Nestled between provincial storefronts and across the street from an Episcopalian church sits Guida’s, a bastion of gracious dining in Ossining for nearly 11 years. No haven for the avant-garde, Guida’s charm lies rather in its steadfast admiration for tradition and family. To this day, the three founding Guida brothers continue to man their original posts. While chef Rocco, the eldest and least conspicuous sibling, spends most of his time in the kitchen, his younger brothers, Luigi and Carmelo, hold court in the dining room.
The Guida brothers spent their formative years in Salerno, the Campania region of Italy on the southern tip of the Amalfi coast. Interestingly enough, it is the immigrants from the
Don’t expect to be blown away by the dÃ©cor. Both the upstairs and downstairs dining rooms are quite simple, enhanced by only the most delicate rococo accents. The use of mirrors is fun, however, and those who scoff at the dÃ©cor will soon learn that the experience of dining at Guida’s has nothing to do with artifice. The informal atmosphere promotes the jovial quality so integral to Guida’s success. One of the dining room’s walls boasts a long banquette which allows diners to be placed quite close together. The tables nearly flow into each other, permitting the hosts to make their guests feel as though they are part of an extended family.
The wine list is predictable but thorough; expect all the usual staples from Tuscany and Piedmont. Specific vintages were mysteriously absent from the lista di vino. In spite of this minor annoyance, the sommelier was quite willing to verify vintages with Carmelo. Appropriately described as velvety and full-bodied, the 1996 Pio Cesare Barolo ($75) was a brilliant suggestion that confirmed the awesome majesty of the nebbiolo grape. While so many Italian restaurants pride themselves on offering only Italian wines, the big surprise at Guida’s is that the list includes both California varietals and a small selection of French champagnes.
The selection of Antipasto Misto is designed to stimulate the palate. The Antipasto Caldo Per Due ($17.95) consisted of simple but tasty broiled shrimp, mushrooms stuffed to perfection, well intentioned but overdone baked clams and mussels oreganate and exceptionally prepared eggplant rollatina, delicious cylinders of eggplant wrapped around fresh ricotta cheese. One of our neighbors enjoyed a rather impressive plate of prosciutto e melone ($10.95), and the mozzarella alla caprese ($10.95) came highly recommended. On the whole, the introductions were good, but the rather bland bread could definitely profit from some fresh olive oil.
The pasta section was most impressive, offering specialties ranging from capellini alla carbonara ($10.95) to linguine alla vongole ($11.95). The fettuccini amalfitano ($11.95), with its luscious bites of crabmeat, was a patriotic homage to the Campanian traditions of delectable spinach pasta and fresh frutti di mare.
One gets the sense that the main menu has not changed in years, although Guida’s does offer a daily range of specials, including the wonderful Milanese osso buco ($20.95), veal shanks gently cooked in a wine tomato reduction until meltingly tender. Obligatory escarole was freshly steamed with whole roasted cloves of garlic. The sauce that accompanied
the unfortunately chewy sautÃ©ed rabbit scarpariello ($18.95) was enhanced by marvelous citrus accents and thinly sliced patate saltare. Veal chops baked with fresh Gorgonzola ($26.95) were clever without being overly precocious. Zuppa di pesce posillipoo ($20.95), a coastal medley of shrimp, mussels, clams, squid and scungilli, will enchant bouillabaisse fans.
An imposing dessert cart is prominently placed at the entrance to the dining room and includes such regional treats as frutta di bosco ($5) and profiteroles ($5). The homemade Italian cheesecake ($5) and the equally luscious tiramisu ($5) should not be missed. One must conclude the Guida’s experience with chocolate biscotti and chilled Moscato d’Asti ($6.50).
Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of our meal was the service. The tuxedo-clad waiters are reminiscent of a Guy Buffet tableau with their big smiles and starched tabliers. My napkin was changed no less than five times! Each member of the staff has his place in Luigi’s orchestrated ballet and our servers were both attentive and knowledgeable. It is this accogliente spirit that has enabled the brothers to attract and sustain a devoted clientele. The brothers’ recipe is quite simple: Offer fresh ingredients, a fun atmosphere and exceptional service; guests will come in droves. In this era of overzealous fusion, how nice it is to find delicious simplicity.
Lunch, Mon. to Sat. 11:30 am-3 pm
Dinner, Mon. to Thurs. 3-10 pm, Fri. and Sat. 4-11 pm, Sun. 1-10 pm