Underutilized North Fork seafood like whelk, eel and mantis shrimp — what is sometimes called trash or junk fish — will be the star of the show at the new Barba Bianca restaurant in Greenport.
The approximately 80-seat restaurant, located directly over the water on Preston’s Wharf, officially opened for aperitivo and dinner on Thursday evening.
Don’t expect chicken parmesan or meatballs at this Italian eatery. Chef Frank DeCarlo, who owns the restaurant along with his wife Dulcinea Benson, is well-known for his wood-burning rustic Italian restaurant Peasant, located in the NoLiTa section of Manhattan. He hopes to bring that style of cooking — minus the wood oven — to Greenport.
“As far as Italian food goes, everybody has an idea that they can just cook Italian food — that it’s easy. But there are many layers of Italian food,” he said. “The dishes we do [at Peasant] are not only centuries old, but they are historically correct and regional. They are very off-the-beaten-path dishes.”
You won’t find the exact dishes enjoyed by early 20th century Italians at Barba Bianca, but you will find North Fork produce and seafood cooked in the same style. DeCarlo said he hopes to use almost exclusively local ingredients, which means incorporating obscure but abundant seafood. The olive oil, however, will be imported from Italy.
“My menu here is super micro-regional,” he said. “The product changes, but the idea of the dishes are the same.”
For example, a dish served with Manila clams at Peasant will be made with littleneck or razor clams at Barba Bianca, he said.
Selections at Barba Bianca include bucatini con cicale di mare, also known as mantis shrimp ($29); pesce serra con arugula (grilled bluefish) with a summer salad ($26); and skate with lemon, white wine and capers ($26).
Other non-seafood dishes include coniglio fritto (fried rabbit) with carrots ($26) and paillard de cervo (grilled venison) with summer vegetables ($29).
Drinks and items like ciccheti will be available on the dock overlooking Greenport beginning at 4 p.m. Dinner follows at 6 p.m.
“Its just so beautiful outside,” DeCarlo said. “People who have been on the beach all day might want to start the evening early.”
The wine list will feature Long Island selections and will highlight sparkling wines.
“They go so well with our light coastal menu,” said Benson, who oversees the wine list. “I know people love their red wines but I’m hoping to offer different sparkling wines by the glass each week to give people an idea of how accessible and good the wines are.”
A part-time Shelter Island resident, he said he has had his eye on the space, formerly Scrimshaw, for many years.
The name Barba Bianca is a nod to the village’s maritime history as many portraits from Greenport’s whaling heyday depict men with long white beards. It’s also a reference to DeCarlo’s own barba bianca.
“It’s owed to the fisherman who came before us, ” he said.
Barba Bianca is located at 102 Main Street, Greenport, (631) 333-2600.