Menu Movers & Shakers: Where To Celebrate the Holidays

By Morris Gut – The Holiday Season is upon us, so whether you’ve been naughty or nice, it’s time to make plans with friends and family. If you are going out, here are some festive suggestions for every palate, each offering a good dose of Holiday Cheer.

Mulino’s Holiday Fest. It is over-the-top during the holidays at Mulino’s and the fun begins with the bright lights and smell of chestnuts roasting at the entranceway. Take home a bag. The annual Christmas Holiday Fest at Mulino’s lasts right through the season and it’s a sight to behold. The fountain garden is beautiful as is the lavish dining room and bar/lounge. General Manager Gimmy Cavagna and his staff are keeping the premises spiffy as ever: gesticulating Christmas decorations galore, holiday carolers, life-size toy soldiers, the bursting colorful floral displays and handsome multilevel seating area. The Cold Seafood Platter is a wonder and fine to share as is their decadent version of Linguine Carbonara; plump tender Rack of Lamb served on the long bone; delicate Dover Sole finished off in the dining room; and perhaps for dessert have the wait staff whip up warm Zabaglione with fresh berries. And, oh that smooth Italian cheesecake. Open 7 days through the Holiday Fest. Bring the whole family. The place sparkles. Valet parking. Reservations advised. Mulino’s of Westchester, 99 Court Street, White Plains; 914-761-1818; www.mulinosny.com.

Feliz Navidad at Rio Bravo. The artsy red statue guarding the Palmer Avenue entrance to the new Rio Bravo Tacos & Tequila in Larchmont is just a hint of the south-of-the-border pleasures waiting inside. It is a sprawling 200-seat restaurant strewn with colorful Mexican art and artifacts, multiple seating areas in the front, side and rear, along with a big galloping bar for socializing. Personable hosts and owners are brothers Edgar and Hector Brambila who also operate a Rio Bravo in Fairfield and Westport, CT. General manager Omar Topete and his staff will give you a tasty tour through the menu. An adorable guacamole cart will come whizzing by to test your palate. And the menu, we have come to describe it as Mexican/Tex-Mex, and it will surprise you. The signature tacos are overloaded and delicious. Rio offers Happy Hours Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. featuring half-price house drinks and appetizers. There is a large selection of Tequilas at the bar, and you can also create your own Margarita. Rio Bravo Tacos & Tequila is located at 1879 Palmer Ave., Larchmont. Open for lunch and dinner 7 days a week. Private party facilities for up to 60 guests; 914-341-1546; www.riobravotacosandtequila.com.

Festive Italian at the Diner. Chef-owner and personable host Dean Vivolo of Trattoria Vivolo, 301 Halstead Ave., Harrison, 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; Crostino di Polenta topped with wild mushrooms, gorgonzola and tomato sauce; Grilled Rack of Lamb; Braised Lamb Shanks; Boneless Rabbit; Lasagna Bolognese al Forno; and wonderful Spaghetti a la Vongole. Good wine list. Sparkling lights evenings. Open 7 days for lunch and dinner. Free parking; 914-835-6199; www.trattoriavivolo.com.

Celebrate Like a Gaucho. Gaucho Grill is one of the most dynamic restaurants in Westchester. This Argentinean/Latin/Italian themed venue always offers vibrant food and atmosphere, casual yet sophisticated. Proprietors Alan Nussbaum and his wife Maria Rubiano are amiable hosts who watch over this sprawling 225-seat multi-faceted establishment with a diligent eye. There are private and semi-private party facilities for up to 80 guests for all types of occasions. The private banquet room is beautifully appointed. Chef Angelo Magno’s specialties run the gamut from hefty steaks and chops, classic Italian dishes and beautifully plated Latin favorites. The Technicolor Sunday Buffet Brunch is a sight to behold and enjoy. Daily Happy Hours in the bar/lounge keep things buzzing. Open 7 days for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. Valet parking. Gaucho Grill, One North Broadway, White Plains; 914-437-9966; www.gauchogrillnewyork.com.

Lobster and Cheer on City Island. This restaurant would thrive anywhere but it’s right in the middle of City Island, the charming seaport village just below the Westchester line. The Zagat N.Y.C. Restaurant Survey designated Artie’s Steak & Seafood, 394 City Island Ave., one of the best in the Bronx. Owner Spiro Chagares and his staff offer patrons an inspired melding of traditional and contemporary dishes served with flair. Sit back in one of several refurbished dining areas and enjoy such changing specialties as: hearty Seafood Chowders; Smoked Salmon Roll-Ups; Wood Grilled Jumbo Shrimp and Scallops; hunks of tender Short Rib; a massive Zuppa Di Pesce; tender Oven Roasted Rack of Lamb; Chardonnay Poached Salmon with seafood; and fresh Lobster prepared in a variety of styles. There’s a loaded Lobster Salad Roll at lunch and their Mediterranean style Pizzas are good to share, too. Check out the redesigned bar/lounge most evenings for good networking. Private party facilities. Off premise catering. Open 7 days. Free parking; 718-885-9885; www.artiescityisland.com.

Holiday Steak and Chops. Proprietor Alex Ahmetaj, a veteran of the restaurant-hospitality field, updated the menu at his 120-seat restaurant and bar/lounge, Alex’s, offering big cuts of aged steaks and chops along with generously served Northern Italian/Continental fare. The staff brings years of experience and a European flair to White Plains. Customers enter the multi-section dining room through the inviting bar/lounge with its black industrial ceiling, banquets and soft lighting. The handsome dining room is split into cozy sections with white tablecloths, colorful deVelleneuve impressionist paintings and warming sconces. Mediterranean clay colored banquets and chairs compliment wooden walls and plush beige curtained windows. There is a seasonal outdoor deck facing North Broadway at the corner of Fisher Ave. Check out such specialties as: Pan Fried Calamari with hot cherry peppers, Linguini alla Vongole, a delicious fresh Branzino prepared tableside, classic Veal Parmigiana, grilled Filet Mignon, NY Sirloin Steak, or the Pork Chops. Save room for the house made Tiramisu or Cheesecake. Daily happy hours in the bar/lounge 4 to 7 p.m. Alex’s, 577 North Broadway, White Plains; 914-358-1444.

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

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