Old-Fashioned Hearty Italian Flavors Delight at Casa Rina

menu moversBy Morris Gut

Casa Rina of Thornwood on Commerce Street is a throwback restaurant, to the days when the Italian-American kitchen reigned supreme. There are Sinatra photos on one wall while Marilyn Monroe pictures highlight another.

When I stopped by one afternoon there was a room full of seniors networking and obviously enjoying the fare.

It had been years since I visited the sprawling house that is Casa Rina, a restaurant, catering facility and bar/lounge all in one. Owner Tommy Stratis took it over 20 years ago and has been keeping the creative juices flowing.

After taking a quick walk through, I took a seat at the wraparound bar and ordered a Captain Lawrence. The friendly waiter brought me a copy of the menu. There they were, listed one after the other, the classics – hot antipasto for two; manicotti; rigatoni with broccoli rabe and sausage; chicken parmigiana Scarpariello-style; a big zuppa di pesce; shrimp scampi; and, yes, veal saltimbocca. Memories galore hit my palate!

What caught my eye, though, was a sign on the reception table: “Martinis & Meatballs @ Casa Rina, Friday Nights, 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. $6 Martinis & Unlimited Complimentary Meatballs, and live DJ entertainment to boot.”

The meatballs did it for me. At that moment I craved a dose of comfort.

I asked the waiter if they had some meatballs in the kitchen and he gladly said yes. I ordered a platter off the reasonably-priced Happy Hour menu. They were quite large and came with a very tasty tomato sauce and a dollop of creamy ricotta cheese on top.

I also ordered a nice helping of broccoli rabe on the side. Just had to have it. I am pleased to report both were delicious. Good Italian bread and condiments came along with it. Will return down the line for one of those classics.

Casa Rina of Thornwood is located at 886 Commerce St. in Thornwood. Open seven days for lunch and dinner. Catering facilities. Check website for the latest hours and updates. Info: 914-769-4515 or visit www.casarinarestaurant.com.

Melting Pot in White Plains takes fondue to a new level.
Wednesday is Friends Day at Melting Pot

Melting Pot in White Plains has started Wednesday Friends Day with what they call a “Best Fondue Friends Forever” menu. Specially-priced three- and four-course meals are served featuring some of their most popular specialties.  

For example, a cheese fondue comes with special premium dippers including prosciutto, summer sausage, French baguette, pretzel bread, honey wheat bread, seasonal vegetables and fruit. Pick a fresh salad of choice.

The special chocolate fondue with another round of premium dippers includes macaroons, crème puffs, brownies, blondies, Rice Krispies treats and pound cake along with Oreo-dusted marshmallows, fresh strawberries, banana and pineapple. Yes, you are reading that correctly.

Diners can create a four-course meal by adding an entrée. Price for a three-course selection is $29.95; the four-course meal costs $39.95.

Melting Pot is a national chain based in south Florida, bringing the fondue experience to the public since 1975. Frankly, it has been years since I visited a Melting Pot. Will give it a try in the near future.

Melting Pot is located at 30 Mamaroneck Ave. in White Plains. Info (including hours of service): 914-993-6358 or visit www.meltingpot.com/white-plains-ny.

Chef Residencies Redux at Stone Barns

Last year I reported about the imaginative job Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills was doing with its resourcED food boxes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Their popular guest chef residency program is also starting a new season. Guest chefs are selected from diverse backgrounds and bring their unique culinary vision to the Blue Hill kitchen and the public.

This year’s chef residencies include Pitmaster Bryan Furman (barbecue) through May 29 and Pam Yung’s pizza dining experience (Aug. 25-Sept. 18). Those will be offered outdoors in a casual atmosphere.

Diners are invited to explore the farm before and after their reservation time to learn more about the ingredients and practices behind their meals.

Chefs Jorge Vallejo (June 2-26), Jonathan Tam (June 30-July 24) and Adrienne Cheatham (July 28-Aug. 21) will follow Stone Barns’ tasting menu format.

According to Stone Barns Chef Dan Barber, the residencies are “a celebration of many of the complex, delicious traditions that make up the American foodscape, carried out by chefs who are deeply rooted in connections to agriculture and the cuisines they will share with us.”

For bios, check the website. Subscriptions are available.

Blue Hill at Stone Barns is located at 630 Bedford Rd. in Tarrytown. Info: 914-366-9600. For updated dining hours and to make guest chef residency reservations, visit www.bluehillfarm.com https://stonebarnscenter.org/residency.

Steam Table Available at Pizza Cucina

It’s an old-fashioned dining concept and still highly popular at markets, bodegas and even the occasional gas station.

The daily steam table is also alive and well at none other than Pizza Cucina in White Plains. I sat at the cozy bar recently and watched patron after patron order their fill. A local cop, hospital workers, teachers, mechanics, landscapers were all part of the mix.

On this day, hot and hearty specials on the steam table included chicken and sweet Italian sausage Contadina; penne with meat sauce; sautéed cauliflower and carrots; rice with diced veggies; and sweet potato fries.

On another day the steam table’s main course was sea bass oreganata. Accompanying it were penne Bolognese, grilled asparagus and sautéed carrots and rice with veggies. The mix-and-match meals are sold in small and large containers and are reasonably priced at about $8 to $10.

Pizza Cucina is located at 102 W. Post Rd. in White Plains. Open seven days. Info: 914-752-4611 or visit www.pizzacucinawp.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 may be reached at 914-235-6591 or gutreactions@optonline.net.

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