Calling all food lovers! Look no further for our top 11 picks for the hottest new restaurants to check out in Westchester County.
Written by Christiana Caruso and Michelle Gillan Larkin
It's unfortunate that COVID has closed a number of our favorite Westchester restaurants, but a healthy new crop has sprung up across the county over the past year, each answering the age-old question in a unique (and delicious) way: Where should we eat? From a noodle shop and mom-and-pop diner to a long-loved Manhattan refugee, a French-style restaurant, and a tapas joint in Rivertown, these are our top picks for a sparkling new dining experience in Westchester.
The vibrancy of Ani Ramen rushes at you from the moment you cross the neon-lit threshold, swirling from start to finish like an umami bomb dropped into your bowl of ramen. The animation of the space is heartily nourished by the richness of the food and the liveliness of the drinks. For drinks, Ani also offers draft cocktails, such as Princess Peach (white wine, white peach puree, pineapple, peach liqueur), and signature drinks such as the Okinawa Pineapple Old-Fashioned (Japanese whiskey, Okinawa brown sugar, pineapple). For purists, the bar serves seven kinds of sake and a handful of Japanese beers.
Pork belly bao buns. Photo courtesy of Anna Ramen.
Photo courtesy of Ana Ramen
It is impossible to overshadow the liveliness and warmth of the food. As the star of the show, Ani's ramen is top billing on the menu, and after your "love" sip, there's no going back. Partner/Executive Chef Julian Valencia works out of his own Sun Noodle Ramen in New Jersey to create his delicious bowls, delicately layered with fresh vegetables and spices. The eponymous signature bowl kicks off a ginger-infused dance party, with chopstick-tender pork belly and crunchy peanuts to add buttery texture.
Panko Shrimp Donburi Bowl. Photo courtesy of Anna Ramen.
Selected and specialty izakaya small plates are suitable for epicurean explorers. The two-bite soy-glazed chicken bao buns are fluffy and delicious, while the miso-sake-glazed wings have an audible and delicious crunch that will erase all Buffalonian iterations from your mind. Donburi bowls shouldn't be overlooked just because they're not ramen: pillow-cooked rice, sake-soy glaze, pickled vegetables, miso-dressed kale and pork, soy-glazed chicken, or panko shrimp. a sweet ramen alternative.
Kurobuta sausage with sweet-spicy glaze is an indispensable snack at Ani Ramen. Photo courtesy of Ana Ramen.
Chef Mark Taxiera came onto the Westchester culinary scene swinging. Previously the executive chef of a famous Russian tea house, Taxiera has mastered how to bend flavors to a crescendo on the palate. Combine that (literally) with restaurant manager wife Brianna Myers' successful career as GM of Eataly, BLT Steak and Loring Place, and you've got a creative, locally sourced menu and a bar program that's anything but basic. And don't let the restaurant's name set your expectations - this is not your nonna's Italian food. However, it is an homage to Taxiera's grandparents: from the kitchen of the restaurant named after his grandfather, he concocts fresh Italian comfort meals that his grandmother prepared for him growing up.
Malfada, with grass-fed beef and goat ricotta on top. Photo by Enormous Creative.
The culinary couple, who currently live in Manhattan, had Westchester in their sights for a while. "I grew up in Ossining, so Westchester was always on my mind," Taxiera says. "We have been in the city for 25 years. We wanted a new backdrop, and Mamaroneck was the perfect canvas for our debut. The culinary scene here is incredible, with so many talented chefs and great restaurants.”
Augustine's is a welcome addition to Mamaroneck, where pasta is made in its own style. Photo by Enormous Creative.
Pastas are made in-house, including malfada, paired with braised grass-fed beef from Walking R Ranch (where Taxiera and Myers source their ethically raised beef), red wine, tomato and whipped goat ricotta. For a must-have main course, pan-roasted Cornish hen with pickled cherry peppers and black garlic puree is a plate of tenderness wrapped in a savory bow.
“We're so blessed to plant the flag here, and the reception has been incredible,” says Taxiera.
After closing due to COVID and running a wildly successful business in Manhattan's Midtown West neighborhood, Albanian Aleks Kola and his partner, chef Paolo Catini from Rome, say they feel at home in Westchester, doing what they do best. "We are true to our commitment to bring passion, love and commitment to the table," says Kola. Much of that ethos stems from the initial part that involves treating customers like family. "It's as if they're having dinner at our place," says Kola. "That's how we see it."
By Miguel Rivas/Courtesy of Bass56
That level of inviting Albanian hospitality lends warmth to the chic, classy surroundings, and his partner's hearty Abruzzo cuisine lends an unmistakable family feel. Whitewashed walls and floor-to-ceiling windows inject a quality of uplifting brightness, while shelves lined with bottles of wine (mostly Italian and Californian) bring comfort to the fore.
The mountains of Abruzzo are home to game, Kola explains, suggesting that diners come hungry for meals packed with meat, such as the famous homemade spaghetti with juicy lamb ragout sauce and Pecorino Romano, served "Abruzzo style." Wild boar makes an appearance when available, and the proximity to the Adriatic translates into a number of seafood entrees on the menu, including lobster pancakes, another signature spot.
"Abruzzo produces the best chefs in the world," says Kola about his partner. Wines from the region feature on the restaurant's wine list, which is almost endless and, in many cases, excellent. Cocktail lovers can expect simple classics, shaken in a glassdigestiveflair.
Bra Le Steak
It's a delicate art form for perfecting the ideal combination of seasoning, cooking and presentation of a good steak. It's even more of a sign of a superior dining experience if your guests return to the pantries for salad dressing. Bistro Le Steak in Manhattan has now been reinvented as Brasserie Le Steak, taking the Palmer Avenue restaurant scene in Larchmont by its horns. "The community, and to a large extent the French community, has welcomed us here," says Yonkers resident and owner Nicki Jakupi.
Escargot at Brassiere Le Steak are served in the shell. Andre Baranowski
"I wanted you to feel like you could close your eyes and think you were in France," Jakupi says. Every bite is a portable experience. Even the garlic bread is a decadent pirouette of crusty French bread and salty garlic, paired with gorgonzola fondue for dipping. For starters worth a view of the Seine, Le Steak offers Provençal frog drumsticks, escargot served in traditional French style (shells and all) and a goat cheese tartlet with a homemade crust. Be sure to enjoy perfectly seasoned steak frites, crispy pan-seared brown trout or tender mussels marinière to round out the experience.
Beautiful Wine & Tapas Bar
After three decades of making near-perfect oven pizzas and churning out homemade ice cream at The Brick Oven Pizza, Frank Donato has finally used the extra space at his perennially popular Rivertown establishment to create the second coming of his culinary dream. “I always wanted to be involved in wine; I have a real passion for wine," he says. He also considers himself a "tapas guy" who really enjoys pairing his beloved Italian wines with Italian small plates (also full meals).
Photo courtesy of Bellacosa Wine & Tapas Bar
"My food is simple," he says. “It's fresh; it is made to order." This includes almost everything from the top of the menu crusty bread, which is homemade, to roast lamb, meatballs (traditional beef or crispy aubergine), handmade ricotta gnocchi and, of course, oven-baked pizza, prepared in a very artisanal way. “I'm not trying to be a superstar chef. I'm just trying to give you a good product - and I'm a good cook," he says with friendly honesty.
Of the five pies on the menu, the one with goat cheese, caramelized onions and a balsamic vinaigrette glaze proves a particularly smart order. Photo courtesy of Bellacosa Wine & Tapas Bar.
While the lights are dimmed and the atmosphere cozier on this brighter, newer side of Donato's mini-empire of Italian favorites, that good old ice cream that put it on the local mom party map is just as sweet in any light.
Family - more specifically, family dinner time that shouldn't be messed with - is the foundation on which this country newcomer is built. It's evident everywhere you look, from the casual, nostalgic decor to the comfortingly American yet top notch food.
A combination of classic American dishes with a twist makes a meal for visitors to Freddy's for snack, lunch or dinner. Photo by Tiffany Keegan.@breakfastatetiffany
"As kids, we made sure to be home at five o'clock every day," says chef Matt Safarowic, who co-owns the restaurant (named after his father) with his wife, Christina. “It wasn't about what we ate; it was about being together.”
Red and white checkered tablecloths — which always manage to screamfamilywherever they are placed — they command attention upon entry and exude an extremely warm welcome when set against rustic exposed brick and a wall full of family photos.
The menu is in perfect harmony with the atmosphere (which borders on raucous in the best possible way) and consists of everything made in house, starting with the focaccia starter and ending with the classic cake with chocolate layer and fruit. colorful cheesecake. Meanwhile, expect a melting pot of American dishes made with a classy, crowd-pleasing twist, including a dry-aged tavern burger, organic fried chicken with grilled sweet potatoes, a handful of fresh fish entrees, vegan risotto and outstanding lemon spaghetti.
The beverage program is highlighted by an array of taps pouring mostly local beer and house wine, along with reimagined old-school cocktails (Dirty Shirley, anyone?), making for relaxed, fun gatherings over dinner, weekend brunch, or late-midweek happy hour. "No pretense, just fun," says Christina.
The current revitalization of New Rochelle can only be complete with the addition of an elevated, walk-through kitchen. For chef Chris dos Reis, the culinary revolution is personal. Being born and raised in New Rochelle, his excitement at witnessing his city suddenly being on the minds of the masses is palpable.
Duck breast with berries, roasted mushrooms and quince at Town House. Andre Baranowski
"Seeing guests' faces light up as they talk about how much they love having a restaurant with a community feel so close to home really helps them feel welcome in the city," says dos Reis. "It's good to know that our mission to be a restaurant for New Rochelle and the surrounding communities is felt."
Town House's menu consists of small plates inspired by the cooking at the time of dos Reis in Europe. Enjoy a little bit of everything from sourdough chicken liver mousse, beef tartare with pommes allumettes and chorizo sabayon, oysters and green bean kimchi tempura that will have you daydreaming about crunching them a week later. Homemade sourdough bread with home-grown butter is no sleeper and is the perfect vehicle for soaking up leftover toppings and sauces from the plate (don't leave a culinary bite).
Clockwise: tahini chicory salad, aged manchego, sweet walnuts; seafood rice lobster; heirloom romesco carrots
The cocktail menu is as exploratory as the menu, offering drams called the Clarified Milk Punch (a blend of rum, citrus, spices and fig leaves) and the Fix & Chill (buttered bourbon, caramel and popcorn).
In the eyes of dos Reis, there is still work to be done to reach the echelon of the neighborhood. "We hope to have a greater impact and voice in our community and invite more guests through our doors as more people move in and decide to call the Queen City home."
In an intimate space on Main Street in small downtown Tuckahoe, Yonkers native Nickolas Odoardi offers a carefully curated menu of Italian specialties that stem from his father's roots in Italy's Abruzzo region. As a sign of respect for his ancestors, he wants to introduce a sense of "old world tradition and nostalgia" through the quality and taste of his home-cooked food. "No matter how you grew up, you have a sense of home cooking and warm hospitality," he says.
With little formal culinary training, Odoardi relies on his natural flair for cooking. "I'm the black sheep of the family," he says, noting that most of his relatives own car dealerships throughout Yonkers. "I went in a different direction," spending his time behind the stoves of well-known Westchester restaurants (The Cookery, MP Taverna).
By Tiffany Keegan/ Courtesy of ODO
In his own restaurant, Odoardi serves meat that he prepares himself, such as prosciutto, and offers a small selection of popular pastas (the one with olive oil, garlic, anchovies, pepperoncini and parsley is a must), whole fish appetizers and signaturespeducc(above), which roughly translates to "lamb on a stick in a clay pot".
Its special prix fixe Sunday dinners are a big draw and a homemade Italian treat. "We feed you just like your nonna would," reads the web no-nonsense, touting an ever-changing menu of family-style pastas, proteins, desserts and a few bottles of wine for parties of at least four. "When I was building the place, my goal was not to look like a restaurant," says Odoardi. "And when the staff came, my goal was not to feel like I was in a restaurant." With wines by the glass or bottle, Italian beer, and classic and seasonal craft cocktails, it's no surprise that cozy little ODO keeps pace with the more established big boys — four nearby — that dominate Lower Westchester's Italian restaurant scene.
Beginners on the border
These two Connecticut restaurants beckon beyond the county lines.
Latin American fare, mostly tapas and tacos, is what you can expect at this second foray into our area by Jean-Georges Vongerichten (his Pound Ridge inn is in the same town as the Michelin-starred chef's country estate). The kitchen, led by executive chef Ron Gallo, formerly of the Inn at Pound Ridge and JoJo's on the Upper East Side, offers sweet crispy-edged broccoli rabe quesadillas, smoked ham and Manchego cheese fritters, pistachio guacamole and arroz con pollo with chunks of addictive cracked skin. A margarita menu that reflects the seasons is a highlight behind the bar, and honey pumpkin cake and Mexican chocolate pudding are the ultimate homemade desserts. The casually chic spaces include moss green banquettes, rattan lights and a communal table behind which is a mural depicting Frida Kahlo with her pet spider monkey.
Courtesy of Jean-Georges Management
Sourcing ingredients from top suppliers, including Tokyo's famed Tsukiji outdoor market, this highly sophisticated yet warmly welcoming fine dining restaurant on Greenwich Ave offers authentic hot and cold Japanese specialties with equal precision and flair. “I strive to exceed expectations with every detail, from our modern Japanese-inspired interior and professional service to the quality ingredients that go into each dish,” says co-owner K Dong, who also runs sister spot Kumo in Scarsdale. The raw fish is definitely a standout, especially when served as a Nori taco, but the soup dumplings and king crab hotpot are not to be missed. Make a reservationomakasea chef's table experience like no other.
Courtesy of Hinoki
A TV-free cocktail bar that avoids the typical
Raconteur Bar & Kitchen
Don't expect Coors Light, cheap well drinks or wings and pizza at chef/owner (and Croton native) Michael Boulos' sleek nightclub. What you can expect (from a kitchen too cramped to accommodate more than one chef) is a small menu of inventive, deeply satisfying small plates and flourishing charcuterie and cheese boards that pair phenomenally with ultra-fresh, house-made, fine-tuned cocktails .
Photo by Michael Boulos
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