The stunning scenery of sandy beaches framed by the shimmering backdrop of Edgartown Harbor complements the variety of fresh food offerings at Bettini Restaurant.
Located inside the Harbor View Hotel, Bettini prides itself on premium ingredients and unique flavors. At the helm of the operation is Executive Chef Michael Gottlieb, whose culinary roots extend across several different regions and cooking practices. Now, Gottlieb allows his influences to inform all the distinctive menu items, with each entrée, side, and dessert having been built around only the finest ingredients.
“I was born into a family of bakers in Savannah, Ga. My family has been in the bakery business since 1884,” Gottlieb said. He recalls toddling around the bakery when he was a young child, and began working there as soon as he could walk and talk. During the holiday season, Gottlieb would bag cookies, and eventually aged into cookie production, bread production, and cakes.
Once captivated with bakery operations, Gottlieb started to take a liking to the idea of running his own bakery, or at least being somehow involved in the foodservice industry. “I remember at 10 years old I knew that’s what I wanted to do with my life,” he said.
When Gottlieb was a teenager, his brother started talking about going off to culinary school. Right as he was about to start his senior year of high school, his brother was going to take a tour of Johnson & Wales University, and he decided to tag along. “About halfway through the tour around the school, they said ‘Hey, do you know about our access program?’” Gottlieb said. Johnson & Wales offered a program for seniors in high school who wanted to skip their conventional final year and take credits at the university that would go toward their bachelor’s degree. “I was like ‘Where do I sign up?’ I ended up making straight As, and have been working in restaurants ever since,” Gottlieb said.
He’s worked at some of the most prestigious restaurants in the U.S., such as the Inn at Perry Cabin in Maryland and the Inn at Little Washington, and eventually went back to Savannah to open up his own business, called Gottlieb’s Restaurant and Dessert Bar, paying homage to the family bakery. “We took some world-famous bakery items and turned them into high-end luxury desserts,” Gottlieb explained.
From there, he developed and designed two restaurants in Louisiana, reopened a bakery with his brother in Savannah, and eventually found his way to the Island. Turns out that Gottlieb worked with the general manager of the Harbor View, Scott Little, at the Inn at Little Washington more than 20 years ago. “We started talking again. He came down to see my projects in Louisiana, and I went to the Harbor View. We thought it was a good fit, and I ended up moving to the Vineyard,” Gottlieb said.
With Gottlieb steering the ship, Bettini is focused on building relationships with Island farmers and fishermen, and any local folks who can provide the caliber of ingredients that the restaurant requires for its clientele. “You’ll notice Grey Barn and Farm all over our menu. We use their meat program all the time. Mermaid Farm is another one that we make that commitment to — if we are using products from Grey Barn, it’s always on the menu; if we use products from Mermaid Farm, it’s always on the menu,” Gottlieb said.
Although Gottlieb and his staff are constantly looking for local ingredients, they only select what’s been harvested at peak freshness. If the place down the road isn’t growing the best in a particular season, Gottlieb can pull the best from someplace off-Island. “This is, of course, not diminishing the value and importance of local farmers, but our guests here deserve the finest experience we can provide, and that means the finest ingredients,” he said.
The restaurant will occasionally fly seafood to the Island, along with some seasonal vegetables. But as soon as Island farms reap their bounty and the fishing season gets going, Gottlieb is first in line for the fresh produce, meat, and seafood. Right now, one of Gottlieb’s favorite menu items is locally caught fluke. “We are going to run that on our menu until it’s not available anymore,” he said. The Island fluke is cooked in a very hot pan so it gets crispy, then garnished with cauliflower purée, some confit cherry tomatoes, and sherry brown butter sauce with toasted brown butter almonds. “It looks great, it tastes great, and really screams who I am as a cook,” Gottlieb said.
Bettini also has a delicious Grey Barn cheese board, and a ragu using Grey Barn pork butts served alongside handmade pasta. Even the restaurant’s stock program uses Grey Barn veal and beef bones. “So our stocks that create the flavor of the restaurant are from the Island,” Gottlieb explained.
Soon, the restaurant will highlight local lettuces and fresh vegetables. They just got their first batch of 30 pounds of local lettuce from the Island Grown Initiative Thimble Farm Hub, which they will combine with crunchy pea tendrils and microgreens for a very special salad. Soft-shell crabs from Maryland are the hot seafood item now, and Gottlieb recently ordered four dozen of them — they’ll go fast. Japanese A5 Wagyu beef fills the from-the-land demand at the restaurant currently. “These are limited menu items. We have them when we have them, and sometimes we have other options, so we like to keep it interesting,” Gottlieb explained.
Gottlieb describes his cooking as French-rooted cuisine. From there, it gets a little New England treatment with all the fresh seafood, some Southern influence from his hometown of Savannah, and a little Louisiana tang in the mix, too. “So there’s definitely a good mix of flavors from all over,” he said. The hotel recently rolled out its Roxy Pool Bar menu, which Gottlieb said sports a delicious hamburger, a fried chicken sandwich with a Nashville hot treatment, and a tuna tartare egg roll that stands out in the world of appetizers. The pool bar will be yet another way for people to dine at the Harbor View.
“The audience has been incredibly receptive to some of the changes we’ve made recently — they love the quality meats, they love the variety, so I’m looking forward to continuing down that path and creating something that everyone knows they can look forward to seasonally, and year-round as well.”