Claude Sarfati, 82, Restaurateur

1930 - Jan. 27, 2013
Claude Sarfati - 1930 - Jan. 27, 2013

    Claude Simon Sarfati, who owned the Huntting Inn in East Hampton for a season and managed the Bridgehampton Club for six years, died after a brief illness on Sunday at his house in East Hampton, three days short of his 83rd birthday.
    Born in Oran in French colonial Algeria in 1930 to Jacob Sarfati and the former Rachael Cohen, he was forced by the Vichy government’s anti-Semitic policies to leave school in the third grade. He often said that the landing of the United States Army’s Ninth Division in North Africa on Nov. 9, 1942, saved him and his family from the Nazis. He was part of the cheering crowds that greeted the G.I.s. When he was 13, the Army put Mr. Sarfati to work as an interpreter. He spoke five languages fluently.
    After the war, he joined the French paratroopers, making his first jump at 16 years old. He emigrated from France to the United States in 1958, becoming a citizen the following year.
    Mr. Sarfati worked for a time as a bartender at Howard Johnson’s in Times Square, where he met Elizabeth Eblen. They liked each other, but Mr. Sarfati married Jeanine Prouteau not long after. Living in Queens, he rode the subway to his job in Manhattan, where he first tended bar at the Century Association and then became maitre d’ hotel and sommelier in the main dining room of the Yale Club.
    He had been divorced when, by chance, he and Ms. Eblen met again on a New York street. They married in May 1977. Wanting to leave the city, the couple bought a restaurant called the Seafood Shanty in Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard, but sold it after three years, still searching for an ideal location. They hit upon East Hampton. It was 1979, and the Huntting Inn was for sale.
    They bought the inn, and a house on Dayton Lane as well, but resold the inn within a year and returned to Manhattan, this time for a five-year sojourn. Mr. Sarfati purchased a French restaurant, the Cafe du Soir, and began a tradition of having all living members of the Ninth Division dine there every Nov. 9, in honor of the day Algeria was liberated. It became a tradition for many former soldiers, among whom his shrimp dish was said to be a favorite. He was eventually named an honorary life member of the Ninth Division. Wanting to spend his time with his wife in East Hampton, he sold the restaurant and became manager of the Bridgehampton Club.
    “We wanted an East Hampton life, smalltown,” Mrs. Sarfati said on Monday. “We loved to walk on the beach.” Her husband was a great reader and a very good cook, she said. “He loved to shop for food.” Music and singing were also a big part of his life. He could sing “Carmen” in its entirety, she said. In the city, Mr. Sarfati was a member of the Abravanel Lodge of Masons.
    In addition to Mrs. Sarfati, he leaves three children from his first marriage, a son, Dominique Sarfati, who lives in Virginia, and two daughters, Myriam Sarfati of Queens and Jacqueline Single of Pleasant Hill, Calif. Two grandchildren survive as does a sister, Yvonne Levy of Israel. According to Jewish tradition, he was buried the day after he died, with a graveside service at the Chevra Kadisha Cemetery in Sag Harbor.
    The family has suggested memorial donations for the Animal Rescue Fund, 90 Daniel’s Hole Road, Wainscott 11973; East End Hospice, P.O. Box 1048, Westhampton Beach 11978, or Temple Adas Israel, P.O. Box 1378, Sag Harbor 11963.