Simply Good Italian
Don’t expect novelty from the menu at Boe@324, just really good, honest food, expertly prepared.
The decor at Boe@324 is as inviting as the food is delicious (above).
Don’t let the annoying name or the Sopranos-esque website deter you. Beneath the swagger lies a restaurant with the soul of an earnest and devoted artisan.
Okay, so you might think otherwise when, on a busy Friday night, a tuxedo-clad magician makes his way from table to table in the heavily decorated dining room, performing card tricks and sleights of hand. Whether you find it amusing or intrusive, the simple fact is the restaurant doesn’t need these parlor tricks.
The food is neither magical nor mysterious. It will not seduce you with fascinating contortions or risky combinations. It is as approachable as your closest friend and as easy to enjoy as a Sunday afternoon.
At its heart, this is an Italian restaurant (the restaurant’s name is short for one of the owner’s names, Michael Boemio). It bills itself as “New American with Italian Flair,” but the reverse is more accurate. Granted, the two large, moist meatballs atop slices of grilled bread were made with decidedly un-Italian Kobe beef, but the gentle seasoning and accompaniments —shaved ricotta salata and marinara—made this a dish ready to take on Nonna’s best.
We could have popped crisp golden rings of tender calamari into our mouths as if we were enjoying popcorn at the movies, but we paused long enough to try the classic marinara—and the wonderfully creamy, rich, and slightly spicy avocado salsa verde. The menu calls Boe’s crab cake “award winning,” and we agree. It was all fresh, sweet crab—no detectable fillers or binders—held together by a barely-there crisp coating. The basil-and-red pepper aioli was tasty and married beautifully with the crab cake, but we were so enamored by the simple crab cake, we barely touched the sauce.
There is purity to the food at Boe@324. In almost amusing opposition to the website and décor, the fare is consistently simple and straightforward. Every dish we tried was well prepared. Boe@324 is not about culinary innovation—it is about making good food right. Not fancy, not elevated, and not affected. Just plain old good. A pounded, breaded veal chop is not fraught with drizzles and sauces and extraneous detail: it is breaded and fried just so, to maximize but not manipulate the inherent flavor and texture of the meat.
In this age of celebrating an ingredient—how it was raised, where, and by whom—whether by design or not, Boe swims against the tide. Here, the focus is not necessarily the ingredient, but often the simple preparation.
A bowl of squid-ink pasta tasting delicately of the briny, sweet sea was topped with two enormous, tender, perfectly cooked shrimp, clams, and lump crab meat, and lightly dressed with a slightly spicy marinara: no trickery or surprises, but every ingredient was cooked to perfection. And, as with many other dishes, there was enough on this one plate for two meals.
Shredded moist short-rib meat was tempered ever so slightly by the mild acidity of tomato and sweet creaminess of fresh ricotta cheese, and then cloaked in sheets of handmade pasta. This is the sort of dish you think about the morning after—and smile when you realize you brought half home for today’s lunch.
A gargantuan double-cut Berkshire pork chop was impossibly moist and tender throughout: a slightly spicy crust and a topping of sweet and hot peppers gave the mild meat a little kick, while caramelized shallots lent the balancing sweet touch.
The crisp-skinned duck breast was one of the few dishes served in a “regular” portion size, although, here, it looked positively tiny, the way an ordinary box of crackers does at Costco. A tower of earthy lentils and braised chard was a lovely accompaniment,
but a pomegranate sauce and blood oranges seemed to vie for attention. This was the one dish we tried that had muddled flavors.
There were no complaints about the juicy grilled 18-ounce prime rib. A roasted-garlic herb butter described on the menu was MIA, but this was, plain and simple, a really good steak cooked just right.
Desserts were not as consistently terrific and straightforward as our dinners. We loved a chocolate pyramid filled with slightly crunchy hazelnut semifreddo, but most of the flavor of a cheesecake came from its biscotti topping. Crème brûlée was similarly bland, and slightly grainy as well, but an apple-and-blueberry tart in a thick crust tasted like home.
The disconnect between Boe@324’s fancy airs and its disarmingly, charmingly straightforward food and expert preparations make us feel as though it is a hidden gem—a great find disguised as yet another fairly expensive modern Italian-American restaurant. But it’s not. We assure you, it’s not.
324 Central Ave, White Plains
(914) 684-8855; www.boeat324.com
lunch Mon to Fri 11:30 am – 3 pm;
dinner Mon to Thurs 4-10 pm, Fri and Sat 4-11 pm, Sun 4-8 pm.
â˜…â˜…â˜…â˜…—Outstanding â˜…â˜…â˜…—Very Good