East End Eats: Dopo Makes the Heart Sing

Is it worth it? You bet!
Jan and Jerry McKeon, Richard and Caron Schoen, and Louise and John Sasso, from left, enjoyed a recent dinner at Dopo la Spiaggia in East Hampton. Durell Godfrey

Dopo La Spiaggia
31 Race Lane
East Hampton
Dinner nightly 

I have been a fan of Tutto Il Giorno, now Dopo La Spiaggia (“after the beach”), in Sag Harbor for years. I don’t patronize it frequently because it is a wee bit expensive, but it is cozy and charming, with a view of Bay Street and the marina. Now Dopo La Spiaggia has opened at the old Laundry (later the Lodge and Race Lane) space in East Hampton. 

This place is also near and dear to my heart because I was the pastry chef at the Laundry for many years, many years ago. The Norman Jaffe-designed interior is dramatic, with soaring ceiling, huge beams, and a welcoming fireplace. During the years I worked there, there was a Bill King sculpture of the owner, Leif Hope, inside, and the original washer from an actual laundry once on site was used as a planter on the patio. 

The bones of the design are still there, but a lot has changed. The walls are a gray-painted grasscloth, there are dramatic, modern, hanging light fixtures, and the low wall dividing the bar from the dining area has twinkly-lighted pussy willow branches for added sparkle. Upon entering there is the long bar to the right, seating by the bar, and long banquettes and tables to the left. Behind the fireplace one can find somewhat quieter, more private tables.

On a recent visit the place was packed, a wonderful sight in the dead of winter. Is it worth it? You bet!

After being seated we got a basket of good, plain, crusty bread with a dish of deliciously fruity, green olive oil. For starters we ordered the tuna tartare, scallop crudo, and a brussels sprouts Caesar salad. All of them were absolutely marvelous and beautifully presented. 

The tuna tartare was a cyclindrical mound of cubed tuna, tartly dressed, on top of paper-thin slices of cucumber. A swirl of parsley puree, some avocado on top, cress sprouts, and a sprinkling of black salt, possibly Hawaiian lava salt (!) on the plate, completed the dish. The scallop crudo was a dainty offering, perhaps no more than one or two sea scallops, but it packed a flavorful punch. The slices were adorned with generous dabs of caviar, lemon zest, chives, and a few sprigs of sea beans. The salinity of the briny sea beans and caviar helped emphasize the sweetness of the scallops, with the lemon and a few drops of olive oil giving it all a lovely balance of flavors. 

The brussels sprouts salad was awesome. The sprouts were finely shredded and dressed with an aggressively lemony and anchovy-infused dressing. That’s a compliment, by the way. There are far too many wimpy, creamy, cheesy Caesars out in the world. The addition of toasted pine nuts throughout the salad added a buttery crunch.

For entrees we tried the black bass, ravioli, and a pasta special. F.Y.I., most of the pastas are made in house and they are divine. The black bass was perfectly prepared, a super-crispy skin-on filet served on a bed of sauteed purple kale, chewy farro, chanterelle mushrooms, and visible (but tamed) slivers of garlic. The ravioli dish was seven delicate pillows filled with shiitake mushrooms with a wonderful ragu mounded in the middle. Umami city. 

The special pasta of the evening was (I think) cavatelli-shaped pasta with braised fennel, sausage, and cannelini beans, another winner. It was hearty and light at the same time. We couldn’t figure out what kind of sausage it was, but it was similar to cotechino, tender and fatty.

The service on the night of our visit was excellent. Our waiter, Ryan (full disclosure), worked at the Living Room in East Hampton when I was pastry chef there. I don’t think he knew about my other job writing restaurant reviews for The Star. The delivery of drinks and our food was slow but that was the bar and the kitchen, not our waiter. He was all over everything, and when we peppered him with questions he came back with answers from the chef A.S.A.P. There was also a manager on site who was exceptionally active, moving among the tables and making sure everything was hunky dory.

Prices are high at Dopo La Spiaggia but worth it. It may have been our imagination, but it seemed that the portion sizes at this Race Lane location are a bit more generous than at the Bay Street spot. The chef and co-owner, Maurizio Marfoglia, is in charge at both restaurants, but there was something about the presentation of the food at Race Lane that was particularly special and beautiful. Prices are $16 to $23 for appetizers, $23 to $28 for pastas, $31 to $40 for other main dishes, $13 for sides, and $12 to $15 for desserts.

For desserts, mostly made in house, we ordered the tiramisu, flourless chocolate cake, and “Dreamy” ice cream. The tiramisu was super-fresh and quite good, but we all agreed it did not have a real jolt from espresso or booze like it should. The flourless chocolate cake was a good version of this classic. It was made with high quality chocolate, was very moist, and was served with some swirls of white chocolate ganache. Locals in the know will recognize the name “Dreamy” ice cream — it is the perfect marriage between Sylvester’s of Sag Harbor’s Dreamy coffee turned into ice cream with chocolate-covered almonds by Joe and Liza Tremblay of Bay Burger.

People always seem to be more amused, almost delighted, when they read a brutal or snarky review in this column. That makes me kind of sad. When I can write a glowing review about a new(ish) restaurant, well, that just makes my heart sing.

Although the Norman Jaffe-designed interior remains intact, the decor has been lightened and updated with dramatic lighting and gray-painted grasscloth on the walls. Durell Godfrey