Spruced up with a new imported chef, Station is a garden oasis in East Quogue. Agustina Gagliardi of Uruguay was brought up for the season by owner Lucia Soria, who is also the chef/owner of Jacinto and Restaurant Lucifer in Uruguay. She knew that Gagliardi’s upscale bohemian touch would be a sweet fit for her restaurant.
“We were old friends in Uruguay,” says Gagliardi at Station’s sunny bar, “and I was working for her there. I had not been to the Hamptons for about 10 years, so coming in May and starting up was a challenge. It was also very cold! I had no sweaters or jackets. I brought a crew of four with me and we hired locally for the wait and bar staff. We painted the interior and fixed up the garden then got to work on the menu. It was a little bit harder for me, as I did not know the area or the sources so well and of course we want to use everything as organic as possible.”
Gagliardi brings an eclectic touch to Station, with touches of Italian and Latin American flavors. Steaks have chimichurri, the tangy Latin garlic herb sauce; pastas are dressed with local cheese and spinach.
“I think sometimes people don’t realize just how much work goes into a dish,” she says. “For just the spinach we have to pick, wash and separate the leaves into larger ones for salad, smaller ones for sauce that need to be sautéed, seasoned, chopped and then combined with the other prepped ingredients. It’s like five to 10 steps for just one ingredient in a dish that has several. That’s why we work such long hours from 10 to midnight 6 days a week.”
This also brings up the subject of why there are so few women chefs in the Hamptons, and possibly in general.
“I love my work and bring all my energy and passion to it,” Gagliardi says. “I would have no time for children or even a marriage now. I even left my dog, Chico, behind with some friends as I can’t leave him at our rental house all day alone. For men it is easier, they have a wife to stay home. It is so much sacrifice that I think many women do not want to make this a career.”
The love and passion is clearly evident in the homey restaurant from the menu boards wrapped in rubber bands salvaged from the vegetable bunches to the Custom Cool Kilim deck chairs, Sister Parish Design pillows, Le Labo candles and an outdoor backgammon nook. The Patrick Blanc-inspired Vertical garden is a wonder—sunflowers 10 feet tall sway over huge lavender and rosemary bushes.
In addition to 35 indoor seats, Station has seating for 55 on the lush patio. Station is a lovely stop for after dinner, too, for Stumptown coffee and macerated peaches serenaded by live music. Word has gotten out to the local South American community, who come by for a taste of home. It’s a place to savor and hang.
A well-curated wine list has small family run European estates, as well as a few local producers. The imaginative cocktail menu mingles the tastes of summer with herbs from the garden, fresh juices, and house-made infusions.
In her precious time off, Gagliardi has been out to Montauk for lobster, and to the vineyards for tastings and music. She liked the new the RiverheadProject restaurant, and she has been out sailing on the bay. Her house is steps from the beach.
“I am really a country person,” she says. “I always liked being out by farms away from the city. I tried other professions when I was young—an office worker, a stylist—but I really missed the kitchen. It is very intense work when the orders come flying in at 6 o’clock and everyone is so focused on getting the plates together. I make sure to inspect everything and I love the immediate reaction from diners when they enjoy the food. Hours of preparation and it’s gone in 20 minutes, but that’s the beauty of it.”
Station is open until mid-September. 412 Montauk Highway, East Quogue, 631-996-4050.