the grub street diet

Il Buco’s Donna Lennard Takes Her Drinks to Go

“I got a margarita in a plastic cup, which followed me home as my nightcap.”

Donna Lennard at Mostrador at the Marram Hotel. Photo: Christian Rodriguez
Donna Lennard at Mostrador at the Marram Hotel. Photo: Christian Rodriguez

Donna Lennard’s Bond Street antique store turned restaurant Il Buco is celebrating its 25th birthday this year. That kind of longevity is rare for any restaurant, and nobody is more surprised than Lennard. “It wasn’t what we were setting out to do,” she says. “You just set out to do something that you love and it takes on a life of its own, with your somewhat leadership.” You can see why it worked out for Lennard, who clearly has a firm grasp on how to live the good life: popping by her former Il Buco chef Ignacio Mattos’s restaurant Estela for scallop crudo and chocolate cake, getting a soft serve and margarita to go in the Hamptons, and pairing Pulp Fiction with “meringue extravaganzas” for movie night with her son. Read all about it in this week’s Grub Street Diet.

Thursday, August 15
My summers are meant to be my time of rest, time to spend with my now-14-year-old son, Joaquin, and our Bengal cat, Keiko. (That’s his favorite being. She’s a Bengal, so she looks like a leopard.) Time spent partly overseas — Spain and Italy this year, shooting photos for the cookbook — and the remainder at our little paradise, a cottage on a tip of Gardiners Bay in the Springs of East Hampton. I had picked my son up from JFK the day before.

He was happily snoozing off the last three weeks on a boat in the Caribbean, so I snuck off to a yoga class at Three Jewels and then ran over to Alimentari to check in. After all, I just returned from the beach late Monday night after another ten days away. I had a cortado, my coffee of choice, and a breakfast of a gluten-free berry-walnut muffin and the other half of Joaquin’s Il Buco breakfast sandwich of scrambled egg, salami rossa, and Fontina.

Since I’d been away for a bit, the day consisted of a bit of grazing. I ate our baker Sheena Otto’s ancient-grain focaccia (she makes it with timilia that I get from Sicily) with ricotta, sautéed leeks and herbs, and some fresh corn. Lunch was a sample of the Restaurant Week apps from our chef Preston Madson, including a pole-bean salad with mixed melon and sun-dried olives. I was a bit skeptical, but he won me over.

In the evening, while my son paid a visit to his dad, I snuck out with some friends. We had a quick glass of Sancerre and I ate some of the jambon-and-cheese plate at Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels. I’d never been there before. It was just kind of random — someone wanted to meet for a drink and said, “Do you want to meet at this wine bar?”

Then it was off to visit my friend Ignacio Mattos at Estela for a snack at the bar, where I took over the barstool from a dear Il Buco regular, Michael Klawans, on his way out. Dinner was a scallop crudo with caperberry blossoms and monkfish liver covered in paper-thin slices of quickly blanched potato; sea-bream crudo with cucumber and basil; and a warm
chocolate cake smothered in frothy whipped cream.

Can I tell you something? Ignacio is my favorite chef. I just love his food, and I go whenever I can sneak away.

Friday, August 16
Another morning at Alimentari. Sat outside for a cortado and an avocado toast with a seven-minute boiled egg and Scalia anchovies. Chatted with Lauren Hutton eating the same before being waylaid by my favorite pig farmer, Mike Yezzi of Flying Pigs Farm, in for our delivery.

We did a bread testing with Gabriel Stulman, who’s just opened the Jones across Great Jones Street, and tried Sheena’s new seaweed bread and slathered some homemade plum jam  (left for me by a friend of the house) and butter on her buckwheat rye.

Then it was time to head over to Il Buco, on Bond, to see my chef, Roger Martinez, before heading out east. Lunch was outside at Il Buco, going over email blasts with my assistant, Natalie Martinez, and marketing director, Lee Anne Grove. Lunch was fried zucchini blossoms filled with ricotta, anchovy, and basil; pappa al pomodoro; and house-marinated boquerones with chopped fresh tomatoes, herbs, and toasted bread crumbs.

My son grabbed a Shake Shack burger, we loaded the car and were headed out east by 7:30 p.m. At 9:40 p.m., we pulled over at La Fondita to check out their new outpost in the diner next door, Coche Comedor. But my thoughts of a nice dinner in the restaurant were dashed as Joaquin was barely awake and too tired to sit at a table. When he saw that there were chicharrones and duck on the menu, he was like, “Okay, we’re going back there.” So we pushed that off to another night.

Keiko joined me on her leash at the bar of Comedor, where she had her picture taken in front of the mural, and I got a margarita in a plastic cup, which followed me home as my nightcap. Grabbed a taco and some esquites — fresh corn off the cob with red peppers, onions, cilantro, queso fresco, and chili powder — for Joaquin. We sat at a picnic table for a quick snack.

Saturday, August 17
Started my day with yoga in Sag Harbor, so a handful of blueberries and walnuts sufficed. Post-yoga, went to Jack’s Stir Brew with a girlfriend for a cortado and mighty muffin.

Weeded through the Saturday-morning crowds at Springs General Store to pick up a bacon, egg, and cheese for Joaquin. My son loves the bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich there, so it doesn’t matter what fabulous eggs and Sheena’s homemade bread or whatever I bring home. “Can I get an egg sandwich, could you bring me home an egg sandwich on your way back from yoga?” I give in half of the time.

Then it was a quick stop across the street at the Springs farmers’ market at Ashawagh Hall for some Balsam Farms produce: carrots, greens, radishes, tomatoes, basil, some mozzarella, blueberries, and farm eggs. There’s a woman who brings the essential oils and salts, I think there was ghee popcorn with truffles, and there’s usually a really nice fisherman who has all different kinds of fish. So it’s kind of a one-stop shop for your meal if you get there in time.

Whisked away to Montauk for a late lunch at Mostrador at the Marram Hotel with my friend Heidi Ledner, a photographer and the director of Campo, an artist colony in Garzón, Uruguay. The restaurant is run by two chefs from South America, Fernando Trocca and Martín Pittaluga, and it’s a lovely little open-air café connected to the newly designed hotel just steps from the ocean, with wonderful daily homemade salads and entrées and a breathtaking pastry and coffee selection.

We had the roasted sweet potatoes, chickpeas in pesto with zucchini, baked polenta with cherry tomatoes, roasted fairy-tale eggplant, and a grilled Atlantic king salmon. All delicious, and the setting divine. Finished the lunch off with a green tea and a chocolate-carmel tart. Oh my God, that was crazy.

As a bonus, we ran into David Tanis and Missy Robbins’s partner and all shared the afternoon. It’s nice the way all the dots connect. It’s like six degrees of separation. There’s a whole community of people that are connected through Uruguay and the town of José Ignacio. There’s Francis Mallman, who is a really good friend of mine, and the owners of Mostrador, Fernando and Martín, of course. Martín is one of the owners of another restaurant called Huella, which is one of the most famous little trendy spots in José Ignacio on the beach, and together they opened this place called Santa Teresita, which is the larger version of what Mostrador in Montauk is. It’s just a lovely, very well-curated, and delicious little restaurant, very relaxed. They’ve got the kitchen on the side and these beautiful counters with all the food displayed and you just pick your salads and your protein. And it’s bring your own bottle right now because they’re dealing with licensing in Montauk and all of that.

I was stuffed to the gills from the late lunch and returned home to my son and emptied my farmers’-market haul into an open-faced frittata: tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, leftover Fondita esquites, and some slices of prosciutto with Sheena’s toasted focaccia fino and some sliced farm carrots and Kirby cukes with sea salt. A nice easy Balsam spicy-greens mix with heirloom tomatoes, biancolilla olive oil, and white balsamic did the job for me; I had that with a glass of Chinon rosé.

Then we were off to a home movie night with Pulp Fiction and Mostrador’s meringue extravaganzas and graham crackers with frozen raspberries and mascarpone! I was trying to get my son to go and see Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which he did not want to for some reason, and I couldn’t figure out why. I couldn’t get a good answer. So I said, “How about Pulp Fiction?” thinking he was going to shoot me down. But he was like, “Yeah, I’ll watch that.” Now maybe he’ll see Once Upon a Time in Hollywood with me.

Sunday, August 18
Breakfast was at S&S Corner Shop, a lovely café-boutique home store in Springs. I met Heidi and another friend, Theresa, for an impromptu cortado and blueberry-almond muffin, picked up some fun towels and a delicious bag of fresh-ground coffee.

Went back home to make smoothies and farm eggs with Sheena’s challah, then off to visit friends in Southampton, which I’ll call casa Vigna and Califano. They are 25-year Il Buco customers and dear friends. Three of their four lovely daughters were there, too. We had “pasta all’Andrea,” the summer special, which is paccheri with raw garden vegetables, basil, and mozzarella served at room temperature. Also, bresaola and mortadella with grissini, a farm salad with avocado and herbs, and a bottle of Sancerre rosé. Ten-year-old Aurora’s famous vanilla cake rounded off the meal, along with some of Anka’s chocolate oat crisp cookies, and then it was off to the beach!

En route home after a late afternoon on the beach, Joaquin and I stopped at Bostwicks for his favorite cheeseburger and fries. A lobster roll and Wölffer rosé for me. It’s your old local hangout, and it’s kind of packed on the weekends with lots of families. So we usually don’t sit at a table because there’s all these families and it’s a little bit of mayhem. But the bar is really kind of local and cool. There are two, one with the TV and the drinks and one in front of the kitchen. And nine times out of ten my son and I get to sit at the bar by the kitchen, always next to some old local man or woman. We usually get into interesting chats with them, and the waitresses are kind of old-school, Long Island cool. It’s just very easy, relaxed. Kind of like your no-nonsense Hampton meal without all the pomp and circumstance.

And they’ve got the soft serve on your way out. We got two soft-serve twirls to take on the road back home in time for the sunset.

Monday, August 19
Sunrise with Keiko at 6 a.m. Made challah French toast with raspberries and mascarpone for Joaquin, then I was off to meet Heidi for a coffee at Carissa the Bakery’s new location on Pantigo Road. I had coconut yogurt with berries and honey with housemade granola and the usual cortado. Ran into dear friend and past Il Buco D.O. Steve Eckler and shared a big laugh and a catch-up.

Post-beach-day lunch at Duryea’s Lobster Dock with a couple of old friends while Joaquin joined his buddies at the Atlantic Beach snack shack. Oysters, lobster rolls, crudités, and rosé hit the spot.

Later, back to Amagansett at the end of the day to finally sample Coche Comedor. I ordered the smoky mezcal margarita (that was really delicious); sea-bass crudo with hibiscus, grapefruit, and spicy pepper sauce; and fluke al pastor with grilled pineapple, shredded cabbage, and spicy pepper sauce. Joaquin went for a grapefruit jarritos and the chicharones and half a roasted duck in apricot sauce. We shared some housemade guacamole and chips and topped the meal off with tres leches cake!

Usually my son doesn’t like to go out, and I’m a single mom. So when he comes home from school, we usually stay close to home. We have the beauty of being able to order “room service” from Il Buco, so I don’t cook a lot when I’m in New York. But when I come out to the beach, I’m always cooking at my house — except these five days. But I was preparing for a dinner for ten people — grilled wild striped bass, corn on the cob, blistered little sweet yellow, orange and red peppers, a big Balsam spicy-greens mixed salad with all their gorgeous tomatoes. Probably a little fennel. And grilled littleneck clams with some salsa verde. Let them pop open on my grill. And a little of Sheena’s bread with some butter and anchovies.

You know, I was talking about people being connected, and the other day I ran into someone, a builder and designer out here, who had just come back from Uruguay. We were talking about it, and he asked me if I knew Heidi, which is how I found out she was around. He invited me to a dinner the other day, and we surprised her. There’s a community that extends and wraps back upon itself, and they’re all really wonderful people. That’s a difficult thing. You can’t look for that; you search for that, you don’t find it. Just those things that happen and then you think about how lucky you are to be in that, to be part of that. That’s really nice.

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