Dune -Spring 2009
Michael Getter’s New Vision
by: Joshua Balling
photography by: Kevin Korn
Simple. Contemporary. Elegant. Walking through Dune, the restaurant he opened in the former Cioppino’s space on Broad Street April 3, Michael Getter uses these words more than once – nearly a dozen times, actually – to describe the aesthetic he was aiming for, and ultimately achieved, in both the atmosphere and the cuisine.
While the bones of the historic home built in 1850 remain, gone is the rustic country charm of Cioppino’s. It’s been replaced by the elegant sophistication of earth-toned textured wallcoverings and polished hardwood floors. The Brazilian quartzite bar and undulating lines of the modernist light fixtures echo the natural geometry of sand and sea.
The design is intended to be a clean one, with no artwork on the walls except for a single painting in the downstairs seating area across from the bar, which continues the wave and seaside theme, albeit in an abstract way.
“We’re relying on the uniqueness of the light fixtures to set the tone. I think they resemble conch shells. Everything is supposed to fit together with that feel of the dunes and the beach,” said Getter, who cooked at 21 Federal from 1992-1995, and ran American Seasons from 1996-2002 before selling it to chef de cuisine Michael LaScola and his wife Orla Murphy LaScola.
Even the name of the restaurant was carefully chosen to carry on the theme.
“It’s something I’d been struggling with,” Getter said. “I wanted something that said Nantucket, that fit, that was short and to the point. I think it captures the philosophy.”
That philosophy of contemporary simplicity carries through to the food, conceived and created by Getter.
Spring menu items range from appetizers like a Spring Pea Soup with a Main Crab Fritter and Steamed PEI Mussels with Lemon Grass, Kaffir and Chili to hearty entrées like Bone-In Ribeye Steak with Potatoes Anna, Grilled Ramps and Sauce au Poivre to a Duo of Berkshire Pork, Smoked Loin and Braised Bacon with Brussels Sprouts and Calvados, to Herb Roasted Organic Chicken Breast with Truffled Potatoes and Hen of the Woods mushrooms..
And, of course, seafood. From the Seared Yellowfin Tuna with Tuscan White Beans, Preserved Lemon, Fennel and Oregano, to the Roasted Merluza, the menu picks up where the name and decor leave off.
If you’ve got room for dessert, the Warm Black Forest Rice Pudding with chocolate and cherry risotto and sour cherry sorbet is the perfect ending to an early-season meal on Nantucket.
“My philosophy on food is that simplicity is best,” said Getter, who likes to source his foods as locally as possible.
Look for fish from Cape and Islands waters, yet going as far north as Canada for the famed PEI mussels. Once summer kicks in and island-grown vegetables are available, expect to see them on the menu as well.
What Getter expects to see, and his patrons to enjoy, is “excellent service and delicious, creative food, in a beautiful environment. It will be appropriately priced, so our customers don’t feel like they are being taken advantage of,” he said. Appetizers range from $12 to $19, with entrées in the $23-$30 range.
“I just want to make the best food we possibly can. I’d like to educate our diners a little with what’s on the plate, but most importantly, I want them to leave here happy and fulfilled, and looking forward to the next time they come to Dune,” Getter said.
The look of the restaurant is modern, definitely elegant and simplistic.
Getter is also offering a varied wine list heavy on the offerings of smaller providers with prices lower than most diners are used to seeing at this level of quality.
“That’s important. Time’s are changing, and the economy’s changing. I’d rather get more people in the door at a lower check average, and encourage more of a regular dining experience, as opposed to making Dune a special-occasion restaurant,” he said.
Which doesn’t mean he is cutting corners when it comes to the food.
“Just as the decor is contemporary and sophisticated, we want the food to reflect that. It may be more reasonably-priced than other upper-end, fine-dining restaurants on Nantucket, but we’re still taking advantage of what’s going on in food today, which is seasonal, fresh, not overly involved, straight-forward and accessible, paying attention to what’s in season,” Getter said.
“We’re going to use local purveyors, as local as we can get, mostly from farms around New England. The seafood will be predominantly what’s on the East Coast, and we’ll be changing it regularly. In fact, the menu will be constantly changing, with lots of specials on a nightly basis.”
The focal point upon entering Dune is the bar, during the day back-lit by the sunlight refracted through the bottles of spirits – from crystal clear to dark amber – that line the glass shelves. Opposite is a whitewashed fireplace uncovered during renovations earlier this year that quickly eliminates the chill of Nantucket’s often gray and damp early spring and late fall afternoons.
From the bar, designer Anne Becker’s decor blends seamlessly from one dining space to the next, much like the shifting sands of an island beach. Outdoor seating will be available on the patio as it was at Cioppino’s, under large umbrellas to keep off the afternoon sun.
Getter plans to keep Dune open year-round, and the kitchen will serve lunch from Memorial Day through the end of September.
Returning to the restaurant business has been Getter’s goal almost since the day he walked out the door at American Seasons. Cooking and food have been in his blood since his childhood in South Orange, New Jersey.
“I had a lot of relatives in Manhattan, and my mother was very into food. It was a big part of her life: cooking, going out to eat and food was a big focus. I got my passion for food from her,” said Getter, who got his start cooking at a small French restaurant in South Orange. After graduating from the CIA, he worked in Colorado before moving to Nantucket.
“As soon as I left American Seasons, I started thinking about getting back in the restaurant business, and I began looking at other restaurant properties on Nantucket and off-island. For whatever reason, they didn’t work out,” said Getter, who after American Seasons also worked as a chef in Boston for a large catering company, and then returned to the island to try his hand in the real estate business before joining Ruby Wines as its island sales representative. “A couple years ago I heard through the rumor mill that Tracy (Root, the owner of Cioppino’s) was interested in moving on. We struck up a conversation and slowly over time, got to a place where it made sense to both of us. It’s a phenomenal location in town. It made total sense.”
At Dune, he plans to oversee the kitchen but rely heavily on his young staff so he can focus on the business of running a restaurant.
“I felt when I was at American Seasons that being the chef, you have to be 100 percent focused on the food aspect. I wasn’t paying attention to the entire restaurant. And it’s a young person’s game. There are young, passionate cooks looking to make a name for themselves out there, and now I can better focus on the restaurant as a whole more evenly than I had done at American Seasons.”
Joshua Balling is the copy editor of Nantucket Today and the assistant editor of The Inquirer and Mirror, Nantucket’s newspaper since 1821.