Menu Movers and Shakers: By Morris Gut
Amore! The coupling of good food and wine with the sensual is the aphrodisiac of literature and verse through the ages. Pucker up. Valentine’s Eve Wednesday, Feb. 13 and Valentine’s Day is Thursday, Feb. 14. If you have the stamina, make a whole weekend of romance out of it. Restaurants and nightspots are gearing up to serve some of their most titillating specialties. Here is an eclectic roundup of delectable dishes and dining venues for you and your loved one around Westchester, and don’t forget to reserve early.
Fountains and Flowers and Grappa, Oh My! Mulino’s of Westchester has been lavishing itself on a discriminating upscale crowd since 1993 at its present location under the careful guidance of proprietor Louis Gigante. A lovely multi-level dining room lush with flowers and outdoor fountain which can be seen through a giant window. Let seasoned general manager ‘Gimmy’ Cavagna and has staff take you through such decadent pleasures as the extraordinary Cold Seafood Platter, loaded with fresh chilled lobster, colossal U5 shrimp, Alaskan King Crab Legs, sweet lump crabmeat, east and west coast oysters, littleneck clams, Jonah crab claws, all beautifully decorated and served over crushed ice with 3 dipping sauces; Risotto ai Porcini; Linguine Nere con Coda d’Aragosta Marechiaro, black linguine with baby lobster tails; Garganelli alla Carbonara, tossed with pancetta, eggs and parmigiano reggiano; Nodino di Vitello Valdostana, stuffed double cut veal chop; Dover Sole pan-sautéed and de-boned; and the smooth house made Italian cheesecake. Bar/lounge; municipal and valet parking; 99 Court Street, White Plains; 914-761-1818; www.mulinosny.com.
Tuck Into a Booth at Trattoria Vivolo. Chef-owner and personable host Dean Vivolo of Trattoria Vivolo, serves his robust regional Italian cuisine out of a vintage diner just across from Harrison’s Metro-North station. Sit at the counter, tuck into a booth, or take a table in the rear greenhouse and enjoy the surprising contemporary and traditional flavors emanating from his kitchen: tasty thin-crusted pizza; fresh old-fashioned Meatballs and Sausage; Rabbit Cacciatore; Crostino di Polenta, topped with wild mushrooms, gorgonzola and tomato sauce; Lasagna Bolognese al Forno; Osso Buco, tender braised veal shank; occasional Roasted Porchetta; and warm fresh Zabaglione with fresh fruit for dessert. If the name Vivolo sounds familiar, Dean’s dad Michael Vivolo is owner of the venerable La Riserva in Larchmont. Good wine list. Open 7 days. Free parking; 301 Halstead Ave., Harrison; 914-835-6199; www.trattoriavivolo.com
A Talented Chef Without Borders Will Take You There. Chef/owner Sal Cucullo of The 808 Bistro has worked kitchens of every stripe. He knows how to cook Italian, but for as long as I have known him, his creativity has never been bound by culinary borders. He can knock out a delicious version of Grandma’s Gnocchi in a basil-pomodoro sauce one moment, and in another prepare a decadent Baked Macaroni and Cheese with chunks of lobster and shrimp, infused with truffle oil, that will propel you to foodie heaven. The cozy bar glows nightly in a rainbow of alternating colors. Glistening ceramic tiles highlight the dining room wall. Starched white tablecloths are a perfect canvas for the vibrant dishes emanating from the kitchen. It’s a Manhattan vibe and it’s all kept properly casual. Open 7 days for lunch and dinner and now Saturday and Sunday brunch; 808 Scarsdale Ave., Scarsdale; 914-722-0808; www.the808bistro.com.
Have a Guest Chef from Tuscany Cook for You. The Brasesco family of Emilio’s is marking 34 years in this vintage century old colonial house serving what many Italian food aficionados praise as the most authentic regional Italian cooking in the area. An arresting multi-color antipasti table selection, Mama Lidia’s fresh house made pastas, and a dynamic seasonal menu to boot. This month they are also featuring guest Master Chef Tullio Caola from Tuscany. Check out such changing house specialties as: Cotachino con Lenticchie, traditional sweet sausage boiled, then roasted, sliced and served over lentils, wine and herbs; Pappardelle Cingiale, a special ragu of wild boar served over wide pasta; Panzerotti Salsa Noci, handmade ricotta and Swiss chard filled pillows served in a walnut cream sauce; Brasato di Manzo, Angus beef short ribs; and Branzino al Forno, whole roasted Mediterranean sea bass filleted tableside. On Valentine’s Day you can order a la carte or a special 5-course Prix Fixe Dinner ‘por due’ for $50 per person; full bar; extensive wine list too; private party facilities; open Tuesday through Sunday; free parking; 1 Colonial Place, Harrison; www.emilioristorante.com
Vongole, Sea Bass, Aged Steaks and Chops. Hospitality veterans Alex (who spent many years at Scaramella’s Restaurant in Dobbs Ferry) and his brother Ben (who worked at Sparks Steak House in Manhattan), have teamed up to open Alex’s Bar & Grille serving classic Italian-American specialties along with a fine selection of dry aged steaks and chops. For starters there is Pan-Fried Calamari with hot cherry peppers; Asparagus Vinaigrette; Caesar Salad; and Crab Meat Cocktail. Pastas include: Linguini alla Vongole with white or red clam sauce; Gnocchi Bolognese with meat sauce; and decadent Fettuccine Alfredo with cream sauce. Entrees include: a delicious Sea Bass prepared in a variety of styles; Veal Cutlet with prosciutto, eggplant, mozzarella and brown sauce; Chicken Francese; and Lemon Sole Marechiara with clams and calamari. Hefty dry-aged steaks and chops include: Filet Mignon, Lamb Chops, Pork Chops with sautéed greens and sweet peppers, Sirloin Steak and Veal Paillard. Sides such as hash browns and creamed spinach are terrific. There is a private bar/lounge with TVs. Open 7 days for lunch and dinner; free and valet parking; 577 North Broadway, White Plains; 914-358-1444; www.abg2012.com
Additional Venues to Fire Up Your Romance
Moderne Barn, 430 Bedford Road (Rte. 22), Armonk (914-730-0001) will be serving a special 3-course menu via Executive Chef Ethan Kostbar which celebrates love with such dishes as: Half Dozen Beau Soleil Oysters champagne mignonette, cocktail sauce, American caviar; Seared Day Boat Scallops with baby beets, mushroom a la greque, micro basil, blood orange butter sauce; and Red Velvet Cake with cherry vanilla ice cream, sauce Anglaise, and more. The menu is $80, or $125 with wine pairings; www.modernebarn.com.
Chocolations, 607 E. Boston Post Road, Mamaroneck (914-777-3600), has teamed with Leslie Allicks of Lola’s Tea House to offer a Sweet Heart Tea the weekend after Valentine’s Day, Saturday, Feb. 16th from 12:30 to 3 p.m. Your ‘tea date’ will include: Chocolate or Plain Scones; choice of: Curry Chicken Salad, Cucumber/Egg Salad, or Smoked Salmon Canapes. Mixed Green Salad with vinaigrette dressing followed by Chocolate Truffles or Heart Shaped Brownies with ganache. And of course, your choice of tea: Chocolate Chai, Choco-a-Peel, ChocolaTea, or Red Velvet Tea served in a 2-cup pot. Cost is $35 for one; $50 for two plus tax and gratuity. Reservations are advised. www.lolasteahouse.com.
If you are planning to be in the beautiful Hudson Valley, Laura Pensiero, owner of Gigi’s Trattoria, 6422 Montgomery Street, Rhinebeck (845-876-1007) will offer a lavish 5-course menu for lovers at $65 per person along with an a la carte option. Choices via Executive Chef Wilson Costa include: Meiller’s Farm Beef Tartar with black truffles, fried Sunnyside quail egg an house made brioche; a house-specialty Skizza Aragosta with house made mozzarella, herb de Provence tomato sauce and Maine lobster; Gigi’s fabulous homemade multi-layer Lasagna; Tagine Clay Roasted Northwind Farms Chicken over Israeli couscous with dates, saffron and olives; and such desserts as Chocolate Marquise with pistachio tuile and raspberry sauce. www.gigihudsonvalley.com
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. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.