Star Chefs Come To Westchester
Photography by Chris Ware
Shot on location at the
Westchester Broadway Theatre
Consider Rick Laakkonen a culinary Zelig, morphing from dishwasher to bread-baker to food-cost consultant to three-star chef. You could catch him in a kitchen over a stove, or in a back office over a spreadsheet. Wasn’t that him spooning demi-glace in Michelin temples in France and Monte Carlo? But then, who was that slicing capocollo in an Italian village salumeria? Wasn’t he glimpsed cooking at the Beard House and in tony Manhattan boites? And wait, isn’t that him, in downtown White Plains behind an antipasti bar full of small plate offerings such as braised fennel and eggplant caponata?
Yes, yes, oui, and si. The protean chef has alighted at the sleek, elegant, and consummately Italian Antipasti. After years with Charlie Palmer and David Burke at the River Café, with Alain Ducasse in Monaco, at Petrossian and his own three-star Manhattan hotspot Ilo, after consulting work at the megawatt Buddha Bar and a stint as executive chef at Tao, he’s ready to settle down. At Antipasti, he’ll pay homage to the Old World with housemade salami, cheeses, and wood-fired pizzas, and he’ll celebrate the new with stunners like loin lamb chops with Baresi lamb sausage, artichokes, fava beans, fregola (a grain) and aged goat cheese. Italian quince paste and Mugolio pine-nut syrup will share the sourcing spotlight with Catskill honey and New Jersey chickens. The wine bar offers over 50 varieties by the glass, the raw bar glistens with tiers of bivalves, the antipasto bar is a paesano’s nirvana of bruschettas and frittatas. And then there’s that Baresi lamb sausage with favas and goat cheese.
“I’m doing a modern interpretation of Italian cuisine,” says Laakkonen. And he’s thrilled to be doing it in Westchester. “There’s such a sophisticated clientele here,” he says.
“There’s the heart and soul of a culinary world here.” And he vows that he’s joined it.
“Come in for dinner, and I’ll be there.”
Antipasti, 1 N Broadway, White Plains
(914) 949-3500. antipastiny.com
Neil Ferguson and his Cortlandt Manor restaurant, Monteverde at Oldstone Manor, are analogues in reinvention, endurance, and elegance.
“The Hudson Valley is so beautiful, just driving up puts a smile on my face,” he says. He cooked at the Michelin-lauded L’Esperance and worked in the finest kitchens in London and Paris. Gordon Ramsay appointed him sous chef at his eponymous London mecca, then tapped him again in 2005 as chef de cuisine for his New World debut, Gordon Ramsay at the London NYC. That didn’t work out, but Ramsay’s loss was Westchester’s gain. Oldstone Manor’s owners had grand revamping plans, and Ferguson’s bona fides are about as grand as it gets. A luxurious inn, state-of-the-art spa, and Portofino-worthy marina are in the works, and now the cuisine is just as exalted.
Though he splits his time between Monteverde and Manhattan’s Allen & Delancey, Ferguson’s enthusiasm for his northerly venue is as bountiful as the Hudson Valley harvest. In fact, so enamored is he of the area, he’s paying it the highest compliment: he’s planning to move here.
Monteverde, 28 Bear Mountain Bridge Rd,
Cortlandt Manor; (914) 739-5000.monteverderestaurant.com.
I caught up with Laurent Tourondel via cellphone at his BLT in Dallas, but it could have been in D.C., Puerto Rico, Las Vegas, or any other of the BLT Steak satellites presently colonizing the continent. The classically trained chef, scion to Troisgros and Robuchon, has built an empire with his Francophile spin on American steak and fish houses, and its latest outpost has just surfaced in our county seat.
Epicures may scoff at the compromising of art for commerce, but Tourondel has whisked his formula as high and sweet as Chantilly cream. One part French culinary mastery to two parts cozy bistro perception and urbane style, BLT Steak promises haute upgrades to familiar standards and an alluring ambiance in which to savor them.
The White Plains outpost is a jewel in the crown of the city’s renaissance, located in the gleaming Ritz-Carlton. “A lot of people who come to my restaurants live in this area,” he says. “Now they won’t have to travel to Manhattan.” When they arrive, they’ll find the familiar sleek BLT Steak caramel-toned décor but with a local feature: the artwork of county painters.
And the food? Tourondel’s beef—including Japanese Kobe and American Wagyu—comes sauced with Bearnaise, peppercorn, or red wine, among others. His crab cakes arrive with celery remoulade, his vegetables nestle in cast-iron pans. There’s also French passion fruit crêpe soufflé and lemon-cassis meringue pie plus cookbooks, smoked sea salt, and steak sauces for purchase.
Oh, and there’ll also be
Laurent Tourondel. “It’s so close
to New York, so I’ll be there,”
he vows. “White Plains is a good escape for me.”
BLT Steak, 221 Main St
Renaissance Sq, White Plains
(914) 467-5500; bltsteak.com
X2O Xaviars on the Hudson
So much has been penned about Peter Kelly’s river’s edge triumph, it’s enough to give even the blogsphere writer’s cramp. The unparalleled views. The ethereal décor. The Iron-Chef-winning food. In one six-years-in-the making swoop, Kelly has put Yonkers squarely on the culinary map. His X2O has galvanized the battle against downtown blight with its glass and iron headquarters in a historic pier setting; its ammunition: short-rib ravioli and tamarind-glazed squab.
“I look at Yonkers as the gateway to the Hudson Valley,” he says. “All roads lead here: the highways, Metro-North. Today, suburbanites don’t have to travel for fine dining.”
No, not with stunners like X2O right around the corner. Dining doesn’t get much finer than a perch in this glass-vaulted aerie, embraced by water and air, savoring lobster crêpes and ahi tuna parfaits.
“The food isn’t as highly wrought as at Xaviars [his haute Piermont spot],” he notes.
“The menu is geared to appeal to a broad section of the population, so there are lots of options.”
There are options in ambiance, too. Arguably, the most popular is in the Dylan Lounge, where the vibe is downtown cool. “My goal was to create a comfortable and hospitable place for people to relax in,” Kelly says of the restaurant. “I want them to leave feeling they got their money’s worth.”
Since the views were already priceless, he’s way ahead of the game.
X2O Xaviars on the Hudson
71 Water Grant St, Yonkers
(914) 965-1111; xaviars.com
42 and Peniche
To many of us, Sorrento evokes a saccharine melody. To Anthony Goncalves, it recalls a personal transformation. Seven years ago, a meal in the Amalfi coastal town was
the revelatory catalyst for his shift from pub manager to epicure. He
came home, and his family’s restaurant, Trotters, has never been the same.
“I wanted fine food to be the priority,” he says. So he read, researched, and experimented, trading the back office for the kitchen. “I started life over,” he says. “I knew I had to work harder, to take my craft to the next level. I didn’t want to let anyone down.”
Never mind the “next” level. Today, Goncalves has reached 42 of them—42 being the floor number, and name, of his stunning new restaurant in
The restaurant features five sections, each with its own ambiance and menu, each geared to a patron’s desires. Feel like stopping in for dessert? A window-side alcove offers only that. Want to share some small plates? An intimate lounge awaits. Planning an elaborate dinner? A dramatic mezzanine provides views as sumptuous as entrées like roasted branzino over caramelized onion marmalade sauced with beurre rouge. Oh, and those small plates? No spare tapas here. More like housemade Kobe beef hot dogs.
But what about tapas? You’ll find them at nearby Peniche, Goncalves’s other casual hotspot, inspired by his youthful seaside summers in
42, 3 Renaissance Sq, White Plains (914) 761-4242; 42therestaurant.com
(914) 421-5012; penichetapas.com.
Diane Weintraub Pohl is a regular contributor to the magazine. Look for her article about restaurants offering dinner entertainment in “Dinner and a Show” in the March issue.
Limo driver: Don Aiello.