Historical artifacts Rose Nigro found in her floorboards. ALEXA GORMAN
Sitting in the corner of her father’s Westhampton Beach restaurant, a young Paula Gambino would pinch her fingers together over the edge of her slice of pizza and pull the mozzarella up into the air, her gaze following as the melted cheese rose above her chin to eye level. While carefully putting the topping into her mouth, she would watch her father float around the room, supremely in his element.
Pietro, or Peter Gambino, as he was known stateside, would move back and forth between his customers at Baby Moon on Montauk Highway just to talk to them—it was his goal to make sure everything was perfect, from the food to the ambiance.
“It was important for him to make people happy and to listen to them,” the now grown up and married Paula Marotta said while sitting in the same dining room, perched across from her sister, Jacqueline Sciortino, nodding her head in agreement. “If someone came in and said, ‘Listen, we don’t like this chair,’ he would not only listen to them but he would change it.
“People wanted a TV, so he got another two TVs,” she continued. “This is their place, this is the reason we are open now, because of our customers. We love them and want to do whatever we can try to make them happy.”
Last November, the pair, along with their sister Marina Loverde, took over full ownership of the restaurant when their uncle, John Gambino, who helped their father run the restaurant, opted to leave. This week, he opened a new restaurant, Il Giardino, in Aquebogue.
The sisters are considering it a new phase for Baby Moon, which has been a staple in Italian dining in the Hamptons since 1970. They said they are hoping to return to its roots as a family-oriented spot for locals. With that goal in mind, the restaurant recently underwent a transformation with new paint, revamped ceiling and floor tiles, new artwork throughout, and new kitchen equipment. The changes are just the beginning, with Ms. Sciortino noting they aim to add another fireplace next fall, refurbish the bathrooms and separate the bar from the dining room to encourage more of a bar crowd.
The three sisters are also putting the emphasis back on the food. They have started crafting new specialty pizzas and have lowered prices on the entire menu to make them more attractive to hungry locals. All of the pasta is authentic Italian and served al dente, while vegetables and seafood are fresh and delivered daily.
“We have good quality products,” Ms. Sciortino said. “The quality is very important to us, so that is the focus.”
Both women said this week that it is important for them to bring the restaurant back to how it was when they were growing up, the apple of their father’s eye. Even with the changes, Baby Moon mainstays will remain, like Penne alla Mimmo, a combination of Marsala wine, mushrooms, ham and peas in a cream sauce, and Pasta Baby Moon, with asparagus, peas, eggplant and tomato sauce—both recipes that Mr. Gambino, who died in 2013, brought with him from Sicily in 1970.
“We grew up here,” Ms. Marotta said. “We are trying to get the feel back like it was in the beginning.”
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