With the confidence that comes from years of first-hand food experience around the world — having lived and worked in France, Morocco, Italy, Vietnam, Argentina, Thailand, and India — Livia Hegner is clearly her own boss. However, the name of her Sag Harbor food shop, Pepalajefa, which means Pepa the Boss, refers not to Ms. Hegner, but to another restaurant owner she knew in Spain.
Pepalajefa is Ms. Hegner’s dream come to fruition, offering a gourmet sampling from around the world, served in a to-go container or catered to a beach, boat, or home.
Within the glass case last week delectable choices included Argentinean pot pie, Moroccan chicken legs, tomato crespelles, and poached tuna with caper dressing. Thursday’s soup offerings were carrot orange mint, garden pea, and vichyssoise.
“We make everything ourselves,” Ms. Hegner said, down to the mayonnaise, stock, and dressings. Living in third world countries, she said, “I learned to be inventive.”
“I cooked all my life,” said Ms. Hegner last Thursday afternoon. The daughter of a diplomat, Ms. Hegner vacationed in Sag Harbor for about 25 years, and is now a resident. She studied hotel and business management at Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne, the world’s first professional hotel management institute in Lausanne, Switzerland. The shop’s managing partner, Marianne Farrell, a close friend, worked in restaurants in Sonoma County, San Francisco, Aspen, and Providence, R.I., and as a private chef on the East End.
They opened the shop last July. After a four-month winter break, it reopened at the end of March. This year, which will be its first full summer, it will offer more Asian foods, including dishes from Thailand, filling a niche following the closing of Phao down the street.
Fluent in five languages, Ms. Hegner’s English is sometimes rough, but she has no trouble getting her point across. “Maybe someone will grab a meatloaf,” she said on Friday, and “bring it home and pop in the oven” with a side of roasted potatoes seasoned with lemon and cumin. Not your average meatloaf by any stretch of the imagination, she explained, her recipe is from Germany and it’s “totally different.” Lobster with tarragon mayonnaise was another choice. If the mood is Italian, she offers an eggplant capanata, stuffed crepes, or Vitello tonnato, sliced veal with a tuna mayo, a staple in Italy, she said.
Along with takeout, Pepalajefa does catering with prices that are not as high as the food might indicate. Vegan and gluten-free champignons stuffed with feta can be had for just $2 each, for example.
Vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options in the shop are all clearly labeled, and there are a number of them on offer, as well as fresh juices and smoothies. A cooler labeled “Home-Heat-Eat” offers “fast food for bon vivants,” including things like liver paté.
The shop serves Hampton Coffee Company’s roast from Water Mill, and other local products like Lorna’s Nuts, Bees Needs honey from Sag Harbor, Sweet Tauk lemonade from Montauk, Plain-T teas from Southampton, and bread from the Blue Duck Bakery in Southampton.
Beyond the clean white facade, Pepalajefa pops with bright colors — hot pink walls, a high, metallic ceiling, and a full wall of newsprint from around the world in a single day. Peek-through windows allow for a look into the kitchen.
The goal, Ms. Hegner said, is to prepare something for every taste. So those who want conventional items like potato salad, will find it, but “spiced like nobody else.” Challah bread is baked on the premises, and used in grilled sandwiches or premade minis.
We do “a lot of chocolate things” she said, and when a visit is timed right, the aroma of butter and chocolate in the shop can be ecstatic. She also makes coffee or lemon mousse and boasts about her carrot cake, stuffed apples, and caramel flan, among other desserts.
The shop is open at 9 a.m. and at least until 8 p.m.