Overlooking the crashing waves of its private beach on Nantucket Sound, The Ocean House Restaurant has weathered the test of time to stand proudly among the Top 10 fine-dining restaurants on Cape Cod.
Founded 30 years ago on the spot where restaurateur Janet Barbato’s family cottage once stood, the elegant façade with its large, arched windows overlooking the water sure isn’t her grandmother’s beach house anymore.
Rather, it is a sophisticated surprise. Praised in numerous restaurant reviews for its “city vibe,” the interior awash in white promises an elegant yet relaxed dining atmosphere on the water’s edge. From the windows overlooking the ocean to the double-sided fireplace, the white paint transforms the main dining room into an airy, refined space for diners to feel pampered as they explore the Asian-influenced cuisine by Chef Anthony Silvestri.
But for all that cool relaxation and enjoyment, the behind-the-scenes business of keeping this “huge enterprise” moving forward is not for the faint of heart, says Janet Barbato, who discusses her business in a telephone interview held while she simultaneously managed the nonstop activity of her busy restaurant.
Q: The Ocean House is among the Top 10 restaurants on the Cape. That’s some feat!
This is a huge enterprise, which maximizes our 300 feet of private beach property—direct oceanfront, with a wall of windows in the main dining room. Besides the main dining room, we have a beach café and the Ocean House Beach Bar, which is open in the evenings and offers a smaller menu. We also have a raw bar and a sushi bar and nightly entertainment.
We’ve changed a lot since we first opened in 1983. At that time, we opened as a four-star restaurant. It was really fine dining and we only did about 100 dinners a night. Over time we have evolved and changed our concept to be more contemporary.
Q: Fifteen years ago you oversaw a major change in the kitchen.
Before we hired our Executive Chef Anthony Silvestri he was in the Hamptons. I stalked him after I discovered him online by Googling restaurants. We had done four or five local food tastings looking for a new chef, and everybody was good, but I needed someone to take the cuisine a step further.
I always say that he had me at the first appetizer. Personally and professionally, he’s the best I’ve ever worked with. He and our wonderful sous chef Nicolas Branchut are my two rocks here.
Q: What dish is the star?
He has a garlic, ginger and lemongrass roasted lobster with four dipping sauces served with Jasmine rice and snow peas. They fly out of here all summer long.
We change our menus seasonally so we can use more local and seasonal ingredients. This was another important idea he brought to the restaurant.
We’ve had a million articles done about us and have received the highest ratings on Zagat, with the décor and food rated extraordinary to excellent, and we were voted No. 1 by Cape Cod Life Magazine. We’ve also been voted most romantic in another magazine.
Q: You’re also very proud of your Mixology.
Our cocktails change seasonally with the menu. In winter, our signature drink is the peppermint martini. We’ve been on the forefront with classic cocktails and we have a high-end mixology program and offer the classics, seasonal treats and even two size martinis!
Q: What’s the biggest challenge at The Ocean House?
The main challenge being on Cape Cod is that it’s so seasonal here. That’s the biggest hurdle of all. The labor pool shrinks off-season and it’s harder to maintain consistency. Inconsistency with staffing was a major issue. But inch-by-inch we’ve expanded our season. Now we’re nearly year-round. We close New Year’s Day and re-open in March.
Q: What advice would you give someone dreaming of starting a restaurant?
I would tell them to be prepared to work really hard and to realize that having a successful restaurant is a life-long commitment that becomes your life. In order to be successful, that’s the way it has to be.
—The Ocean House uses Boxerbrand’s Capri line.