I've been on a variety of culinary quests, tasted terrific dishes and took advantage of good dining deals. Here's my latest round-up each with its own take on what is cool and refreshing this summer.
Siete Ocho Siete Premieres in New Rochelle!
After more than 25 years as Mamma Francesca and four months of major renovation, owner Nick DiCostanzo surprised the Queen City by going Latin—Puerto Rican in this case—with the opening of Siete Ocho Siete. Irresistibly Puerto Rican, says the logo. And after recent visits, the restaurant and lounge, named after the area code for Puerto Rico, is off to a hot start!
DiCostanzo has partnered with Luca Lucido, a young veteran of the Latin restaurant scene who had formerly worked with nightlife entrepreneur Jimmy Rodriguez.
The 125-seat restaurant, with seasonal walled in outdoor seating in the new frontage, and enclosed greenhouse in the rear overlooking New Rochelle's boating clubs and Long Island Sound, will offer traditional and contemporary Puerto Rican cuisine served in abundance. Multi-color cocktails are served from the sparkling new bar/lounge area separating the main dining room and rear seating, while rhythmic Latin music is filtered throughout. Alternating multi-color lighting keep the dining rooms awash in pastels. The sea-themed modern decor is notable on the dining room walls and wavy ceiling decoration in the rear.
Look for such kitchen specialties as: Tostones Sol y Mar, green plantains topped with beef, pork, shrimp and cod fish; Almejas Colorao, sauteed clams and chorizo; Mofongo, mashed green plantains filled with either beef, shrimp, chicken or pork; Paella Siete Ocho Siete, yellow rice with seafood, chicken and chorizo; Chuletas Calle Luna/Calle Sol, grilled or fried twin pork chops; and Pargo Entero al Volante, fried whole red snapper stuffed with seafood. There is also a special La Mesa del Chef (the chef's table) menu available nightly. More on this one down the line.
Siete Ocho Siete is located at 414 Pelham Rd., New Rochelle. At this writing, the restaurant is open 7 days a week for dinner only starting at 5 p.m. Price range for starters: $6 to $18. Main courses: $14. to $48. Bar/lounge. Cocktails. Major credit cards. Proper casual dress. Free parking. Reservations: 914-235-6591. www.sieteochosiete.com
Fresh Summer Flavors at Agostino's!
Chef Anna Catalano of in New Rochelle prepares everything in her authentic regional Italian kitchen from scratch: her sauces, the pastas, right down to the fresh cannoli shells and desserts. Be seated and let Anna, her husband Antonio and brother Gasperino Di Fabio serve you such current home-style summer favorites as: Portobello e Polenta alla Griglia con Gorgonzola; Spaghetti alla Chitarra alla Pescarese con Frutti di Mare, mixed seafood in a light marinara sauce; housemade Ravioli di Aragosta in Salsa Rosa, with lobster in a light cream sauce with touch or tomato; classic Zuppa di Pesce al' Mamma Lucia, with clams, mussels, shrimp, calamari, scallops, octopus and fish of the day with linguini; and Pollo alla Scarpariello prepared here on the bone sauteed with garlic in a white wine sauce. I almost forgot: her amazing starters of Burrata Salad or Antipasti Platter are not to be missed! And, oh, those wonderful cannolis! Cozy bar/cocktails. Open seven days a week. Valet parking evenings. Agostino's, 336 Pelham Road, New Rochelle. 914-235-6019.
Stacked Lobster Rolls & Mediterranean Pizza at Artie's!
The Zagat New York City Restaurant Survey awarded Artie's Steak & Seafood on City Island one of the best in the Bronx, but its fame has spread much further than that. Dynamic owner Spiro Chagares, who grew up in New Rochelle, has spent over a decade transforming this bustling eatery with an inspired melding of traditional and contemporary dishes served with flair.
This is a great time to visit City Island, the charming seaport village in the Bronx, so just sit back in one of their pleasant multiple dining areas and enjoy such ever changing summer specialties as: hearty seafood chowders; Smoked Salmon Roll-Ups; Wood Grilled Jumbo Shrimp and Scallops; hunks of tender Short Rib (an occasional blackboard specialty); a massive Zuppa di Pesce; their extraordinary Chardonney Poached Salmon, just delicous; and fresh lobster served in a variety of styles. If you can make it down for a quiet lunch check out their wonderful Cold Seafood Salad for two, loaded Lobster Rolls and the new oblong-shaped Mediterranean style pizzas that are good to share, too.
The redesigned bar/lounge has become a good spot for nightly networking. And now, there is seasonal outdoor seating around the perimeter of the restaurant. Open seven days for lunch and dinner. Party facilities. Free parking. Casual dress. Artie's Steak & Seafood, 394 City Island Ave., City Island, Bronx. Phone: 718-885-9885. www.artiesofcityisland.com
Fixed-Price Tuesday Dinners at La Riserva!
Proprietor Michael Vivolo of just over the New Rochelle line in Larchmont and his wife Margaret have been serving "the Italian classics" here for 34 years and the refreshing atmosphere and friendly ambiance keep it a treat. The comforting dining room, which is now part vintage photo gallery, is now serving a summer deal breaker dinner every Tuesday evening. The fixed price dinner includes several courses and is priced at a convenient $17.50 per person, not including gratuities. There are also reasonably priced luncheon specialties daily.
While there look for such house specialties as: Polenta al Gorgonzola with shrimp; Angel Hair Abissi Marini, thin egg noodles in a light cream sauce with shrimp and mushrooms; or Branzino Mediterraneo. There's also a dish named after former Yankee coach Joe Torre who is a regular here when in town. Open seven days for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. Private party facilities. Free parking. Major credit cards. La Riserva, 2382 Boston Post Road, Larchmont. Phone: 914-834-5584. www.lariservarestaurant.com
Eataly, An Amazing Italian Marketplace and Food Hall!
Manhattan is a bit more accessible in summer while all locals head for the shore, and one foodie stop you should not miss is Eataly at 23rd. St. and 5th. If you haven't made the pilgrimage yet, you should. But be forwarned: Eataly, the 50,000 square foot mega Italian market and food hall can be both exciting and preplexing with a vein of tempting flavors throughout. It's an ongoing Italian food and dining amusement park. After two visits I am still trying to learn how best to traverse the giant teaming space.
But there are sensual palatal pleasures awaiting you there. The Italian market basket, north and south, from the Adriatic to the Mediterranean, all arranged like some sort of walk through a culinary video game. Eataly was brought stateside by a pedigree partnership: founder Oscar Farinetti, who opened the first flagship store in Turin, Italy in 2007; noted celebrity chef Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich, partners in 15 restaurants at last count; and Lidia Bastianich, the beloved chef and restaurateur, cookbook author and PBS kitchenary.
Eataly itself has a dozen munching and dining spaces in all price ranges, so there's plenty to taste while you shop for Italian goods to bring home. And recently they joined the beer garden craze with their own Italian version: Birreria, on the rooftop deck.
On our last visit I spotted Lidia and her entourage walking thru and I cornered her for a photo. She was very gracious indeed considering the surrounding tumult, posing with us with family and friends. Eataly, 200 5th. Ave. at 23rd. Street (212-229-2560) www.eataly.com
More seasonal dining options to come. Bon Appetite!
Morris Gut is a restaurant consultant and former restaurant trade magazine editor. He has been tracking and writing about the food and dining scene in greater Westchester for over 25 years. He may be reached at: 914-235-6591. E-mail: email@example.com.