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Flora bartender Paige Salata crafts imaginative yet approachable cocktails in Westhampton Beach. (Photo credit: Caela Earls)

Stepping inside Flora is like being transported to the inside of a modern-day Disney princess’s slightly edgy country cottage. Situated on the southern end of the circle where Main Street and Mill Road in Westhampton Beach meet, the tiny building boasts a chic and welcoming charm both inside and out, while being conveniently located a healthy distance away from the hustle and bustle of the main drag locales.

Salata is quick, agile and attentive while she’s behind the stick. (Photo credit: Emily Toy)

The interior is adorned with splatters of gray and beige petal-patterned wallpaper. About a dozen or so simply set tables are completed by uniform, intricately woven-backed chairs. A rustic, wooden trellis hangs from the ceiling embellished with ivy and hanging pots containing leafy plants. A trio of large, round dandelion chandeliers are arranged over the center of the sun-filled dining room. On the opposite wall are small bursts of potted greenery juxtaposed by a cluster of handcrafted birdhouses. Capping one end of a cushioned banquette, directly across from the front door, is a wooden nook, immaculately stocked with neatly folded napkins, water pitchers and shiny silverware. The Grateful Dead’s “Sugar Magnolia” is playing lightly in the background as plates of edamame hummus and crispy panéed chicken sandwiches fly by.

The vibe at Flora is overtly feminine, warmly whimsical and calmly refreshing. The half-full resto is being manned by one server and a manager, but it’s the bartender who is acknowledging the incoming guests first from behind her perch, and she’s absolutely ecstatic to see them.

That bartender is Paige Salata, a Manorville-born, Westhampton-bred veteran restaurant pro whose unbridled enthusiasm for her profession seems to be trumped only by her unabashedly sincere and genuine personality. As her eight-seat bar begins to fill up on a balmy Tuesday night, Salata listens intently as a handful of her weekly regulars tell her about their week as they start to get settled and she immediately begins building their usual drinks. A fixture behind the stick at Flora since June of 2021, Salata has been working in restaurants since she was 16, starting out as a waitress and then ultimately shifting to bartending. A self-described workaholic, past gigs include the former Westhampton Beach locale Magic’s Pub as well as Riverhead’s Buoy One and Tweeds. In addition to the six shifts she keeps at Flora, Salata also works four shifts at the neighboring Ivy on Main.

Salata’s peach sangria is the perfect al fresco cocktail and it’s here just in time for summer. (Photo credit: Caela Earls)

“I love what I do,” she says with a grin, as she lays down a pint of beer and a glass of wine before backtracking to grab a couple of linen-likes to polish a newly arrived rack of clean glasses. A uniquely adept conversationalist, Salata feels like an old girlfriend you haven’t seen in a long time, but you pick up with immediately where you left off the second you start talking to her. She’s affable, she’s delightfully loquacious and it wouldn’t be weird at all if she were to sit down right next to you.

At Flora, with its deeply rooted epicurean ethos and unwavering attention to detail, Salata’s style is relaxed yet kinetic. Effortlessly attacking tasks head-on, she’s an obvious team player, as she’s constantly running back and forth from the bar to the dining room,delivering signature drinks she just made — like the Lavendar Fizz or her eponymous peach sangria — to their respective tables or helping her colleague bus some finished plates.

“Ultimately you’re the one that trains people how you want to be treated,” she says. “It’s important to keep it nice and to keep it moving.”

While the cocktails and cuisine at Flora are (for the most part) riffs on familiar classics, Salata is at the ready to make a recommendation for her guests, whether the request is for the ubiquitous or the unusual. A devout disciple of the “try it, you might like it” mindset, she isn’t scared to lead her guests toward something new.

“I’m a mezcal girl now,” she says. “But that wasn’t always the case. I initally thought it was awful. It took me a couple of times.” By that same token, if you’re not feeling adventurous, she can make you something that’s perfectly potable while at the same time fresh, new and exciting.

Salata’s innate sense of complementary flavors mixed with her approachable attentiveness match the convivial energy that permeates throughout Flora. Her presence is an assuring feeling that not only are you in the right place, your needs are going to be met. She’s the sort of bartender who remembers you like your martinis in-and-out instead of fully mixed with dry vermouth or that you like your glass of chardonnay with a side of ice. You won’t need to tell her twice.

“I really try to come from a place of yes,” she says when it comes navigating the service industry. “The goal, always, is to make the guest happy and to make them feel welcome.”

So, if you’re in Westhampton Beach and can’t decide where to eat, pop in to the fanciful Flora and sit down with Salata for a drink, a bite and a chat. You’ll be besties by the time you’re ready to leave.