Trail's End, the oldest restaurant in Montauk (opening in 1927), changed hands recently. The new owner is Michael Nasti, a longtime summer resident. Steven Paluba, chef at Atlantic Terrace, is overseeing the new menu, and Anna Cappelen of New York-based Curious Yellow Design, who also worked on Harbor, will be redesigning the restaurant. Curious to find out more, we asked Mr. Nasti about his plans.
Is this your first time running a restaurant?
Yes, this is my first; however, my partner Steve has been a chef for 30 years and has much back end experience.
What made you decide on Trail's End?
Location. I have been looking all over Montauk for years, but we kept coming back to this location. It's in the center of town, it's freestanding, and there's lots of parking.
What do you plan to change about the restaurant?
Much of the structure will be changing; because of its age and condition, there is not much to work with. But as for it being a local eatery, that will all be the same. We are loyal to the locals because both Steve and I have been out here for many years, and consider this to be a huge part of who we are.
What's your philosophy on running an eatery?
We feel that if we can give great food, a nice atmosphere, with great service, at an affordable price….it will be successful. We have watched the crowds come and go in Montauk, year after year. Still the same problems, both in season and out. In season is so crowded you can't get a table anywhere or don't want to deal with the crowds. Off season, a lot of the restaurants close up, so there's no place to eat. We feel that losing another local restaurant will not help either of the two problems.
What kind of food are you planning to serve?
We will be serving breakfast lunch and dinner, mostly American: fish, seafood, steaks, pastas. More comfort-type foods in the winter season.
What kind of vibe do you want to see happen?
We are really looking for a family crowd. We'd also like to see a more relaxed, mature type crowd that may want to sit with a bottle of wine after dinner and enjoy the night.
Are you nervous about running a year-round restaurant, serving three meals a day?
It's a little scary. We understand our money will be made during the summer, but we need to stay open for the locals: they deserve to have places for dinner, to enjoy a nice night year round. We hope that we can have enough draw in the off season by doing a range of different type services, from price fixed to different family fun events to keep us fresh and affordable. More and more people are living in Montauk year-round, and visitors are coming earlier and staying later. It's easy to open for four months and board it up for the winter, but that's not fair to Montauk. We will find the way to make it work.
You've been summering in Montauk since 1993. What initially drew you here?
Boating. We started coming to Montauk Yacht Club back then. Then we started staying four weeks a year, to six, then eight, then April to end of October. It's all my kids know; they grew up here every summer of their lives. The beach, the ocean, the food. There's something to be said for eating some fish or seafood while watching the fisherman pulling in and out of the harbor: it always tastes better! What's not to love about Montauk?
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