Westchester is replete with restaurants offering Southern Italian cuisine, so when one comes along that mainly spotlights the cuisine of the North, we take note.
“Northern cuisine focuses more on meat, cheese, cream-based sauces, truffles, butter, and mushrooms,” says partner Lorando Ionesco. Southern fare tends to be more olive-oil-based, as opposed to butter, and common ingredients are tomatoes, tuna, anchovies, lemons and oranges, eggplants, peppers, artichokes, and capers.
Ionesco, along with Giancarlo Coco — a restaurateur who has opened more than a dozen restaurants in the Tristate area (including 55 East Main’s prior occupant, regional-Italian La Villa) — and restaurant designer Mike Ciocan debuted La Fattoria last summer. “I love New Rochelle,” says Coco. “There is a nice mix of long-timers here, plus newcomers who live in the all the latest developments. And more are being built all the time.”
Thus, Coco wanted to stay in the same location but with a different concept: Tuscan farmhouse (La Fattoria translates to “The Farmhouse” in Italian). Helped by designer Ciocan, the space was transformed with pinewood from a barn near Cooperstown for the walls and floor, and silver maple from Pennsylvania for the tables. A wagon wheel was repurposed as the main dining room’s central chandelier.
The partners enlisted Executive Chef Luis “Luigi” Caisaguano, who previously ran the kitchen at Madison Avenue’s Nell, to create an equally transformative menu.
Think you know lasagna? Ricotta and red sauce, right? Not Caisaguano’s version, which remains true to the northern tradition, with a buttery besciamella, or white sauce, that flows between and atop layers of tender noodles and sausage, both house-made. All pastas are also homemade, as are the breads and desserts.
A trio of risottos (seafood, mushroom, and asparagus-mascarpone), polenta parmigiana, roasted clams with bacon and capers, and a tender osso buco with caramelized mushrooms are items to sample. A wood-fired oven spills out beautifully crusted pizzas in 90 seconds, plus baked veggies, golden-roasted Amish chicken, and branzino.
From his first restaurant job at Sandro’s on the Upper East Side when he was barely a teenager and recent immigrant from Ecuador to working at a host of other Italian NYC restaurants (e.g., Barolo, Mediterraneo) and spending six months cooking in Rome, Caisaguano has a surplus of experience cooking Italian food.
“Everywhere I worked I learned new things,” he says. “Use fresh ingredients of course, and technique is important sure, but cooking with your heart is the most important lesson I learned.”
55 E Main St, New Rochelle