Consistently well prepared food, a comfortable ambience, and on-point service are all essential characteristics of a successful restaurant. There’s another element, however, that is just as important, but many restaurants neglect either out of ignorance or inability.
Call it the “heart and soul” factor but it’s the person (or people) that gives the place a distinct personality, enlivening it with an original feel. It could be warmth, a charm or grace, or any number of positive attributes depending on the person.
At Northern Italian La Catena Italian Restaurant, owner/chef Emelio Delija is the originator of the positive vibes, making guests feel welcome, not because it’s his job to do it, but because he genuinely wants to welcome them and have a wonderful experience.
(His hospitality skills were honed over 25 years in the restaurant business, including stints at Peter Luger Steak House and Sparks Steak House in New York City.)
An example of Delija’s attentiveness to guest experience comes into full display when a table orders a Brunello or some other upmarket bottle; he’ll bring out, along with the bottle, a complimentary tray of soppressata imported from Italy that’s been aged in wine for 12 months, Belgioso Parmesan cheese, Teitel Brothers Parmigiano Reggiano aged three years, plus olives and in-house roasted peppers. Adjacent tables may witness this, and because he doesn’t want the non-Brunello tables to feel left out or that they are not special, he’ll give them a sampling (albeit a smaller plate) of the comp antipasti. All his guests are important to him whether they spend $40 or $400.
Meals begin with expertly made Terranova bread from the Bronx paired with dipping oil made of sundried tomatoes, fresh roasted pimentos, and virgin olive oil. Starters to sample include Bufula mozzarella imported from Italy (a special), eggplant rollatini, and shrimp sautéed with garlic, fresh herbs, lemon, and white wine. Mains include myriad pasta, veal, chicken, and fish dishes, but the three standouts are the pappardelle finished with Hennessey cognac in a huge wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano (and look for the “cheese scrape” as melt-y gobs of cheese are whittled off the sides of the wheel into your pasta!), ravioli with shiitake, porcini, and oyster mushrooms, and branzino delicately deboned tableside.
The dessert tray is a fun showstopper, wheeled out with a slow grandeur, trays and plates and bowls of sweets (raspberry chocolate mousse cake, strawberry shortcake, Napoleon, Italian cheesecake, apple strudel, and fresh berries with whipped cream), most of which are homemade.
La Catena is worth returning to again and again, but you’ll likely experience that extra something special on your first visit.
871 Saw Mill Rd, Ardsley
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