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Places to Eat Before or After the Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show

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A plate of ravioli stuffed with mushrooms at Mamma Francesca in New Rochelle.

By Morris Gut

The glittering 31st Holiday Train Show is on track through Jan. 16 at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx near Fordham University. It’s an annual seasonal treat that draws thousands from the Hudson Valley, a must for the young and the young at heart.

I look forward to visiting the Botanical Garden, walking through the beautifully restored Enid Haupt Conservatory and seeing the seductive floral arrangements and dramatic plantings. For additional information, times and advance tickets, visit www.nybg.org.

After taking in all that beauty, we do get hungry. Here are some easy-to-reach suggestions not far from the garden.


Arthur Avenue is a quick commute from the Botanical Garden. Since 1919, five generations of the Migliucci family have worked the front and back of the house, making sure patrons are served well at this venerable institution. Amiable Regina Migliucci is at the helm.

For starters, enjoy the palate-pleasing lagniappe of marinated carrots, hot peppers and delicious, crusty Arthur Avenue bread. Great appetizers include the hot antipasto platter for two and the Spiedini alla Romana (skewered deep-fried mozzarella sandwiches).

Then move on to entrees such as the penne rustica with sausage, stuffed braciola napolitana, a generous portion of osso buco or the traditional chicken parmigiana.

Open Tuesday through Sunday. Private party facilities. Free parking lot and valet service.

Mario’s is located at 2342 Arthur Ave. in the Bronx. Info: 718-584-1188 or visit www.mariosrestarthurave.com.

Mamma Francesca

When Nick DiCostanzo was growing up on the Island of Ischia on the Coast of Naples in Italy, his earliest memories were of the simple seaside meals he would enjoy with his family, farm to table and, of course, sea to table.

As proprietor of Mamma Francesca for nearly 40 years, located on the banks of Long Island Sound with six-story views of the Queen City’s boat clubs, his culinary philosophy still holds true, albeit with a sprinkling of contemporary taste. There are private and semi-private party facilities for up to 100 guests, and catering packages to suit your needs.

Robust Italian American specialties include freshly made manicotti, calamari fritti, Ischia Salad, chicken parmigiana and misto frutti di mare. There’s rabbit cacciatore, too. 

There are daily happy hours, off-premise catering and a new woodburning pizza oven. Free parking.

Mamma Francesca is located at 414 Pelham Rd. in New Rochelle. Info: 914-636-1229 or visit www.mammafrancesca.com.


Owner Spiros Chagares and his staff offer patrons an inspired melding of traditional and contemporary dishes served with flair.

Sit in one of several dining areas and enjoy changing specialties like the hearty seafood chowders; smoked salmon roll-ups; wood-grilled jumbo shrimp and scallops; the 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 are large combo platters and a loaded lobster salad roll at lunch. A selection of craft beers is available.

Check out the bar and lounge most evenings for networking. Private party facilities available. Open seven days. Free parking.

Artie’s is located at 394 City Island Ave. in the Bronx. Info: 718-885-9885 or visit www.artiescityisland.com.


Three-time winners of Michelin’s prestigious Bib Gourmet Award, brothers Peter and Giovanni Cucullo have been causing a stir in New Rochelle, drawing patronage from all over Westchester to their flavorful riff on Italian and global cooking.

I love their happy hours from 3 to 7 p.m. when they offer some favorite beverages and small plates that are loaded with flavor. I am already hooked on such eclectic dishes as the glazed pork ribs, truffled green beans, grilled sausage with sweet and spicy Peruvian peppers, Mom’s meatballs, cauliflower fritters and roasted shishito peppers.

There’s a nice dining room and bar filled with artifacts from home. Friendly staff, too. It’s also a good networking spot. The family also operates bustling Fratelli’s Pizza & Pasta and Pop’s Espresso Bar next door.

Maria is located at 11 Huguenot St. in New Rochelle. Info: 914-636-0006 or visit www.marianewrochelle.com. Closed Sundays.

Jack’s Bar

Owner Shane Clifford and his friendly crew have delicious finger foods and generous specialties coming out of Chef Brendan Donohoe’s kitchen. There are great burgers, decadent short rib mac and cheese, Jack’s meatballs, seared scallops, chicken curry, shroom pizza out of their woodfired oven, the Berkshire pork chop and grilled lamb sliders. Their full Irish breakfast at brunch is a winner. Open seven days for lunch and dinner, plus Sunday brunch.

Jack’s Bar is located at 219 Main St. in Eastchester. Info: 914-652-7650 or visit www.jackseastchester.com.

Ernie’s Wine Bar & Eats

Out of this tiny kitchen come laudatory renditions of American and global dishes bursting with flavor. Also, oenophiles take note. The carefully selected wines served here, many from small-batch independent producers, can be heavenly. It is a wonderful place to unwind, take in some music on special nights and indulge. The small bar is great for networking, too.

Recent food tastings here have included escargot, Provençale style, Luisanna’s amazing meatballs, a cheese and charcuterie platter, duck wontons, duck confit, a wonderful fettuccine carbonara and mushroom and pea risotto.

There is live entertainment. Check ahead for updates. Open Monday through Saturday for happy hour and dinner.

Ernie’s is located at 7 Pondfield Rd. in Bronxville. Info: 914-652-7859 or visit www.ernieswinebar.com.

Dining at NYBG

There are themed dining pavilions throughout the park and near the Enid Haupt Pavilion: the casual Pine Tree Café and farm-to-table Hudson Garden Grill. Open daily. Early dining is recommended since they keep garden hours to 6 p.m. most days.

Info: 646-627-7711 or 718-817-8700 or visit www.nybg.org/visit/dining.

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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