If Noah and Sunita Schwartz have a tendency to finish each other’s sentences, you’ll have to forgive them: The couple, who run Mr. Schwartz’s eponymous Greenport restaurant (he cooks, she’s the general manager), is almost always together.
This relationship quirk was particularly evident on a dreary afternoon in May, when an interviewer asked Mr. Schwartz how old he was.
“Thirty-y-y…” he said, before turning to his wife, who was seated next to him in the Front Street restaurant’s dining room.
“Five,” she said. “You’re 35.”
It’s their ability to anticipate each other’s needs that make Ms. Schwartz, 33, and her husband such a dynamic team, both inside the kitchen and out. This especially came in handy in early 2010, when Mr. Schwartz, a Malverne native who studied culinary arts in Burlington, Vt., transformed the former Frisky Oyster Bar into Noah’s, his critically acclaimed small-plates restaurant.
“We literally didn’t buy this business until December 15  and were open by January 15,” he recalled. “I was the first one in and the last one out, six days a week. It was crazy. But I thought that’s what it took. And it did, for a while.”
In those early days, Mr. Schwartz said, he routinely worked 100-hour weeks while his wife worked with him on the menu, trained staff and created the wine list. When the couple wasn’t working, they spent as much time as they could at their Mattituck home with daughter Phurlamu, now 16, and son Jonas, 7.
“We had a lot of babysitters,” Mr. Schwartz said.
“I remember closing at 4 in the morning,” Ms. Schwartz said. “I’d come back in at 9 o’clock, work all day, pick up the kids, make their dinner, have a babysitter ready and then come back.”
Life wasn’t always so hectic. Prior to opening Noah’s, Mr. Schwartz was executive chef at the Seafood Barge in Southold from 2008 until it closed in late 2009. Before that, he lived in California with Ms. Schwartz, a native of Kathmandu, Nepal.
The couple met in 2004 when they were both working at the Sonoma restaurant The Girl and the Fig, where he was a chef and she was a server.
“I had seen Sunita around town and I was living there as a young bachelor” — he grinned mischievously at her — “so I was hoping to have the opportunity to meet her sometime,” Mr. Schwartz said. “So when I saw she was working at the restaurant I looked forward to getting to know her.”
It didn’t take long before they were officially dating, Ms. Schwartz said.
“When you work together, you hang out with your coworkers because they’re pretty much your family,” she said. “You’re with them for so many hours. Next thing we knew …”
The pair married in 2006.
When they moved to Long Island two years later, Mr. Schwartz said, he and his wife envisioned opening a small restaurant in Greenport — a real “mom and pop” kind of place where he’d cook and Ms. Schwartz would “take care of everything else.”
But the location they wanted was unavailable. While Mr. Schwartz planned his next step, Dick Ehrlich, the owner of the Seafood Barge (A Lure is now housed there), got wind that the talented young chef was on the North Fork and gave him a call.
“He was in a transitional chef period, which was great,” Mr. Schwartz said of Mr. Ehrlich.
Still hungry for a restaurant of his own, Mr. Schwartz jumped at the chance to purchase the Frisky Oyster Bar from local restaurateur Dennis McDermott (now of The Riverhead Project) when the Seafood Barge closed in Nov. 2009.
His New American-style eatery, which has a rotating menu focused on fresh seafood and local ingredients, opened to critically positive reception. Four months after its launch, Noah’s received a coveted five-star review from The New York Times that lauded Mr. Schwartz as a “wizard in the kitchen.”
He hasn’t let the high praise go to his head. In fact, Mr. Schwartz and his wife enjoy traveling to Manhattan and dining at restaurants like The Breslin at West 29th Street’s Ace Hotel and SOHO’s The Dutch for new ideas.
“We’re always learning and observing and admiring our peers for the things they do well,” he said. “We like to get out. We consider it research.”
That research may have something to do with “The Wine Bar at Noah’s,” the couple’s latest project. Beginning Memorial Day weekend, diners will be able to order a selection of local wine flights curated by Ms. Schwartz.
“We’ll try to do something new every weekend,” she said.
Wine flights are a far cry from that “mom and pop” dream the couple had several years ago, but it doesn’t seem like the Schwartz’ would have it any other way.
But that doesn’t mean they could ever have imagined this is the path their futures would take when they met a decade ago, he a bespectacled 25-year-old chef and she a striking young waitress.
“No, I don’t think so,” Mr. Schwartz said.
Ms. Schwartz shook her head before replying.
“No,” she said resolutely. “Not at all.”
This story was originally published in the Summer 2014 edition of the northforker Long Island Wine Press.