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Spaghetti with Crab Meat, Cherry Tomatoes and Arugula From Florence Fabricant by way of Nick and Toni’s Café, Manhattan

         Of all the restaurants in the Hamptons, none is more reliably celebrity-packed than Nick and Toni’s (136 North Main St. East Hampton, New York 11937 Phone: 631-324-3550).  But unlike so many haunts of the rich and famous, Nick and Toni’s has spectacular food.  So between servings of Alec Baldwin or Christie Brinkley or Steven Spielberg, you can be certain of delicious, fresh food beautifully conceived by Chef Joe Realmuto.  There may be one small problem with the restaurant; the likelihood of getting a table on one of its nights of a thousand stars.  Make that a dozen stars but you get the picture.

         On the other hand, you can sample the food that’s fit for the famous at the city branch of Nick and Toni’s (100 West 67th St. New YorkNY 10023 Phone: 212-496-4000.)  In this far less high voltage setting, we’ve even managed to snag a table on a Saturday night without a reservation.   The place is almost neighborly in feel.  The wood-burning oven provides the majority of offerings and in common with its country cousin, the restaurant promotes farm-to-table offerings and sources its ingredients from the green markets that now dot New York year ‘round.  I must confess that I deviated from that fresh market focus when I made this wonderful, light and delicious pasta dish.  In the depths of autumn, fresh cherry tomatoes combined with baby arugula capture the height of summer flavor.  Where I changed things up was in the crab meat. 
I actually had some fresh lump meat Crab in the fridge.  But I was sent a sample of Miller Select Crab meat to try.  And it came, hold your breath, in a can.  Scoff if you must, but the stuff was absolutely delicious.  And I was amazed at the lump meat.  It was flawless as you can see in these photographs.  Miller Select is hardly a locavore product.  It comes from Thailand and the blue crabs of the Gulf of Siam.  The Miller family has been working those waters since the 1970s.   Miller Select is hardly inexpensive.  In fact, it retails for about $12.00 a tin.  That price is still a savings over so-called “fresh” crabmeat.  I put “fresh” in parentheses because the “fresh” crabmeat I just bought has an expiration date of November 2012, fully a year from when it was purchased. 
But canned or fresh crabmeat, this recipe is a keeper.  It takes about 45 minutes start to finish.  The bread crumbs and garlic give it a wonderful flavor.  The fresh oregano adds both color and taste.  And, Florence Fabricant, who first published this in her Pairings column in the New York Times, says it is a perfect complement to a glass of dry Alsatian Reisling.  Here is the recipe:

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