Little Italy Bridges the Mediterranean in Downtown Montauk
Aqua East Restaurant considers itself fortunate. Unassuming, Aqua does not have to boast about its top-notch food, pleasant service and ideal location in the heart of Montauk, nuzzled between main street and the Atlantic. The dining experience speaks for itself.
After a series of name changes and ownership, the home in which Aqua resides has Executive Chef Chris Kozlowski (Koz) playing a pivotal role, and he takes his responsibilities seriously. Bringing a high level of integrity and creativity, Chris Koz and Sous Chef Christina Abbate bring Montauk an unprecedented quality of cuisine to the table. Consistent in what it produces, the kitchen generates a varied and mouth-watering menu, with a large dose of authenticity and bold originality with Mediterranean Style and Italian tradition.
Thursday evening we joined Aqua, a special night in which dining is distinguished from other evenings, enhanced by a beloved form of Montauk entertainment, Karaoke. In addition to the swelling buzz of the room, dishes wafted passed us of freshly baked bread, buttery polenta, seared steaks of rare Tuna and tenderly broiled Filet Mignon. Guests dining around us and seated at the bar entertained us while we dined, while the multi-talented and multi-tasking crooner Chef Chris Koz sang a few classics that were received with applause by his charmed audience.
Sifting through an extensive wine list that deftly mixes New World, Old World and Local selections, and the well-chosen collection also offers nearly thirty wines by the glass. Aqua’s robust assortment included Chardonnay and Cab Franc from The North Fork of Long Island, Sancerre and Brut Champagne from France, Australian Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, California Pinot Noir and Zinfandel, and German Riesling. Committed to bringing first-class Italian cuisine to Montauk, Aqua’s carefully selected Pinot Grigio, Montepulciano, Chianti and Sangiovese from Italy serve the intention of pairing well with its dishes.
Unique to Aqua is The Aqua East Flight, featuring a tasting of three fine wines, as well as The Aqua East Cheese Tray, showcasing Italian Cheeses embraced by plump grapes and crisp green apples.
Appetizers run the gamut from the chilled raw bar, hearty antipasto platter, fleshy Prince Edward Island Mussels, and dense stuffed clams. A Hallmark of the raw bar is the Aqua East Crudo Tower, a refined selection of seafood specialties that can include local little necks and oysters, poached and chilled gulf shrimp and Montauk Lobster. Crisp salads of mixed greens, Caesar and Buffalo Mozzarella were competent in taste and well chiseled in presentation.
We were delighted with our Panelli con Tonno; squares of pan seared rare tuna resting gently on garbanzo puffs, layered with shavings of baby spinach, and balanced with triad of feisty dipping sauces. The stuffed artichoke, ample in size was fine-tuned with a bombardment forest mushrooms and sassy Parmesan and Romano cheeses. Polenta Fries are a mainstay on our visits to Aqua; sculpted ribbons of golden fried polenta are decadent as they are intoxicating.
Following of our first course were the firm-fleshed Lobster Ravioli, swollen with delicate Montauk lobster layered in a pool of creamy vermouth and tarragon sauce and the Tuna Alla Siciliana, two wedges of thick pan seared tuna blanketed in a peppery myriad of onions, pignole nuts, and raisins. The ceremonial Aqua Polenta Board served tableside and 24-Ounce Florentine Porterhouse Steak were tempting entrees that we keenly anticipate to sample on our next visit to Aqua.
Our meal’s finale, the seductive Belgian dark chocolate and pistachio nut flourless cake, was warmed and paired with cold espresso gelato. A chocolate masterpiece, the flourless cake eagerly complimented Aqua’s Duckwalk Blueberry Port from the Southfork of Long Island, enhancing the deep chocolate and rich espresso flavors in each bite.
After dining at Aqua, we considered ourselves fortunate to have experienced a restaurant that bridges Italian and Mediterranean cuisine, right here in Montauk.
Aqua East – 17 South Edison Street, 668-4147