First Taste: Shea Gallante Manages a Soft Opening at Ardsley’s Italian Kitchen (but We Still Snuck in and Guess What? It’s Killer!); Sauvignon Blanc around the World with Wine Geeks of Armonk; and The Cookery’s Tasso Ham

First Taste: Italian Kitchen

Pardon the stock image, but my Secret Spy camera/brooch was in the shop. For great Italian Kitchen food pics, check out Italian Kitchen’s site

I’d like to use this space to air a complaint. Before this tarnished age of bloggers, Chowhounds, and Yelp helpers, restaurateurs debuted with something called a “soft opening.” There was a quiet, almost poignant, moment when they flipped their CLOSED sign to OPEN, and then waited with all the intense, silent hope of a proud new parent.

Cue today and the blogosphere (and dishrags like me) that gallop en masse to new restaurants before they’ve worked out the kinks. I mean, imagine! Your first day of work, and your business is packed with spotty Yelp yutzes who live-tweet all of your newby goofs as they happen in real time with pictures. But, here’s the thing: EDP’s First Tastes are not critical reviews. We just get through the door to tell you what’s on the other side. And, folks, behind Italian Kitchen’s door lies something worth talking about.

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It seems like I just said this about MP Taverna (because I just did), but run, don’t walk, to Italian Kitchen. Though its décor comes dangerously close to pleasant, but ordinary (with reclaimed barn boards, yellow walls, and the now de rigueur shelf of cookbooks and kitchen tools), there are dishes on this taut menu that clearly mean to etch themselves in your memory. Folks, I’m a pizza purist, but I still can’t forget Italian Kitchen’s tender grilled pizza of pecorino and guanciale—its heavenly texture, its chew, the way char and piggy cured jowl were perfectly supported by smoked onions and a summery pesto. I don’t mind telling you, this sucker widened my pizza horizons into some pretty titillating geography.Helloooo, Mr. Grilled Pizza—I like the cut of your jib.

Two of Chef Shea Gallante’s other ventures (Cru and Ciano) have been roundly praised for this native Westchesterite’s way with pasta. And all of the pasta at Italian Kitchen is made in-house under longtime Gallante associate Chef Paul Mancebo, and bear the charming irregularities of a handmade product. While the sauce on our cavatelli Amatriciana was a strangely mellow and ragu-like version of the chili-spiked standard, what a tasty bowl of pasta it was. Each of the cavatelli was resilient to the bite and delicious in itself. The sauce, sparingly used, was rich, carnal, and sweetly acid. At $13 to $17 per amply sized portion (which, BTW, IK is happy to split between two as a pasta course), the tenderly crafted pastas at Italian Kitchen are an absolute steal.

More delightful pasta appeared in the form of tiny gnocchetti that arrived with my secondo of (it must be said, over-firm) black bass served with tart black olives, tomatoes, and capers. The gnocchetti were slippery, having sucked up the olive oil, tomato juice, and sprightly brine, but so highly rewarding to hunt down on the plate. Even with the dry bass, this dish was a winner—and, priced at $26, it felt like a bargain. Sadly, moisture (and spice) also eluded a main of pork medallions whose partners were advertised on the menu as “spicy ragu, zucchini, eggplant, and cherry peppers.” Never mind. Only four days into its run, Italian Kitchen has our attention. I know I’ll return for every other dish on this menu. Pounce.


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The Cookery Presents “A Taste of Slovenia” to Benefit Autism Speaks

September 24, 7:30  – 10:30 pm

$150 per person

From the invitation: “Join Chef David DiBari, Cookery Wine Director, Ralph Rubino, Cookery Special Events Planner, Bjorn Van Wyngaart and Slovenian Wine Importer Emil Gaspari in the fight against autism. Slovenian wine is an untapped market flourishing with bright, untapped grapes harvested for their opulent juices and their amazing ability to compliment Chef David’s food.” The evening will include a five-station wine dinner, music, dancing, and a live auction. The Cookery will donate a portion of its profits to benefit Autism Speaks of Westchester/Fairfield Communities “ For more information, visit Autism Speaks.


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Sauvignon Blanc around the World at Wine Geeks of Armonk
August 18, 7 pm – 8:30 pm
$35 per person (for education materials)
Reservations are required as seating is limited. Call (914) 273-WINE (9463)

From the site: “Join us to explore the varied expressions of this refreshing varietal from regions all
around the world including Napa, Bordeaux, the Loire Valley, New Zealand and
Long Island. Discussion led by Sommelier Derek Todd.”


Tasso Ham at The Cookery

The idea that travel broadens the mind goes double for chefs. David DiBari, chef/owner of The Cookery and DoughNation Pizza Truck, has not let his visits to New Orleans go to waste. At The Cookery, he offers the delightful Louisianan specialty, tasso ham; it’s actually not ham at all, but a sort of a corned, cayenne-spiced, pork pastrami. Like pastrami, tasso ham is fatty and very tender—but, unlike pastrami, it’s got a bit of a kick. Yum.

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