Remembering Jeff Salaway

Jeff Salaway, the “Nick” of Nick & Toni’s restaurant in East Hampton, who died in a car accident two weeks ago, touched his patrons deeply and in diverse ways. This is the man they knew:

Chevy Chase “We had the same sense of humor. Jeff and the wait staff came over to me on more than one occasion with a small cake, and they would loudly sing ‘Happy Birthday,’ and, of course, it wasn’t my birthday. I saw him the night before he died and I felt such life in him.”

Roy Scheider “If I were an actor trying to find the spine of the character Jeff and could reduce it to one word, it would be service. I think he felt it was his journey in life to set things up for people. He was a paradox: so ironic, cynical, and sassy – but he was the example of ‘watch what I do, not what I say.’ “

Steven Spielberg “We knew Jeff for over fifteen years, but he made anyone who dined at Nick & Toni’s feel like they had known him just as long. He had a kind and wry heart.”

April Gornik “Jeff felt like an artist to me. He had a quizzical slant on the world that comes from giving it a second look. There’s an actual gap now, not a metaphysical one. The whole community feels it.”

Alec Baldwin “He catered my wedding. We had six weeks and I thought, Who will go to the wall for you with this little notice? I remember standing outside the morning before the wedding. I had just started smoking cigars. He lit one up at 9:30 a.m., and I was shocked. He explained, ‘You’ve got to walk the dog in the morning, and at night.’ “

Martha Stewart “He was the ultimate host, never too busy to say ‘Hello.’ If you could match his cool and his wide-eyed innocence, you could usually end up with a table.”

Billy Joel “He started the idea of having good food out here. Before Nick & Toni’s, it was all blue-hair Waspy food. He broke the rules. There are lots of people who have businesses who act like they’re happy to see you. If he was acting, he deserved an Oscar.”

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Remembering Jeff Salaway