By Heather Bryce
Before I tell you about a NYC favorite, Circo, a restaurant that has recently opened a satellite in Southampton, you should have a bit of background …
When Sirio Maccione, the beloved maître d’ of ‘60s’ high society restaurant, the Colony Club, left his position there to open his own restaurant in 1974, he invited many of the establishment’s patrons to support him in his new endeavor. He called his boite Le Cirque, French for “the circus,” as in those days an upscale restaurant had to be of the Gaulish persuasion.
Fast forward 20 years or so, when his sons opened a somewhat more casual restaurant named Circo, Italian for “circus” that brought them back to their Italian roots. In the meantime Le Cirque, which started out on Park Avenue, has moved twice to end up on east 58th Street in the Bloomberg building. There are also outposts of Le Cirque and Circo in Las Vegas, and the father recently opened his namesake eatery, Sirio Ristorante, at the Pierre Hotel on Fifth Avenue.
The eldest son, Mario, oversaw the Vegas empire for 15 years but recently moved to Southampton in order to open this Circo in a space across from the train station, which in recent years has hosted the very popular light and airy Savanna’s followed by Delmonico’s that had added a traditional dark steakhouse decor.
The Macciones have now brought in their Italian cuisine and lightened the décor with circus-y blue and yellow striped walls, frothy white X-back chairs and a layer of carpeting that makes the usual sound of a bustling restaurant easier on the ears.
The night we visited, Mario’s charming daughter, Olivia, 20, was on hand to help make the dining experience go smoothly, his brother Mauro was greeting patrons with a cheery welcome, and his wife, Maria, was holding court in the back garden. Mario visited our table to ply us with information about his nearest and dearests’ history and the rest of the friendly staff underscored the warm and inviting family-feel of the place.
We loved the fire-engine red Crema di Pomodoro Fresco, the house’s rich and velvety version of gazpacho shot through with a bracing red pepper puree and topped with ricotta and basil oil. For some reason the tuna tartar is not on the menu, but be sure to ask for it. Lightly marinated and crowned with a layer of avocado, sprinkling of chives, crème fraiche and dabs of caviar, it was a table favorite. The chunks of tuna (not finely minced) and crunch of rock salt added to its enjoyment. The light and tasty Fritto Misto with shrimp and local calamari was also laced with carrots, zucchini, leeks and potato.
The entree of pesce del giorno was a perfectly deboned Dover sole, lightly dusted with flour, sautéed and doused with a divine meuniere sauce and garnished with fresh raw veggies. The roasted rack of lamb with a light crust of pecorino cheese and its accompaniments were seasoned to perfection. The star of the meal was the garganelli pasta mixed with succulent Long Island braised duck, wild mushrooms and fava beans – an inspiring combination.
We couldn’t resist the chocolate torte, a tower of not too sweet chocolate layers or the lemon tart with a creamy meringue and thick crust that melded the notes of sweet and sour. An invigorating limoncello in a frosted shot glass was the perfect ending to a stellar evening. And the best news? Mario plans to keep Circo Southampton open year round!
For more information go to: www.circosouthampton.com
Photo Credit: Lauren Clarke-Bennett