There’s a mysterious air about Ernie’s Wine Bar + Eats, the faintly-lit hideaway apt for a discreet rendezvous or sexy date that’s owned by Luisanna Scalera.
And here’s the first mystery: Ernie’s Wine Bar is owned by someone named Luisanna. And the former owners were Philip and Geraldine Hedger. Hmmm.
“It was established when I took it over so I decided to keep the name,” says the self-taught chef who bought the 48-seat restaurant in March of 2016. “Besides people love the Ernie doll,” she explains, referencing the oversized Sesame Street Ernie on a cushy sofa just inside the entrance. “They take pictures with it.”
Okay so no Ernie, not a human one anyway, but then there’s another mystery regarding the address.
Pondfield Road is Bronxville’s main drag, and Ernie’s address is 7 Pondfield, yet it’s hard to spot because the restaurant isn’t on Pondfield — it’s physically located on Sagamore Road, which is off of Pondfield.
To further confuse things, the businesses on either side of them are 25 and 27 Pondfield!?
So shouldn’t Ernie’s be 26?
If you visit Ernie’s (if you can find it that is), these clandestine elements add to its feel as an eatery with an enticing, original character.
The main appeal starts with owner Scalera, who with a calm and sunny disposition, seemingly does it all — greeting diners, serving plates, pouring drinks behind the bar, and periodically disappearing into the kitchen to check on/help prepare orders.
Her cuisine is best described as eclectic home cooking, with a menu that changes frequently and a blackboard of noteworthy daily specials like mushroom ricotta crostini and delicious vegan lasagna made with cashew “ricotta” (don’t snicker turophiles, it’s actually creamy tasting) and eggplant, onion, mushroom, and zucchini.
“I learned to love home-cooked meals growing up as my mother cooked all the time,” says the Tuckahoe resident.
The menu leans slightly Italian but there’s plenty from all over the globe: on any given night there may be Moroccan meatballs, chicken tikka masala, or fish tacos (summer only). Entrées range from $17 to $23.
The fettuccine and cannelloni are house-made, as are the soups (e.g., mushroom or pasta and bean). There are traditional dishes like English sausages wrapped in puff pastry and roast salmon with pea risotto but also more contemporary offerings such as corn and cream cheese-filled duck wontons with a blueberry dipping sauce that are worth an order.
Scalera’s been known to give out her cell to regulars who call and ask her to make them a specific dish. The veal lasagna is oft requested as are a number of vegan dishes [e.g., stuffed shells with spinach and cashew “ricotta”]. “Vegans don’t have a lot of dining-out options so I make a point to have a few vegan choices on any given night.”
For dessert she may have vegan chocolate pudding made with just three ingredients: (avocado, maple syrup, and cocoa powder) or bread pudding with bourbon.
A chocoholic alert: the chocolate torte with a gingersnap crust (a recipe from the former owner) is one of the best chocolate desserts I’ve had. It’s the one item that’s always on the dessert menu.
There are 30 wines-by-the-glass ($8 to $17) plus respectable bottles from Napa, France, Spain, and Italy (most are $32 to $60 with some reserve costing $70 to $200).
The catalyst for Scalera buying the restaurant was her daughter, Juliana. “I would come to Ernie’s with my husband and I found out from the owner it was for sale. Juliana planted the seed for me to buy it because of my love of cooking.”
To learn the business, Scalera worked for two months (Jan and Feb of 2016) prior to becoming owner doing everything — washing dishes, bussing tables, sautéing and chopping, cleaning bathrooms.
She continues to work four days a week at her husband’s office (Frank Scalera, DDS in Eastchester), doing everything but cleaning teeth. “But that’s my job,” she explains. “The restaurant is my fun time.”
People often say to Scalera, ‘It must be a big change to go from running a dental office to running a restaurant.’ “I tell them it’s not actually, because I have four kids so I’m used to doing all the cooking and cleaning.”
Ernie’s Wine Bar + Eats
7 Pondfield Rd, Bronxville
(note, much of the website information is not updated and refers to the previous owners)
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