Where and How to Celebrate the Holidays, Part I
By Morris Gut
It will be a holiday season like no other as we navigate COVID-19. Some towns and villages have put up lights and decorations early. We do deserve some delicious fun. So, whether you’ve been naughty or nice, it’s time to make plans with friends and family.
If you are planning a remote ZOOM gathering, that’s preferred. If you are planning to gather with friends and family, make sure you follow the latest COVID protocols. If you are dining out, restaurants have been trying their best to adhere to the guidelines. Take-out and delivery from your favorite eatery is a fine option, too.
Here are some festive suggestions for every palate, each offering a good dose of holiday cheer. Seasoned greetings!
Mulino’s Holiday Fest
The show will go on at Mulino’s of Westchester in White Plains. Begin with the bright glittering lights at the entranceway along Court Street. The annual Christmas Holiday Fest lasts through the season and it’s a sight to behold for the whole family! The fountain garden is beautiful as is the lavish dining room and bar and 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 the handsome multilevel seating area. A special holiday menu is served. Open seven days. Valet parking. COVID-19 protocols will be in place. Time slot reservations advised.
Mulino’s of Westchester is located at 99 Court St. in White Plains. Info: 914-761-1818 or visit www.mulinosny.com.
Modern Italian Vintage Diner
Chef-owner and personable host Dean Vivolo of Trattoria Vivolo in Harrison serves his robust regional Italian cuisine out of a vintage diner just across from the Harrison 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; occasional roasted porchetta; and warm fresh Zabaglione with fresh fruit for dessert.
There’s a good wine list. Sparkling lights evenings. Take-out and delivery are available. Free parking.
Trattoria Vivolo is located at 301 Halstead Ave. in Harrison. Info: 914-835-6199 or visit www.trattoriavivolo.com.
I have been enjoying my visits to Freebird Kitchen & Bar. There have been delicious offerings of succulent half-racks of baby back ribs, Cobb salad, spicy chicken wings and crispy Brussels sprouts, all reasonably priced. There are shrimp and grits and braised short ribs, too. The cooking here is satisfying and quite good, all done with a southern theme. Portions are ample and shareable. The seasonal lighting and artsy birds hanging from the ceiling in the dining room create a charming atmosphere.
Freebird has made special physical COVID-19 guideline changes to the bar and dining room area. There is seating outdoors along Mamaroneck Avenue and its rooftop is open as well. Happy hours are back: Tuesday through Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. and Fridays from 2 to 6 p.m.
Freebird Kitchen & Bar is located at 161 Mamaroneck Ave. in White Plains. Open daily. Take-out and delivery. Info: 914-607-2476 or visit www.freebirdkitchenandbar.com.
Creatively Festive at The 808 Bistro
Marking its 10th year, this eclectic Italian-American eatery on Scarsdale Avenue in Scarsdale, glows nightly in a rainbow of alternating colors. Glistening ceramic and metal tiles highlight the 50-seat dining room and ceiling. There is modern artwork, and the lighting and silver metal chairs softened by stressed leather seats offer comfort, as does the friendly staff. It’s a Manhattan vibe and it’s all kept properly casual.
Chef-owner Sal Cucullo Jr. is a Culinary Institute of America graduate who practically grew up in restaurants, working kitchens owned by his family as well venues of every stripe. In short, 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 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 808 Bistro is located at 808 Scarsdale Ave. in Scarsdale. Info: 914-722-0808 or visit www.the808bistro.com.
Feliz Navidad at Cantina
Cantina Taqueria & Tequila Bar is always festive. While most patrons concentrate on the tasty tacos, I also enjoy the crispy Mango-Jerk chicken wings and additional Tex-Mex treats.
Professional actor, proprietor and host John Solo has created a sprawling rustic multilevel interior dining room and long bar. This management operates several other restaurants in New York City: two in Harlem, and The Grand in Astoria, Queens.
Tempting specialties include Modelo beer-battered fish tacos, garlic shrimp and chicken-lime bowl, served with rice, peppers, black beans, sliced avocado and fresh corn. The restaurant is open seven days a week.
Cantina Taueria & Tequila Bar is located at 166 Mamaroneck Ave. in White Plains. Info: 914-601-1697 or visit www.cantinany.com.
Aged Steaks, Chops at Alex’s Bar & Grille
Proprietor Alex Ahmetaj, a veteran of the restaurant and hospitality field, updated the menu at Alex’s Bar & Grille offering big cuts of aged steaks and chops along with generously served Northern Italian and Continental fare. The handsome dining room is split into cozy sections with white tablecloths, colorful deVilleneuve impressionist paintings and warming candlelight. Mediterranean clay-colored banquets and chairs complement wooden walls and plush beige curtained windows.
Check out specialties such as pan-fried calamari with hot cherry peppers; Linguini alla Vongole (a delicious fresh Branzino prepared tableside); classic veal parmigiana; grilled filet mignon; New York sirloin or rib-eye steak; and pork chops.
Alex’s Bar & Grille is located at 577 N. Broadway in North White Plains. Open daily. Free parking. Info: 914-358-1444 or visit www.alexsbarandgrille.com.
As a reminder, during ongoing pandemic, restaurants have been stepping up take-out and delivery service during prescribed hours. At this writing, restaurants are required to close by 10 p.m., though pick-up and delivery can continue. Some establishments offer in-house delivery and curbside pick-up.
Also, many restaurants subscribe to larger online delivery services you can check in your area. They include Uber Eats: www.uber.com; GrubHub: www.grubhub.com; Door Dash: www.doordash.com; Seamless: www.seamless.com; and www.resy.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 at firstname.lastname@example.org.