By Finn Hartnett
Greenport’s newest restaurant is offering a brand of food the town, and maybe all of Long Island, has never seen before. Alpina, which opened to the public on July 17, is a Swiss-Italian restaurant which features, among other things, pastas, schnitzels and wine.
The idea of a New York eatery that focuses on Alpine cuisine came from Christoph Mueller, the owner of the Green Hill Hospitality Group and a native of Switzerland. As Alpina’s website states, most of the restaurant’s flavors come from Ticino, a southern province of Switzerland where Italian is the main language and food is prepared in an Italian style.
Switzerland, though, is a country without one distinct ethnic group, and Alpina draws inspiration from Austria and France in addition to Italy and the Alps to complete their menu. They also source many of their ingredients direct from the North Fork.
“We’re trying to pull all of these crazy ingredients from where we can (on the North Fork), and then, when we need ingredients for our meats and cheeses, we source from Italy and Switzerland,” says executive chef George Musho.
Alpina’s menu is ambitious, featuring dishes like quail and clam orecchiette, but the chefs know that they have to be mindful and consider the difficulty of sourcing and preparing these dishes. A lot of ingredients have to be made in-house, including gelato, pasta and butter.
With so many cultures making up Alpina’s menu, one could imagine that the restaurant might sometimes face a conflict between the different styles of cooking. French flavors overpowering German ones to create an unwanted fusion meal, perhaps. But Musho says the different kinds of cooking more often than not just mean choosing between a few key ingredients. He cited veal schnitzel as an example of this.
“In Italy, you have veal milanese, and in Switzerland, you have schnitzel, and then in Austria, you also have schnitzel. The cooking processes are all very similar … but because of the regionality, you use different ingredients.” (Alpina, for the record, goes for a simple kind of schnitzel, using a butterflied, bone-in veal cut that they serve with lemon and pine salt.)
Another draw for Alpina is its wine bar, which is prominently featured on their website and social media accounts. For good reason, too: As the director of Green Hill Hospitality Group, Brendan Spiro says in an email, Alpina has collected “Italian Alpine region wines, most of which have never before been seen on a local wine bar menu.” The restaurant boasts the largest Swiss selection of wines not just on Long Island, but in the entire United States.
Right now, Alpina is twisting its theme to be a bit more summery.
“Especially during the summer, channeling the Alps is very difficult,” Musho says. “I can’t really do a braised beef with polenta when it’s 90 degrees out.”
For this reason, Alpina’s menu currently offers mostly light dishes, like mâche salad and chicken liver pâté. In the fall and winter, however, the restaurant will add heartier meals to their menu— stews, polentas, more egg-yolk pastas. This is just part of the reason why the future looks bright for Alpina.
Speaking about the opening week of the restaurant, Musho says that it had been exciting getting the word out and serving their first customers. “It’s really amazing to see everything come together,” he says. “It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve learned a lot. It’s been challenging, but it’s been great.”
Learn more at alpinany.com.
This story first appeared on DansPapers.com.
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