Hamptons restaurateur Vincent Decrescenzo is back after a two-year hiatus with Vinny ’n’ Sons, an all-venison restaurant.
Decrescenzo says his latest venture, slated to open soon in Wainscott, will be the first restaurant on the East End—and possibly the entire state—to exclusively serve wild game.
Many people balk at the idea of eating deer, Decrescenzo admits, though he says once they try it they won’t believe what they have been missing. “Venison chili, venison stew, venison tacos, brisket, sausages, cube steaks; there is so much you can do with deer meat, and it is so plentiful here [on the East End],” he says. “For a restaurant with technically only one thing on the menu, there will be so many choices.”
Everything Vinny ’n’ Sons serves will be locally sourced, according to Decrescenzo. He admits he is not much of a sportsman himself, but he is enlisting friends to stock the restaurant before its opening. “I shot my own turkey for Thanksgiving once; that’s it,” he says with a laugh.
Like seafood restaurants that cook fishermen’s catches, Decrescenzo says Vinny ’n’ Sons will butcher hunters’ deer and serve up dinner. “The deer must already be field dressed when they arrive,” he says. “We’ll do the rest.”
However, unlike seafood, he says venison must be aged for tenderness and flavor, so there will be a minimum number of days between when the deer is first dropped off and when dinner is served.
He is again collaborating with chef Jeremiah Fallow, who ran the kitchen at Decrescenzo’s old Leaftree restaurant in Bridgehampton before a fire forced it to close in 2011.
“Jeremiah will prepare great entrees with starches and vegetables that really complement the venison,” Decrescenzo says. “I have been looking forward to working with him again for some time.”
For hunters who bring their own venison, Vinny ‘n’ Sons will prepare dinner for parties between four and 12 people, and any extra venison will be packed in coolers with dry ice to take home. “Customers will also have the option of giving the extra to us, for which we will waive the butchering fee,” Decrescenzo says.
Decrescenzo also envisions his restaurant will be a boon to local sportsmen who are down on their luck, while also helping to curtail the overpopulation of deer on the East End.
“Many say the economy is well on its way to recovery, but try telling that to a man who is still out of a job, or only able to find part-time work,” Decrescenzo says. Hunters can make money off their hobby thanks to his business, he says.
Decrescenzo decries talk at Hamptons municipal boards of hiring sharpshooters to cull the local deer population or employing costly sterilization methods. “At most, a hunter in New York State can bag three deer a year,” he says. They would be happy to bag more, especially if they can get paid, he insists.
He will pay top dollar for any deer as long as it is fresh and slain in accordance with the law, he says. “All deer must be tagged—and we won’t be taking any roadkill either.”
Not that he doesn’t want to accept roadkill. “When I called the health department they hung up on me twice before someone would take me seriously.”
“I couldn’t see why not,” he says. “I thought: ‘Deer is deer, right? Why should how it died matter, as long as it wasn’t diseased and it’s a fresh kill?’”
Decrescenzo notes that deer are not force-fed hormones and antibiotics like other hoofed animals commonly served at restaurants, and says it is “organic cuisine in the truest sense.”
“I plan to revisit this with the health department in a year, and petition local lawmakers in the meantime,” he says. “The law is based on an unfounded cultural taboo and it’s time it’s changed.”
Decrescenzo does not have an opening date scheduled yet, and says many weeks of renovations are ahead, including installing a full-sized meat locker.
“Bowhunting season began October 1st in Suffolk County and it ends on New Year’s Eve, so I have no time to waste,” he says. “There is a special firearms season in January—for shotguns and muzzleloaders—but it is very brief.”
However, he says venison freezes well and he anticipates being open all year long with more than enough supplies in the kitchen.
“Jeremiah is already working on varieties of venison sliders for our summer menu,” Decrescenzo says. “They will be the next big thing in the Hamptons dining scene.” Venison alone does not make good ground meat, he says, so some beef or pork fat is mixed in. “Jer adds bacon to the meat grinder, and the result is glorious.”
He and Fallow are both committed to ensuring that nothing goes to waste at Vinny ’n’ Sons.
“We will use as much of the deer as we can,” he adds. “There are so many uses for antlers alone—I’ve seen everything from antler key chains, backscratchers and Christmas ornaments to antler chews for dogs.”
He plans to have a mini gift shop in the restaurant for such products, as well as T-shirts, hats and bumper stickers that read, “Oh, Deer,” plus venison jerky. “I think the jerky side of the business can really take off,” he says. “Expect to see it on gourmet store shelves in 2014.”
For more information, visit vinnysons.com.