Dining Choices Continue to Expand as Phase 3 Begins This Week

Patio dining at Lilly’s and Hudson Grille in White Plains.

By Morris Gut

On the first day of Phase 2, back on June 9, we made our way to the sprawling restaurant outdoor seating environment along Lyon Place in White Plains near the Waller-Maple parking lot.

All the eateries along that strip were preparing to reopen their shared decks. We were among the first to score a table on the patio at Lilly’s and its companion restaurant Hudson Grille. Proprietor Brian Mahon was on the premises giving last-minute instructions to his waitstaff. You could feel the excitement in the air. The coronavirus curtain was about to be lifted, at least partially.

For us, it was about relaxing over a couple of Founders IPAs as the patio filled in. An order of Buffalo chicken wings satiated our hunger pangs. We lingered for a while. There were COVID-19 protocols in place. By the time we left, the patio was pretty much full. I was glad to see dining activity return to the county.

Fortina’s Coronavirus Dining Protocols

Went to Armonk on a recent afternoon. Our destination was Fortina Pizza, celebrity-chef Christian Petroni’s bastion of rustic Italian cuisine, housed near DeCicco & Sons. There were several active tables on the patio, while the inside dining rooms were waiting for Phase 3 to begin this week.

So, there we were, and all seemed to be going well. It was a pleasant setting on a beautiful day. Our friendly waiter came over to explain the new protocols – and that’s when the trouble started.

We were handed directions. You had to order online through Fortina’s website. As we proceeded, it turned out to be a very cumbersome process. No ordering directly to our server. They prompted us to the website on our cellphone. 

Once there, you inspect the menu, scroll to see what’s available, then figure out what you want to order, from cocktail to dessert, then add it all to the cart. We were told we could not carry a tab through the meal; you had to pay when the order was complete. If, by chance, you wanted something else off the menu during your meal, you had to start the cellphone process all over again.

Well, the process was neither comfortable nor user-friendly. It sucked the juice right out of the experience.

They did not have the beer I ordered, nor a decent substitute. But they bought us a round due to our obvious displeasure. The good news: once it arrived, our Tenderoni Pizza was delicious.

Frankly, though I enjoy Chef Petroni’s work, I would not be anxious to return while the coronavirus protocol is in place. We hear the process is being used at their Stamford location as well. We have not encountered the “new normal” of dining out to this degree elsewhere. We will wait and see how this evolves.

During the COVID-19 crisis, some restaurants have tried to expand their product line to increase income. While walking through the glistening aisles at DeCicco & Sons in Armonk we spotted some prepared foods in the refrigerated section marked Fortina cheese lasagna and Pacherri pasta, each packaged in plastic containers, ready to heat up. Petroni and company are really spreading out.

Fortina Pizza is located at 17 Maple Ave. in Armonk. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Call 914-273-0900 or visit www.fortinapizza.com.

Shopping Reservations at DeCicco

An innovative approach to grocery market shopping has been enacted by DeCicco & Sons’ locations in Ardsley, Armonk, Brewster, Harrison, Larchmont, Millwood, Pelham and Somers. They have partnered with Open Table, an online restaurant reservation service. Shoppers can now book a time slot to shop. Hopes are it will eliminate waiting on lines, though walk-ins are still welcome.

Owners John, Joe and Frank DeCicco said customers with a reservation must show up five minutes before their reservation and walk into the store for confirmation. DeCicco & Sons, founded out of a small Bronx storefront in 1973, has in recent years introduced a number of modern methods to their markets. www.deciccoandsons.com www.opentable.com/groceries

A Good Meal at Sergio’s

The Arias/Pennacchio family have been in the restaurant business for many years. If you follow the family tree, you know that Chef Sergio and his wife, Sylvia, had operated Piccola Trattoria in Dobbs Ferry, which is now in the hands of Chef Sergio Pennacchio, his brother-in-law.

The last time I encountered his brother, Chef Dan Pennacchio, he was cooking at Tesoro D’Italia in Pleasantville. And it all began with father and Chef Paolo Pennacchio, who had operated popular namesake spots in Yonkers and White Plains years ago.

Sergio’s Restaurant & Bar in Valhalla is located in a free-standing house on Columbus Avenue that had operated for years as Franzl’s, one of the last German restaurants in Westchester. It is a comforting establishment and offers a traditional Italian-American menu. The general manager and partner is the seasoned Jerry Zonghetti, who spent years working such fine dining rooms as The Box Tree, Auberge Maxime, Le Chambord and The Heights. Zonghetti and his staff saw to our needs efficiently. Their outdoor patio turned out to be a fine, breezy setting for an early evening meal.

Cocktails helped us get cozy. My companion ordered one of their three-course prix-fixe meals ($24.95 on weekdays, $27.95 on weekends). Her choices: PEI mussels prepared with onions, celery, tomatoes, basil and garlic sauce; breast of chicken Milanese topped with fresh salad; and cheesecake for dessert. I had my eyes on their house-made lasagna with ground meat, parmesan, oozing mozzarella, herbs and marinara sauce. There was more than enough to share. We enjoyed our repast thoroughly.

Sergio’s Restaurant & Bar is located at 301 Columbus Ave. in Valhalla. Open Wednesday through Sunday from 3 p.m. (Kitchen hours are subject to change.) Take-out, curbside pick-up and delivery. Major credit cards. Reservations accepted. Free parking. Call 914-946-3580 or visit www.sergiosrestaurantandbar.com.

Morris Gut is a restaurant marketing consultant and former restaurant trade magazine editor. He has been tracking and writing about the food and dining scene in greater Westchester for 30 years. He can be reached at 914-235-6591 or at gutreactions@optonline.net.

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