Photo by Oleg March Photogaphy
When you think of a takeout restaurant, what do you see? Generally, you’re thinking storefront joints of the Chinese or pizzeria variety, though some may also picture Mexican or Thai spots. What these theoretical takeout restaurants all have in common is a sense of humility; if a restaurant happily sells you food to take home, chances are, it’s not cheffed by a celebrity.
Think again. Westchester openings by Chef Shea Gallante and Chef Michael Psilakis (both recipients of Food & Wine’s coveted Best New Chef Award) recently debuted with takeout food as a part of their programs. They join James Beard Award-winning Chef Andy Nusser of Port Chester’s Tarry Lodge, who, last year, instituted Tarry to Go, a menu on which Tarry Lodge’s famed antipasti, pastas, sides, and mains join the expected takeout fare of pizzas. Says Chef Psilakis of the new takeout scene, “You can attribute it to the ‘Whole Foods-ization’ of the suburbs. Diners are looking for organic and healthy food. They’re not going to feed their families junk. Here in the suburbs where lifestyle is defined by the home, commuters want to pick up something easy that they can feel good about giving to their families.” These diners, he says, “are willing to pay more than they would for delivery pizza—but, at MP Taverna, our prices are still pretty reasonable. And people in Westchester have invested a lot in order to enjoy their homes. Who wouldn’t want to take food home and eat in some of these kitchens?”
Along with the option to take home any dish from MP Taverna (except many pastas, which, Psilakis says, “don’t travel well”), Psilakis recently debuted MP Stop & Go, a gourmet deli located around the corner from MP Taverna. The shop will offer delicatessen meats (roast beef, ham, mortadella, etc.) fully prepared by the MP Taverna kitchen staff, plus soups, salads, and a steam-table section with comfort-food classics like chicken piccata. Soon, both MP Taverna and MP Stop & Go will have an ordering system designed for use by smartphone.
Chef Shea Gallante of Ardsley’s Italian Kitchen opened this summer with the promise that diners could take his menu to go. “Takeout is a big part of the dining culture of Ardsley. Just look at the street: It’s dominated by takeout places.” Does Gallante worry that his reputation, hard won in elite Manhattan restaurants like Cru and Ciano, could be dinged by diners who wait too long to enjoy the dish, or abuse it in their microwaves? Once a dish walks out the door, a chef has no control over the way that it’s experienced. “No, I don’t worry. People generally understand the deal, and, when I hand it over to them, I try to take the time to explain.” Recently, Gallante invested in 12-inch pizza boxes for Italian Kitchen’s flatbread pizzas, though he’s quailing at the idea of offering his carefully wrought soups in the plastic pint containers that usually hold wonton soup. “I was ladling my soup into one of these containers and it had all these vegetables. I was thinking, ‘this really deserves to be in a nice bowl.’”
Takeout is a brave move in the echelon of restaurants that have invested in expensive decor, cocktails, and a wine list. The ambience of a restaurant is tough to recreate in a takeout container, and the sale of alcohol—illegal with takeout—is usually a major earner. But the payoff for restaurateurs is that the number of diners is unrestricted by the size of their dining rooms. While Shea Gallante’s mobbed Italian Kitchen may be tiny, hopefuls don’t need to go hungry. They might not get his soup, but they can snag his pastas, roasted chicken, and flatbreads to enjoy at home.
You can now pick up MP Taverna’s spicy pork-ribs appetizer ($13) and eat them with your family around the kitchen table.