Navy Beach restaurant is celebrating five years in business this spring—no mean feat in the Hamptons, where restaurants often last only a season or two. It's become a favorite destination as a great place to kick back, relax, and watch the sun go down over Fort Pond Bay while sipping cocktails and scoffing great seafood.
The people behind the eatery are Frank and Kristina Davis, Franklin Ferguson, Leyla Marchetto and Martin Cabrera. Frank and Kristina are married, as are Franklin and Leyla. We chatted with them about reaching this landmark, about their Hamptons roots, and what they love on their menu.
Congratulations on five years in Montauk! You're all Hamptons/Montauk residents. How far do your roots go in the area?
Frank Davis: My family summered in the Southampton starting in the 1970s. Fishing in Montauk was always a preferred destination for us. In the late 90s my wife Kristina and I built a home in Wainscott for us and our twin daughters, with frequent fishing excursions to Montauk. Since the opening of Navy Beach, we move to Montauk for the summer with our children and feel very much at home.
Leyla Marchetto: I used to visit the Hamptons as a kid with my dad and spent several years after college in summer shares here, but hadn't spent much time in Montauk until the summer before we opened Navy Beach! Franklin and I immediately fell in love with it. We rented a place year-round for two years before buying a house and moving out here full time.
Martin Cabrera: For over a decade now, the Hamptons have been a place where I come out with friends and family to relax and recharge. After four years with a year-round residence in Montauk, I am very glad to call it home.
What made you decide to open Navy Beach?
Frank: Each of us had different personal and professional reasons to come together and take on this challenge. I'm a graduate of Cornell University's School of Hotel and Restaurant Administration. Kristina's creative career and her passion to design was omnipresent through our search for this project.
While we were exploring various restaurant opportunities with our now partners (mostly in Manhattan), we received an early indication that the prior operator of our Montauk site would be leaving at the end of the 2009 season. We made the 100 mile due diligence trip from NYC to Montauk and to all our surprise, we each found the opportunity to be too appealing to pass on. It was a meant to be moment.
Leyla and Franklin: We were looking for a new project together in 2009, so when Frank and Kristina brought up the possibility of doing something together in Montauk, we were open to it. We spent a weekend out east with them that summer, visited the location (then Sunset Saloon), and we all saw the potential for something incredible. From that point, we never looked back!
Martin: For the most part it was about the amazing group of partners that now I consider family, and of course the amazing location! It feels very Mediterranean to me.
Is it tough to work together sometimes?
Franklin: We are all strong minded individuals with opinions, so of course it can be tough sometimes, but we don't focus on the fact that we disagree but how we come together to find a solution.
Martin: What can you expect after 5 years?! It is like a marriage, a working relationship. You always have difficult times with people you work with but at the end of the day we manage to move forward in the most efficient way in order to accomplish the best solution possible.
Frank and Kristina: Sometimes you get lucky where a project provides enough challenges to require a broad base of expertise, and that you actually have a team that collectively has the skill set to overcome the many challenges. This is the case in point with Navy Beach, where we all depend on each other and work in a truly collaborative effort. During the startup phase you have your development tough moments as a team. We were new to each other and the pressure was on and time was not a luxury. But tough times can be good: they typically yield some improvement to the operation.
What's your guilty pleasure on the menu?
Frank and Kristina: Fried chicken every day for me, and it is rare that Kristina passes up on our charred Shishito peppers and the kale salad.
Leyla: Parm fries with everything!
Franklin: Late night specials that I cook after we've closed the kitchen to the public... delicious experimentation.
Martin: The Navy Burger and couple of beers. It is like a cigarette after a couple of drinks.
Anything exciting on the horizon you'd like the mention?
Leyla and Franklin: We're expecting our first child at the end of the month, so it is going to be an interesting season to say the least!
Frank and Kristina: Most exciting is the soon to be new addition to our Navy Beach family: Franklin and Leyla's first child appropriately due on our 2014 opening day.
Martin: I'm looking forward to a couple more years of culinary training, then to accomplish this temptation for growth. NYC, the Caribbean, who knows... Maybe we will have to spend our off-seasons working on a project in St. Barth!
What are you most proud of in your five years?
Frank and Kristina: We are proud that the core group we started with to launch this business is still together, and more excited today to continue to elevate Navy Beach's presence in the community and to continually impress our guest with a premium atmosphere and product.
Franklin: It took a while, but I'm proud that we have been accepted by the local Montauk community.
Martin: I'm very proud of our strong and efficient team. A restaurant is a million little pieces all working together and I think we have mastered it very well.
· Navy Beach [Official site]