L’Inizio’s chicken liver crostini (left) and smoked riccotta (right)
Here’s something that so few people talk about when discussing good restaurants—the importance of baseline competence. I’ve eaten at many high-concept restaurants that manage to touch on all the trends but fail at the foundational landmarks: is the dining room comfortable? Is the food well prepared? Did I feel welcome?
At L’inizio, you will not find dishes like ocean buckthorn cooked over burning hay, nor will you find a Pocket Smoker lurking in the, well, pocket of one of the chefs. On L’inizio’s freshly painted walls, you’ll find no trendy taxidermy and, lo—at the tiny bar—there is no bottlescape of 19th-Century tinctures. The cozy, barbell-shaped space, recently Shea Gallante’s Italian Kitchen, has only been very subtly changed from its previous iteration. The walls have been painted a cooler tone than their last shade of corn yellow and the rustic barn-board has been whitewashed an eggshell hue. The Italian cookery books that once rested over the lintel have been switched to pretty canned vegetables. Other than that, L’inizio’s decor is unchanged.
L’inizio manages to achieve the feeling of a small, old-school Italian restaurant without any of the Italian-American kitsch that’s currently so trendy. It is a warm and welcoming place with carefully crafted, tasty food; almost magically, L’inizio achieves the feat of feeling well established within its first few weeks of life. This restaurant’s finesse can be credited to its owners, Scott and Heather Fratangelo, who are coming to Westchester after Manhattan success with Spigalo on the Upper East Side. Urbanity still clings to this partnership—for all of L’inizio’s old-world coziness, it is slinging an on-trend menu. Look for crunchy and delicious chicken liver crostini with sage and pear chutney ($11) and luxuriously rich, smoked Hudson Valley ricotta ($7).
While the Italo-centric list of wines by the glass is as taut as L’inizio’s space, we did catch a delicious blended white by Tenuta Pergola ($10) and a Nebbiolo by Guido Porro ($16). There are cocktails as well—look for the staunchly whiskey-fied Masterson’s Debator. When you order it, look firmly into your waiter’s eye as you pronounce the words. It’s the only way.
Fitting the frigid weather (and as a reward for scaling the Matterhorns blocking access to the sidewalk), we ordered L’inizio’s Long Island duck breast with cauliflower purée, romanesco, Gaeta olives, and lingonberries ($27). Happily, meat reigned over sugar and the dish arrived tasting like Sunday dinner after a day spent sledding. Also good was a simple dish of potato gnocchi with duck ragu, Castelvetrano olives, and Marcona almonds ($16/$23).
To end, don’t miss L’inizio’s wonderful donuts, perfect little bombolini that manage to achieve both lightness and a delightfully chewy crumb. Yum.
Chef Eric Gabrynowicz of Restaurant North Snags a James Beard Award Nomination!
Isn’t Restaurant North en fuego! We just saw the Armonk restaurant featured in Eater and in New York Magazine while, last year, Chef Eric Gabrynowicz snagged Food and Wine Magazine’s The People’s Best New Chef Award For New York Area. Now, the artist formerly known as Bubba has been nominated as a semifinalist for a James Beard Award for Best Chef Northeast. Click here to see the full list and keep your fingers crossed!
Pan-Roasted Sweetbreads with Pear, Parsnips, Mint, and Citrus at Restaurant North
Sometimes you just need glands. Seriously, you need them. These particular glands arrived on a bed of creamy parsnip purée with delightful curls of perfectly ripe, soft pears and spicy cara cara oranges. The whole thing was gilded by coral-colored citrus juice and made the perfect light dinner at the bar with one (or maybe 3) North of Manhattan cocktails. Oh, pounce, people, pounce.