Chef Spotlight: Moby’s

Q&A with Chef Mark Ladner

This summer, Moby’s, the East Hampton restaurant from partners Nick Hatsatouris and Lincoln Pilcher, is back for its eighth season. And after two summers away from its original home at 341 Pantingo Road they have returned to their roots on the quaint stretch of Highway 27. While they may be at their old stomping grounds, they surely have adapted to the new times we’re in – beyond just offering expansive outdoor seating across their almost four acres of lush grass, complete with a fire pit, bocce court and lawn games.

First, the coastal Italian menu is now under the purview of James Beard Award-winning Chef Mark Ladner, who serves as the new Culinary Director. Second, Moby’s has expanded its to-go offerings with an extensive list of wood-fired pizza, pasta (from classics like spaghetti alle vongole to modern spins like the “Summer” Lasagna with eggplant), local seafood (whole Montauk black bass), and seasonal vegetable dishes, along with bottled cocktails (Spicy Margarita, Rum Punch, Negroni and ‘Gansett Sunset) and wine. Additionally, the team launched Moby’s Market – the answer for folks who aren’t yet comfortable dining out and want to recreate the summer experience of the East End at home with pantry items like pastas and sauces, spreads and dips, and house-infused olive oil.

The trio recently spoke with Hamptons Monthly about the return to their original space, how that informed some of the inspiration behind the menu, and the pop-up market. Also, Chef Mark plays a couple of rounds of the “Perfect Pair” based on his summertime-friendly Italian fare.

We were so excited to hear that Moby’s would be coming back this year and returning to your original home at one of the most desired locations in the Hamptons no less! With al fresco dining being more en vogue than it would be in any other summer, tell us about the new setup.

Nick Hatsatouris: This summer has obviously been a very different one for everyone, but we’re thankful to be in a central location with so much outdoor space. We’ve been open for outdoor dining and online pre-orders with curbside pickup, which includes our full menu of salads and vegetables, pizza, pasta, seafood, wine, bottled cocktails and house-made ice cream.

If you come in to dine with us, we really want it to feel like a European vacation. Casual but a little bit elevated, and perhaps just a grown-up version of Moby’s when we were last at this spot.

We’ve also launched the Moby’s Market, which offers carefully curated home goods and lifestyle items as well as pantry products, many of which are made in- house, including dips, ice cream, olives etc. We have curated boxes that also allow our customers to pick up a selection of everything they’d need for a picnic, day at the beach, or small outdoor get-together of their own. With the current situation in mind, we have evolved Moby’s this summer to be a one-stop shop; if you aren’t dining with us at the restaurant, we’ll make it as easy as possible to recreate a special summer experience at home.

Chef Mark, this is your first summer with Moby’s, serving as the Culinary Director; tell us about what inspired your menu and why it works for summer, especially in this setting.

Chef Mark Ladner: When I first started discussing my involvement in Moby’s with Nick and Linc, they expressed interest in finding similarities between the Hamptons and the summer seaside culture of Italy on the Mediterranean and Adriatic seas.

Since I had past experiences traveling to several of these regions, I felt this inspiration could work really well. Italian cuisine continues to be one of the most popular in America, but there’s so much nuance and tradition that there are endless ways to draw from that starting point.

Fresh, local produce is at the core of any good summer menu and at Moby’s it has been reimagined into a new antipasti section. What can we expect to see here?

ML: We are about to expand our Antipasti section, currently fresh, simply prepared local farm veggies, to include Italian meats and cheeses, crudo featuring local seafood, house-baked “focaccia romana” and other snacks.

At the end of the day we are offering an elevated style of eating outdoors influenced by seaside Italian culture and loosely the notion of a picnic. So
a balanced offering of sharable, really delicious items that all work well together is a perfect way to start a meal or accompany drinks at Moby’s.

The restaurant’s interior has been outfitted as a new concept from the team: Moby’s Market. You’ve partnered with brands to create a lifestyle shop that aligns with the restaurant’s laidback summer style. What was the inspiration behind this and what will we find while browsing?

Lincoln Pilcher: Moby’s Market makes use of a portion of our restaurant’s interior as a lifestyle shop featuring curated goods. We’ve got pantry items like pastas and sauces, spreads, salumi, and cheese, along with summer favorites from partners we love. These include Fefo Studio ceramics, Leif skin and body care products, Cultiver linens, beach umbrellas from Sunday Supply, MOSCOT sunglasses and others. We thought it was a fun, creative way to do something new this year.

When getting to talk with chefs we like to play what we call the “Perfect Pair.” It’s easy: we give a scenario and you tell us what you recommend we order. First, a couple comes in for a late afternoon bite and bottle of wine before their 9:00pm dinner reservation. What do they order to keep them from starving but not filling up before a full meal?

ML: A curated selection of antipasti with a crisp bottle of Tuscan rosé!

Next, it’s late in the season – a cooler night at the end of August and we’re looking for something comforting. What are we getting – everything from apps to dessert and what are we pairing to drink?

ML: If it’s one of the nights we are doing an Abruzzo-style Italian BBQ, that’s late summer perfection to me. I recently blew the cobwebs off my imported Abruzzese Arrosticini grill, a piece of equipment that is the Rolls Royce of skewered meat culture. We’ll be doing an Italian BBQ night in August with wood-skewered and quickly grilled lamb, chicken, shrimp, etc. served family-style with a garden basket of lettuces and shaved vegetables, condimenti (half a dozen sauces), and house-baked pita-like bread for enjoying alongside. Keeping with the theme, I would wash it all down with a few bottles of Pecorino or Trebbiano. And maybe add scoops of each of our ice cream flavors (whatever is offered that day; they change regularly!) for dessert.

To end, can one of you leave us with the three words you hope embodies the rest of summer?

ML: Relaxed. Summer. Vibes. The rest of 2020?

ML: Technically four words but – cautiously optimistic, safety first.

Current Hours of Operation: Wednesday – Monday, 4 pm – 10 pm