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Café Crust Is About Fresh, High Quality Ingredients

Meet the Owners: Developers and former deli owner make first foray into restaurant business.

When real estate developers Jim and Jim Eckel, father and son, decided to get into the restaurant business, they envisioned an eatery that would be upscale and would satisfy discerning customers in Southampton — while having something for everyone.

They brought in friend David Wiesneski, who has more than 25 years of experience in food service, to be manager and co-owner, and opened at their shopping center at 850 County Road 39.

Wiesneski said they aim to appeal to local families, as well as seasonal visitors and the trade parade that travels past on the highway.

“We wanted to be more upscale then a deli, but we didn’t want to get into fine dining either," he said. "We wanted it to be fast, casual and affordable.”

“I wanted to eat the best food,” the elder Eckel quipped.

The concept behind Café Crust centers on a wood-fired oven and using fresh, high quality ingredients.

The pizza crust is a simple recipe: Flour, water, yeast, and a pinch of salt.

But, rather than the typical bleached flour, Café Crust uses caputo flour, imported from Italy.

“It’s much lighter," the younger Eckel explained. "It’s a lower protein, lower gluten pizza, which means you’ll see the dough is a softer dough.”

The sauce is made in house with organic tomatoes, every day, and Café Crust makes its own mozzarella daily as well.

To train the staff on how to prepare the wood-fired pizzas, which come in 10-inch and 16-inch pies, the owners brought in a chef who's worked for Wolfgang Puck at the original Spago.

“He flown all over the world and all he does is teach people how to make Neapolitan pizza,” the elder Eckel said. He made two visits to Southampton to train Café Crust chef Luke Ferrara and his kitchen staff.

The restaurant quietly opened its doors on July 12. Since then, the owners said, they have been trying to spread the word that they do much more than pizza.

While pizza is a big part of the menu — including breakfast pizzas with ingredients such as organic eggs and nitrate-free bacon — Café Crust also offers 10 different salads and 10 kinds of panini, as well as wood-fired ribs and lemon-rosemary wings on the appetizer menu.

The calamari appetizer comes with three kinds of dipping sauces — marinara, pesto and citrus vinaigrette — all made in-house.

There is also a half-pound burger on the bill of fare, with buns baked fresh on-site every morning.

For dessert, the restaurant offers homemade gelato, a root beer float with vanilla gelato, and apple pie and Nutella turnover made in the brick oven.

Café Crust serves beer and wine, and among the non-alcoholic drink menu is Puck's soda, made with pure cane sugar.

On top of that, “We make some pretty drop dead smoothies, all with fresh ingredients,” the elder Eckel said.

A couple of the smoothie selections are Tropical Sun with coconut water, mango, pineapple and lime juice, Mango Bango with mango, pineapple, orange juice and yogurt, and Blueberry Bahia with blueberries, banana, vanilla almond milk and honey.

And for breakfast, they have both a sit-down and a grab-and-go menu, featuring oatmeal brulee, bagel and lox, french toast, parfait, pancakes and more.

Before the Eckels decided to open their own restaurant, a Starbucks, an Outback Steakhouse and, most recently, a 7-Eleven were envisioned for the space. Because of various roadblocks, none of those ideas panned out.

The building itself was completed three years ago. A Sleepy's store and home goods pop-up shop are there now, and a liquor store is soon to come to the last open storefront.

“It worked out for the best," the elder Eckel said, pleased to now be a restaurateur, though he admitted he never imagined he would become one.

He lives in Oyster Bay and has also had a home in Southampton Village for the past 34 years. He worked as the president of a company that manufactured medical devices, such as artificial heart valves and pacemakers, prior to becoming a developer. He son followed him into the business, he said, and they have worked together on many commercial and residential projects, including homes here in Southampton.

Wiesneski and the younger Eckel have been friends since they attended Carle Place High School, they said. With Wiesneski's food service experience, the Eckels took advantage of the opportunity to bring him into the fold and make Café Crust a success.

Café Crust is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Take-out and delivery are available. Call 631-259-8880.

Billy Jacobs August 17, 2012 at 12:12 PM
This place is the worst. Way over priced and the quality is ok, but the prices make it not even worth entertaining as a place to go to eat. I'm sure they think oh wow the hamptons let's price gauge, well the locals will drive em away I'm sure.
Angus Young August 17, 2012 at 03:58 PM
I could not disagree more with Billy Jacobs. My first reaction was oh no! now my new secret place will be packed - but good for them. (Incidentally, they built this, no offense to the roads and bridges). Between the organic ingredients, the low glycemic sodas, the fresh made dishes and the incredibly tasty food you should run, not walk. The white arugula pizza is to die for.
lynn August 17, 2012 at 07:19 PM
I thought this was inexpensive chain restuarant - the prices say different. Why would i risk the traffic of the location when I can get better and sometimes cheaper pizza and sandwhichs at several local locations. Disappointment.
Eddie Johnson August 17, 2012 at 08:16 PM
Glad we don't have a cheap chain outfit there. As for the "risk of the traffic location", you need to get out more lynn. Hampton Bays and Riverhead have gotten to be pretty built up, but you wouldn't know, you don't "risk the traffic location". Do you also not go to the bathroom in your home? In a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control, that agency estimates that 234,094 nonfatal bathroom injuries were treated in hospital emergency departments in the U.S in 2008. The agency warned that everyone, “especially older adults, should be aware of bathroom activities that are associated with a high risk for injury and of environmental modifications that might reduce that risk.” Ominously, of course, not all accidents in the bathroom are “nonfatal.” This would translate to your bathroom being signficantly more dangerous than County Road 39 through Southampton and Shinnecock Hills.
James Eckel August 18, 2012 at 12:34 AM
I would like to know what places you have tried in the Hamptons and found less expensive.We researched our competition and priced accordingly. We know the ingredients we use cost far more than most restaurants use.Please come in and talk .Jim Eckel
Juss Bean Honest September 16, 2012 at 09:04 PM
Love this place! Real food is worth paying only slightly more that filler/junk.
Ryan September 28, 2012 at 03:58 AM
I, my husband and 4 kids under 10 ate here today, and obviously thought so highly of it, I'm writing this! The greeter, server and even chef/owner(?) we're lovely ! The menu is unique, our food was very fresh, well made, and had large portions! The fries were crisp and the sweet potato fries fantastic-light, crunchy and well seasoned-and I'm southern, and I know sweet potatoes! Clean! Friendly! Attentive! And, most importantly, interesting, flavorful food! We all realllly enjoyed!
Brendan J. O'Reilly (Editor) September 28, 2012 at 04:33 AM
Thanks for coming here and commenting, Ryan. You can also rate and review Cafe Crust on their business listing: http://southampton.patch.com/listings/cafe-crust
JEvan February 17, 2013 at 12:55 PM
This place is clean, uses organic fresh food, and their prices are reasonable compared to other places in Southmpton.

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