Some of Westchester’s hottest restaurant seats are in the basement. Not just any basement, mind you, but full-fledged, stacked-to-the-ceiling, intimate and rustic wine cellars that also serve as exclusive and well-appointed dining spaces. You don’t have to be an oenophile to enjoy these distinctive rooms…though sniffing and sipping top-shelf wines is certainly part of the experience. Mainly, you just have to take pleasure in being wined and dined (pun intended). As most of these are private rooms, booking in advance is recommended.
The historical ambience of Crabtree’s Kittle House (11 Kittle Rd, Chappaqua 914-666-8044) is just one of its many attributes; the food and wine being the others. The restaurant, recently refurbished and with a new chef (Bradford McDonald, formerly of Noma in Copenhagen and Allen & Delancey and Per Se in New York City), has continually won Wine Spectator’s Grand Award every year for the past 16 years and is known for its diverse wine list—everything from Bordeaux (some dating from the 1900s) to selections from the Piedmont section of Tuscany. The selection of more than 70,000 bottles is huge, with a heavy emphasis on Burgundy (and France in general), as well as Italy, California, and Spain. Even if you’re not big into wines, the tour of the space alone is worth seeing: winding stairs lead you down to the bowels of the mansion, which once housed the estate’s horses and carriages. Inside, there’s a coffered, timbered ceiling, a large table that accommodates up to 16, and a glass door that’s the window to the restaurant’s famous wine cellar. Dinners here can be customized to meet your needs, everything from a table for two, a business meeting for four, or a private reception for 16.
The wine cellar at The Farmhouse at Bedford Post (954 Old Post Rd, Bedford 914-234-7800) feels like something out of a movie set. You can almost see Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt toasting each other’s good fortune (and good looks) as they clink glasses at one of the tables facing the small wood-burning fireplace. The room has an 8,000-bottle capacity and accommodates up to eight. It’s elegant, romantic, and dining here is an experience you’ll probably always remember.
In a world that’s ever-changing, it’s nice to enter a space that’s comfortably homey. Flames Steakhouse (533 N State Rd, Briarcliff Manor 914-923-3100) is an unpretentious eatery at which serious meat eaters can enjoy an array of choices, often in oversized proportions (we love the porterhouse for two). In this Old World atmosphere, steak is king, with sides ordered separately. The cellar lies hidden just around the main dining room. It has the feel of a British library with two ladders leaning against the ceiling-high shelves and a long, regal table that can be broken down into smaller tables or left as one (seating from 10 to 35). The cellar itself boasts more than 60,000 bottles.
The wine cellar at Gervasi’s Restaurant (324 Central Ave, White Plains 914-684-8855) isn’t your typical crypt. Instead, this art deco-like room is large: a downstairs seating area with four wide, comfortable booths, a few tables in between, and bottles housed behind glass (approximately 1,000, mostly from Italy and California). Best of all? Its part of the restaurant’s dining room, so you simply can request a table and enjoy the view (and the wine!). Be warned: it’s a tad cool, so bring a sweater. It also can be booked for private parties up to 65.
Il Sorriso (5 N Buckhout St, Irvington 914-591-2525) is a hidden gem. While other restaurants in the area tout their outdoor patios and nouvelle cuisine, this more subdued eatery stands on its own laurels and features all of the above plus a gorgeous wood- paneled wine cellar, perfect for an intimate celebration. This very private room, which seats up to 16, is accessible through a separate entrance, and offers a leisurely paced experience with your own personally designed menu. The restaurant specializes in mostly Italian vintages, with a few French and American. There are two ways to book the room: with a pre-set menu (about $92 per person) or by booking with a $400 room fee and then ordering from the menu. Ask for William.
DRINK & EAT UP: The wine cellar at Il Sorriso is perfect for an intimate celebration.
Entering the wine cellar at Tombolino (356 Kimball Ave, Yonkers 914-237-1266) is like stepping into an oenophile’s dream. It’s simply classic, the way you’d picture a working wine cellar to be: snug, cozy, and filled to the brim with bottles. This standby favorite, a family-run business for 33 years, boasts approximately 7,000 bottles, the majority from Italy and California, though some are from Australia, France, and Spain. It may be a tad off the radar screen (Yonkers—who knew? ), but it’s where those in the know go for a reasonably priced gourmet meal paired with excellent vintages (think a five-course dinner with wine for $38).
You’ll be tempted to pluck a bottle from the racks at Zuppa Restaurant (59 Main St, Yonkers 914-376-6500): that’s how close you’ll be. It’s that intimate atmosphere—along with sparkling chandeliers, gorgeous brick walls, and terra cotta tile floors—that make this room popular for toasting life’s fortunes. There are 300 labels and nearly 6,000 bottles. The room accommodates 10 to 30.
Equus Restaurant at the Castle on the Hudson (400 Benedict Ave, Tarrytown 914-631-1980) is the closet thing to a real-life castle we Westchesterites have. And walking through the huge oak door that leads to its wine cellar proves it: it’s regal, baronial, and, quite simply, special. Ask for Gerard Rocco for a private tour. He will often take groups of two, four, or six (max) and wine and cheese before dinner can be arranged.
Larchmont freelancer Jeanne Muchnick says visiting wine cellars—with occasional tastings—was the best part of this assignment. Muchnick also writes for momcentral.com, Woman’s Day and The Daily News.