Music fans starved to see big-name acts at intimate venues have been heading to an unlikely spot in the Hamptons — where stars are more used to kicking back and relaxing than performing.
Late last month, Broadway singer Jessica Vosk — best known for her stint in “Wicked” as the not-so-wicked witch Elphaba — was delivering a rendition of “Empire State of Mind” before a crowd of about 130 guests at Calissa, a Greek restaurant in Water Mill.
Halfway through the song, the power went out, but Vosk kept singing, egged on by members of the audience, including Neil Patrick Harris, who were meanwhile sipping Veuve Cliquot and noshing on pita and tzatziki. Attendees said it was a memorable night, partly because the place was so tiny.
“I always think about this past year-and-a-half of madness, and some of the silver linings — and this is one of them,” Vosk told Side Dish. “Having the chance to do something so intimate in such a gorgeous venue would never normally have happened.”
The restaurant’s owner, James Mallios, says he made a big bet on music this summer, shelling out “close to $100,000” on lighting and sound equipment in order to launch two separate programs, “Broadway Out East” and “Calissa Sounds,” in partnership with BCL Entertainment. Other shows this summer have included Wyclef Jean, Questlove and, this past weekend, Reverend Run of RUN-DMC fame.
“We would not have been able to do this before COVID,” Mallios said. “These performers would have had other stuff going on. But this is the Hamptons. It’s fun. They’d probably be here anyway. People like playing here. They go see a friend the next day.”
It’s a sharp turnabout from last summer, when a charity concert with the Chainsmokers and Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon — who performs DJ gigs under the moniker DJ D-Sol — drew threats of a clampdown from Gov. Andrew Cuomo over COVID safety violations.
Elsewhere this summer, Restaurateur Ian Duke’s Southampton Social Club recently hosted Boyz II Men at a Bella magazine party.
At his Union Sushi & Steak in Southampton, Duke said he “put a baby grand piano in the middle of the room so people could get live music in a safe environment.”
“There’s way more desire for live music now,” Duke said. “Before COVID, people took things for granted. COVID sparked people to be hungry for more. It made us work harder to raise the bar to find talent.”
The bar on ticket prices has likewise been raised. At Calissa, Mallios charges between $100 and $500 a table, depending on the star and the proximity to the stage. Food is extra.
“New Yorkers understand,” but the out-of-towners, not so much, Mallios said.
A posse of Clay Aiken fans flew in from Texas and Tennessee and saw two shows in one night.
“A lot of people asked for Cherry Coke, which we don’t have, or iced tea,” Mallios said. “One guy started to unwrap a sandwich. I had to explain that we were a restaurant and outside food was not allowed because this is how we make our living.”
We hear that SA Hospitality Group has signed a lease to open a new Felice in the West Village — on the heels of its Upper West Side Felice opening. The Tuscan eatery launched in 2007 by SA Hospitality’s Jacopo Giustiniani, whose family winery in Lucca, Italy, Fattoria Sardi Giustiniani, produces the private-label wines and olive oil for SA Hospitality’s other brand, Sant Ambroeus brand. The new Felice is at 615 Hudson St.
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