Eileen Zagar, 72, Ran Mirko’s With Husband

July 23, 1946 - January 10, 2019

Eileen Zagar, who with her husband owned and operated Mirko’s restaurant in Water Mill for just shy of 30 years, died last Thursday at the Kanas Center for Hospice Care on Quiogue. 

Mirko Zagar, her husband, was the chef of the small restaurant that bore his name, but it was Eileen who set the stage and charmed the loyal crowd of regulars, which included a cadre of billionaires, assorted local celebrities, and Bill and Hilary Clinton. They came for Croatian stuffed cabbage and rigatoni Bolognese — and to be coddled and amused by their hostess, Mrs. Zagar, who ran the front of the house and was the maitresse d’ for the intimate, 12-table dining room. 

The establishment, tucked in the back of the Water Mill Square, was hard to find for first-timers, which lent an extra dollop of cache to its insider appeal.

According to her daughter, Robin Scott, Mrs. Zagar had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage — caused by a brain arteriovenous malformation — a few days before she died. She was 72. 

Her family said she cherished the restaurant business and the special relationship she forged with her clientele. She was well known, they said, as an astute businesswoman with a bubbly personality and an artist’s attention to detail. 

Mrs. Zagar was a warm and gracious hostess, said Laura Donnelly, The Star’s restaurant reviewer. The couple retired in 2013.Mrs. Zagar and her twin brother, Edward Carpenter, were born in Greenwich Village to Edward Carpenter and the former Martha Holt on July 23, 1946. She spent her early childhood in Greenwich Village, moving to Brooklyn with her mother after her parents divorced. She graduated from Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn, and worked as a bookkeeper and dental assistant before going into the restaurant industry.

She married Mirko Zagar in October of 1972, and they settled in Brooklyn before moving to Baldwin. They owned and operated the Weathervane Inn in Manhattan, serving lunch and dinner to a business crowd, until high rents pushed them out in 1983. 

The following year, an ad in a newspaper prompted them to head east to look at a space in Water Mill. They opened Mirko’s in May of 1984, and moved to Southampton full time that fall, renting a small house on Henry Street in the village. They bought a condominium on Leland Lane in 1991. They were wrapped up in the successful restaurant for nearly three decades, only closing from January through March. 

When they retired in 2013, they took time to travel. Mrs. Zagar especially loved Paris, where she had been seven times, and Anguilla, where the couple spent colder months. They moved back to Manhattan after closing Mirko’s, but still kept a place in Southampton. 

Ms. Scott said her mother also had a gift for decorating and finding the best bargain.

Her husband of 46 years and her daughter survive her, as does her twin brother, Edward Carpenter of New York City, and an older sister, Anne Polder of Bradenton, Fla. A younger brother, Robert Carpenter, died her before. 

To show their gratitude to the Kanas Center for Hospice Care, her family has asked for donations to be sent there care of East End Hospice. A memorial service will be held at a later date.