Isola Restaurant Opens on Shelter Island

(This article first appeared in the August 30, 2017 issue of The Independent Newspaper)


As my great-grandmother used to say (in her thick Italian accent),

“Mangiare per vivere e non vivere per mangiare.” Translation: eat to live, don’t live to eat. Make every bite count.

Customers are making the most of their every forkful at Shelter Island’s latest culinary sensation. Walk through the Historic Heights District and you’re bound to see a new neighbor in town, Isola. Taking up residence where Sweet Tomato’s once stood, at 15 Grand Avenue, this freshly designed Italian restaurant provides locals and visitors with seasonally, locally-sourced ingredients inspired by the island flavors of Italia (after all, Isola means “island” in Italian).

Upon entering this 170-seat restaurant, I was greeted immediately with a tremendously warm smile by the owner, Brad Kitkowski.

“I have a sincere love for Shelter Island, so the chance to become a part of the island for the long term really appealed to me,” Kitowski expressed. “Shelter Island is a special place, the Heights have an amazing history, and I am passionate about great food and wine. It’s a complete dream come true.”

Once I was seated, rosemary bread with green olives in olive oil arrived. An Isola Spritz — elderflower, grapefruit, and Prosecco – was the ideal drink for my summer evening, or any evening in fact.

Though Isola debuted over July Fourth weekend, it’s still being unraveled dish by dish. Executive chef Seth Nathan brings along with him 17 years of cooking experience, which was first introduced with a fritto misto — fried calamari, shrimp, saffron aioli, scallop, and preserved lemon. The scallop stood out with its plump, ever so subtle taste. More, please.

Next, my server Jordan brought out Kobe meatballs — a signature beef blend with tomato, ricotta salate, and focaccia. Basil topped the meatballs in all of their savory flavor. The entire dish is reminiscent of Naples. With a youthful, informative personality that enhanced the atmosphere, Jordan detailed the reasons why Kobe beef is a superior meat chosen by the restaurant.

Sitting down to discuss life and food, Kitowski was enthusiastic. “I truly love the Bolognese pappardelle with a nice cold glass of rosé after dinner service has ended. Just the perfect cap to my night.”

My pasta dishes spanned the Italian countryside, from sea to farm. The linguine vongole dish featured garlic, white wine, and preserved lemons topped with tasty Peconic clams. Next came bucatini with amatriciana sauce, guanciale, San Marzano tomatoes, and pecorino.

Guanciale is a savory Italian cured meat made of pork jowls and paired with the thickness of the bucatini became my favorite meal of the night. This plate is enough motivation to get anyone through that door!

The restaurant also has personal-sized pizzas, for eating solo or even sharing, if you’re into that sort of thing. A standout is a Tonno pizza — tuna, wild arugula, red onion, preserved lemon, and San Marzano tomatoes. Mangia!

An interesting and unique choice is the touch of preserved lemon that accompanies most dishes. While other restaurants may blend into the background in a supersaturated market of Italian cuisine (then again, can you ever have too much Italian food?), Isola is bound to stand out due to its zesty twist on classic dishes.

Having spent some time living in northern Spain and southern France, it’s evident that Chef Nathan is a master of his kitchen.

The culinary creativity of Nathan and Kitowski is making its mark on Shelter Island. “The community has been great. I think there was a great deal of interest to see what type of restaurant would open in this historic building in a very central part of the island, so we have had so many guests coming to check out the menu, renovations, and decor,” said Kitowski.

“We love hearing their stories of their past experiences and relationships with the space. We want everyone, tourists and locals, to feel welcome and relaxed whenever they are with us.”

To end a night of delicacies, I enjoyed the homemade panna cotta made with lavender, orange, and Amarena cherry, and homemade tiramisu featuring marscarpone, espresso, and cacao. As a mild tiramisu snob, I was pleased – finishing every bite and almost ordereding a second. However, the table next to me indulged in a Nutella pizza — let me repeat, Nutella pizza — that is sure to be on my order next time.

Whether you choose to dine in the bar, the dining room, or al fresco on the covered porches, Isola is open seven days a week with new specials each day. For your Sunday night dinner, partake in its popular $19 Chicken Parm special with bucatini and salad.

“We are loving the summer, but also looking forward to the fall including football Sundays in the bar with Chef Nathan’s wings and some local beers on tap. The island is spectacular in the fall,” Kitowski concluded.

28 Days of Food & Drinks

Get ready for 28 new flavors to add to your foodie bucket list!

The number 28 was originally inspired by a blog documenting my Golden Birthday Adventure. This number transitioned into an entire series on how to live life to the fullest. After Springing to Action comes a more concise post about my true passion- FOOD! They say don’t go shopping when you’re hungry, so I’ll advise the same warning: Do not read the below on an empty stomach.


Strollo’s Lighthouse is a soft serve Italian ice spot with several locations in New Jersey. As with any experience, I went to ‘the original’ in Long Branch. All the flavors were tempting but I went for the Strawberry, Pistachio & Peanut Butter combo!

Myself & friend at Strollo's
Myself & Friend at Strollo’s


American Whiskey is a whiskey aficionado’s dream! A New York Sour or Old Fashioned done right, there’s no messing around here- you’ll be tempted to drink yourself back to college days. To [slightly] sober up eat their classic burger or butcher steak. Simple in design, memorable in flavor.

Vauxhall, in Huntington, had the largest warm pretzel I had ever seen. With Ale Mustard Cheddar Dip and Espelette House Mustard (just enough spice!) the entire thing was gone in minutes. I paired that with their original Vauxhall Stout (GUINNESS, VANILLA VODKA, SAIL AWAY COLD BREW), a sure fire way to ensure a returning customer!

Verde Kitchen in Bayshore’s town is great for some quality T&T- taco’s and tequila! Pulpo taco and Pomegranate Margarita were the top favorites (so many options, so short a lunch break).

The Lake House, also in Bay Shore but on the water, provided a Roasted Berkshire Pork Chop worth salivating over. Green Apple, Yam, Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onion Gratin, Maple-Bacon Vinaigrette, Cranberry Mostarda- it’s fall freshness in your mouth (though, technically I had it in summer).

Bay Kitchen, in East Hampton, though closed until May 2018, had a $1 oyster happy hour. Right on the water, the shells were ripe for the picking.

Serafina’s location in East Hampton was a popular spot for a Saturday night. I’d been to the locations in NYC but this was a first. The ALLA NORCINA & 4 STAGIONI personalized size pizza pies were perfecto!

Caliente, an inaugural Hamptons event to benefit Long Island Cares, The Harry Chapin Food Bank and OLA of Eastern Long Island, was an evening of delectables!

Montauk Yacht Club’s Coast Kitchen served up a seaworthy cioppino! For the full review of my entire meal read here.

Cioppino at Montauk Yacht Club


Estias Sag Harbor is a quaint local spot right off the Bridge-Sag Turnpike. Freshness you almost wouldn’t believe (if you haven’t been yet). You’ll likely see the owner Colin Ambrose around as well- who can take the best Instagram food photo?

Estia’s Cole Combo


SagTown Coffee reopened this summer 2017 after months of renovation. The newly inventive draft latte made with cold brew espresso is nothing short of a caffeinated miracle. Read more about the reopening, along with other caffeine spots, here.

SagTown Coffee with owner Shane Dyckman


Cowfish in Hampton Bay’s has a great outdoor bar aside from a lofty inside. The iron skillet cookie is every bit of sugary sweetness one could ask for.

Isola  is a fresh take on an old space in the Historic District of Shelter Island. Every dish tied into the next in a distinctive flow of flavors. Read my full review here.

With Isola Owner Brad Kitkowski & Chef Seth Nathan

Over to Jackson Wyoming….

Million Dollar Cowboy Bar is the quintessential bar in Jackson, Wyoming. Technically, I didn’t eat here and drinking at that elevation (6,200FT) with acute altitude sickness was ill-advised. However, I’m adding it to the list because it’s an absolute must-see in town!

Cowboy Coffee, a few steps away and sticking to the theme, has a list of food items with suitable names to lure in tourists (it worked for me). Try the Cow Puncher of turkey, cheddar cheese, red peppers, banana peppers, lettuce and mayo on their outside deck as you people watch. Don’t forget a cup of coffee!

The Outside of Cowboy Coffee


Picnic and Persephone are two individualized coffeehouses I wanted to group together because of their unique personalities. Picnic is more of a locals spot whereas Persephone is in the main town. Grab some coffee, a pastry or a light lunch and take in what the area has to offer. Picnic also serves alcohol, best of both worlds.

Coffee & Breakfast Bread from Picnic


Bin22 is a tapas bar in the back of what appears to be just a wine store. After you’ve navigated through the endless bottles, sit outdoors and try the housepulled mozzarella or grilled snake river wagyu steak- you will thank me. I’m hungry just remembering it!

The Housepulled Mozzarella at Bin22


Chicken Fry benefiting the Wilson Fire Department. It’s an entire fundraiser [hosted by the fire fighters themselves] revolved around frying chicken in the woods. Tin garbage cans filled with the stuff. Dozens of them. Add in some ‘sloshies’ to the mix (a heavily infused alcoholic slushie that apparently I never knew about here on the East Coast) and you’ve got a good ol’ country time!

Buckets of Fried Chicken at the Chicken Fry


Back home to the North Fork….

Little Creek Oysters paired with Greenport Harbor Brewery, a delicious combination. I shucked my first oyster at this little establishment on the docks, hidden in the back with Bait & Tackle written above. Every week they feature an original Greenport Brew (O.G.). My personal favorite (after visiting the 2nd brewery location in Peconic) was the Black Duck Porter beer. For a full review on the pairing read here.

Oysters and Brews at Little Creek


Claudio’s in Greenport holds title as the oldest single-family run restaurant in the United States. Go for the lobster, anything else seems uncharacteristic. Thirsty? Try the Sangria or Prohibition Lemonade.

My Father With His Lobster at Claudios


Bruce & Son is situated for ideal people watching in town. Sad to say, the deliciousness I consumed no longer seems to be on the menu- Duck Hash- duck leg confit, potato, shallot, frisée, chive blossom, citrus, fried duck egg & toast. Hopefully it makes a reappearance!

Duck Hash at Bruce & Sons


Noah’s is a culinary masterpiece on the North Fork. Its farm to table restaurant boasts unique savories such as Goat Cheese Stuffed Squash Bottoms and Crescent Farm Duck BBQ (the polenta cheese, mmmmmm). Keep an eye out for Noah’s on the Go- a food truck with its own dishes (loaded steak fries, just say yes).

Loaded Fries From Noahs On The Road Chef Justin Schwartz

Luncharitos for some East End T&T! Shrimp taco’s, strawberry margaritas. Enough said.

Taco’s from Luncharitos


Industry Standard switches up the menu constantly, so it’s hard to make a suggestion if it’s not on the menu a week later. That in mind, go for the atmosphere, the revolving flavors and a bartender that mentally transports you to the East Village.

The Giving Room is both yoga studio and health center in Southold. Their juices are guaranteed to give you the immunity boost you need- plus they’re delicious! Check out more here.

The Giving Room Juices With Owner Paula DiDonato


North Fork Roasting Company gives another kind of boost- caffeine- and only steps away from The Giving Room. While all of their drinks prove better than any Starbucks, their breakfast Waffle Egg Sammy is a home run hit. And make sure to say hello to the resident dog, Sinatra, who’s on most of the NoFoRoCo gear.

Iced Chai & Waffle Sammy from NoFoRoCo


Love Lane Kitchen on Love Lane in Mattituck is the perfect breakfast nook (but they serve lunch & dinner too). For people watching, for a local feel and for filling plates. I’d recommend a meal but let’s go with the generic ‘gotta try them all.’


That’s the roundup of my Summer of Food. May your bellies be full and your taste buds satisfied.

Until next time [check back for 28 Reasons to FALL]- In Omnia Paratus!