naming 1770 House one of America’s finest restaurants. Their trifecta of awards for Food, Service & Ambiance all set A benchmark for excellence.
The Building of ‘Hamptons Cuisine’ as Michael calls his food, is designed with the very best of a region he knows extremely well. Montauk Harbor is a wonderland for a cook, all local and out of the water a few hours ago. Fluke, striped bass, lobster, scallops calamari, halibut, clams, oysters all find their way into his talented hands. This Chef also makes his way around the local farms until his menu has that feeling, one where you know dinner is just about ready.
Exploring 1770 House
This short story would not be complete without mentioning Kevin Penner who was the founding Chef at the 1770 House in 2002. Kevin was the talented toque responsible for opening Della Femina’s in 1992. Penner’s mantra meshes well with this chef when he says, “I want my guests to feel comfortable and content.” And that feeling lives on at the 1770, which is in good hands under the current toque!
There are three dining environments at 1770:
- Dinner is a rather formal event on the main level dining room.
- In season, an outdoor garden is a beautiful spot.
- It’s the downstairs tavern that is very special.
The tavern has meaning beyond the fantastic food and warm atmosphere. This is a place that lives in rock & roll history. Tales of the East End in the ’60s tell a story of the Rolling Stones leaving their Montauk haunt at the Memory Motel to travel west to 143 Main Street to party in the rustic basement bar.
Wine and the Tavern at 1770
Sitting by the fireplace speaking to the sommelier and restaurant manager Michael Cohen, you can almost hear the Stones music echo in the old walls. In 2006 he came to East Hampton for the summer and never left, a very lucky event for local wine aficionados.
Michael has a deep knowledge of wine; the beginning of learning his craft was at the venerable “Striped Bass” in Philadelphia. And his acquisition of wine smarts continues with education, testing, and much hard work. Interested in the process? Check out the documentary Somm.
This Somm has a unique trait, one that I quite admire. He tells his guests the story of wines that interest them. Entertaining and sharing wine knowledge with a generosity of time, Michael contributes to the culture of the 1770 House. Michael is often found blind tasting select bottles with his friends; among them is Roman Roth, the winemaker at Wölffer Vineyards. The wine cellar at the 1770 House is primarily American and French with a list that can reach over 250 bottles. A Wine Spectator Award of Excellence has been bestowed upon 1770 House since 2007.
One of the best quotes about wine I have experienced . . . “When I’m tableside, I try to paint a picture of what the wines are and let the customers decide. I never force people into specific bottles of wine. I’ve been to restaurants where it’s blatant that the sommelier is trying to talk a patron into a more expensive bottle. That’s not ethical, and I don’t think it’s comfortable for the customer. I paint the picture, I describe the bottle, and if I have a story about it, I’ll take them there. And then I let them decide.” Michael Cohen.
The ability to sit in this wonderful 250-year-old basement tavern and enjoy Michael’s dinner menu is a bonus. The Tavern Meatloaf has a bit of an infamous reputation. Scallops, Fluke, Yellowfin, and Hogs Neck Bay Oysters are from the fishmongers of Montauk Harbor. “Himalayan Salt” Dry Aged NY Strip, Balsam Farms Beet Salad, Hudson Valley Foie Gras, and a fine selection of cheese are the building blocks of an intimate menu of favorites.
Take a look at Zagat’s for a bit more information. Please do say hello to Michael and Michael for me when you visit.
Lagniappe – a little something extra about The 1770 House in five easy links!
- This one is a treat, Kevin Penner speaking with Michael Rozzi on the LTV show Food Talk, they speak about cooking on the East End, local food, having your own garden, importing olive oil and their history cooking together.
- Another sharing of the recipe that made this group synonymous with meatloaf, this one is from Kevin’s website ‘eating my words’
- Sometimes you just don’t want to cook for the holiday, Thanksgiving at 1770 lets everyone relax and watch the football games!
- Sometimes you just have to take the show on the road, Chef, Farmer, Winemaker Dinner & the Menu at the James Beard House!
Contemporary American & Tavern ‘Hamptons Cuisine’
Historic Basement Tavern & Seasonal Outdoor Dining
Serving Dinner Only Dinner & Tavern Menus
Reservations Available 1 Month in Advance
143 Main St East Hampton NY 11937
Please Call – 631-324-1770
You can also find 1770 at Facebook & Instagram
Looking for other restaurant recommendations from the Mill House Inn?