Mamaroneck's Culinary Revolution

Once upon a time, this Sound Shore village would apologize for its lack of eateries. No longer.

Eatquest

A diner’s map of Mamaroneck
 

1. Il Castello
2. La Piccola Casa
3. La Herradura
4. Limoncello
5. Molly Spillane’s
6. Hector’s Village Cafe
7. Roasted Peppers
8. Café Mozart
9. Juarez
10. The Post Bar & Grill
11. Super Pan Bakery
12. Chaves a Português Lda
13. Bar Vivace
14. Piri-Q (opening soon)

Chef Rui Correia, the former chef at Oporto in Hartsdale who also owns Douro, a Portuguese restaurant in Greenwich, Connecticut, says he never really considered bringing his signature food to Mamaroneck…until now. “Mamaroneck’s location near Larchmont, New Rochelle, Scarsdale, Rye, and White Plains makes it ideal for business,” says Correia, whose restaurant Piri-Q is set to open any day now. “Plus, look at all the new restaurants on the Avenue. It’s great.”

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Indeed, in the last two years Mamaroneck has upped its restaurant count by 10, with more slated to open within the next few months. Once known beyond its borders only for Walter’s Hot Dogs and Sal’s Pizza, this Sound Shore villlage has become a gastronomic destination rivaling Port Chester with its variety of ethnic eateries. Here, Asian outnumbers Italian, Portuguese is hot, Italian remains a favorite, and old-fashioned bakeries abound.

Mamaroneck Mayor Norman Rosenblum, who grew up here, explains the restaurant explosion by what he calls the “McDonald’s effect”: when one opens and is successful, another one follows, creating business for everyone.

The following is a peek at the most recently opened eateries. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find a new favorite place.

Il Castello’s signature branzino

Il Castello (576 Mamaroneck Ave, 914-777-2200. Open Tuesday to Friday, lunch and dinner; Monday and Saturday dinner only, Sunday 2 to 9 pm). Expect solid Italian fare with Old World touches at this comfortable eatery, which took over the Il Teatro space six months ago. The restaurant, which used to be at 327 Mamaroneck Avenue for years, serves the same classic dishes it was known for before it switched locations, including homemade cheese ravioli, pollo paillard, and jumbo shrimp fra diavolo. Owner Lenny Balidemaj says many old customers come for the signature branzino (striped bass), wheeled in for a tableside deboning, before being moistened with a wine, garlic, and herb sauce. It’s from-the-dock delish and, of course, the theatrics of the “old school” presentation make it even more enjoyable. (The Caesar salad, another favorite, also is prepared tableside; order it to fully appreciate how this dish used to be prepared before it became a chain-restaurant staple.)

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The service is attentive, with waiters (many with heavy Italian accents) who are lightning-quick in clearing dishes and refilling water glasses. Many pastas are made in-house and are so fresh you’d swear someone’s nonna was in the back whipping up creations in her housedress (try the fettuccine with two different kinds of mushrooms and jumbo shrimp sautéed in garlic and oil). It’s a quiet place; there’s nothing fancy or trendy about it. But with free valet parking, a welcoming platter of cheeses, olives, and two kinds of hearty, crusty bread upon arrival, not to mention a warm welcome by Balidemaj, you won’t be disappointed. That is, unless they’re out of branzino.

La Piccola Casa (410 W Boston Post Rd, 914-777-3766). Open every day for lunch and dinner.) Cozy is the word to describe what literally translates to “the small house.” This Northern Italian restaurant, which used to be farther down Boston Post Road in Rye Neck, has been at this Mamaroneck location for the past nine months and seems to have brought along many of its regulars, as well as some new faces. Located in a compact 1792 frame landmark, the former home of James Fenimore Cooper, it offers hominess and comfort, just like dining at a friend’s house. And it faces Harbor Island Park, which means outdoor seating with a view come warmer weather. The setting inside is minimalist, but sweet, with patterned curtains framing the windows, a warm Tuscan beige color on the walls, fresh rosebuds in miniature vases on white tablecloths, and attentive and friendly service—the perfect balance of unobtrusive and helpful.

The menu is what you’d expect—lots of pastas and chicken, with a fair share of seafood, veal, and steak accompanied by various tomato and white-wine sauces. Plump, gorgeous shrimp come in a light wine, lemon, and butter sauce and make for a pretty presentation, and a salmon special sits on a base of light tomato sauce with an assortment of seafood, perking up the usual fish dish. And oh, there’s the tartufo dessert drizzled in chocolate sauce and served with a frothy decaf cappuccino. This little house, indeed, serves comfort and charm in a big way.

La Herradura’s lively and brightly-colored atmosphere beckons a daily fiesta.

La Herradura (406 Mamaroneck Ave, 914-630-2377). Open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.) You can’t fake hospitality, and, at this vibrantly colored hacienda of an eatery, they aim to please. Tables laden with cheerful Mexican tiles? Check. Helpful servers? Got that. An abundance of offerings at decent prices? Got that too, and we haven’t even mentioned the full list of margaritas (the frozen mango is our favorite).

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The list of options is exhaustive with a full serving of American breakfast offerings (think pancakes, omelets, French toast), Mexican breakfast selections (huevos rancheros, chorizo mollettes), and a full range of salads and a wider range of fajitas, quesadillas, tacos, burritos, and burgers. (And yes, even pizzas and chicken fingers for the kids.) Go simple: a warm flour tortilla heaped with grilled chicken, onions, green peppers, and served with yellow rice, refried beans, guacamole, and sour cream—paired with a frosty margarita. Here, the beans are juicy, almost meaty, and the dishes appropriately spicy, with enough kick to make you appreciate the fact that you can never duplicate the same at home.

 

 

Limoncello’s frutti di mare, featuring shrimp, calamari, scungilli, and scallops in an unfiltered olive oil lemon dressing.

Limoncello (974 E Boston Post Rd, 914-630-2311). Open for lunch every day but Monday and Saturday and dinner every day but Monday.) Fans of Mulino’s in White Plains have been flocking to Limoncello, where former Mulino’s manager Lou Gigante, Jr., has revived the old Tollgate Steakhouse space into a more modern version of a classic ristorante. Open since October 2009, the interior has been completely altered and updated, with a new entryway, a bar area with cocktail tables, a piano lounge with loveseats, and a formal dining room.

Everything about the place—from the valet parking upon arrival to the dimly lit interior lounge where you can drink a ruby-red merlot and munch on antipasti—encourages you to leave your careworn self at the door and indulge in satisfying portions of pasta. Gigante, his fiancée, or his mother can often be found at the hostess stand, making you feel like you come here often, even if it’s your first visit. Expect one or the other to stop by your table, offering advice on the menu or to inquire how you like the wine.

The cuisine is just as it should be, punched up with basil, stuffed with prosciutto, or laden with fresh cheeses. There are no gimmicks, just big platefuls of tender shellfish, chicken, and veal, immersed in garlicky overtones and thick red sauces. The place is also welcoming to children, happily providing a plain bowl of pasta tossed in oil or marinara. The restaurant, in fact, prides itself on offering any kind of substitutions. 

Molly Spillane’s (211 Mamaroneck Ave, 914-899-3130). Open every day for lunch and dinner.) This oversized Irish-American pub has changed the face of Mamaroneck with a Cheers vibe that makes it feel like it’s been here forever. Just a year old, it’s the kind of place that makes everyone happy: couples on a date who can chat in secluded booths, families with picky eaters who can enjoy simple foods, and singles who can check each other out over the long bar. It’s also popular with sports fans, thanks to huge TVs that blare from every which direction. There’s also the front and back patios (the cozier back features a fireplace and heat lamps) where come springtime, it’s fun to linger over cocktails and enjoy the warm weather (without being on top of the busy Avenue). Yes, it can be loud, but the boisterous atmosphere is part of its allure.

The large, two-story space is similar in style to its sibling, Mickey Spillane’s in Eastchester, albeit with a mahogany bar, terrazzo floor, stonework detailing, and it comes with a bit of Mamaroneck history. It’s housed in the former space once owned by the Mayor’s grandfather—the building was home to Sirlin Hardware, and has a private room upstairs called the Sirlin Room in honor of the memory.

As for what to order, it’s all about the burgers and the bar food—think an array of sliders (tuna, beef, veggie, pulled pork, and buffalo chicken) and burgers so juicy that they drip before your first bite. Some love the Rowdy Reuben smothered with melted Swiss cheese, Thousand Island dressing, and zesty coleslaw, though you can order them topped with anything you can think of. Others prefer the hickory burger slathered with cheddar cheese, bacon, and hickory barbecue sauce—cholesterol worries be damned.

Hector’s Village Cafe (158 Mamaroneck Ave, 914-698-9822). Open every day breakfast through dinner.) Two words: arroz and pollo. Those are the mainstays on the menu at this Peruvian restaurant at which no entrée is more than $14. There’s arroz chaufa con pollo (Peruvian-style fried rice with chicken, $11); arroz chaufa con camarones (rice with shrimp, $12); arroz chaufa con carne y pollo (said rice with chicken and beef, $12); or any one of the pollo ala brasa seven combinations (each $10), which include half chicken, salad, mashed potatoes, and rice or beans (depending on which combo you pick). It’s simple eating in a minimalist décor (mustard walls, tables with red-and-white tablecloths under glass, a few posters and mirrors on the wall) that is reminiscent of the many ethnic eateries that line Manhattan’s Ninth Avenue.

Even more enticing: if you walk through the draped curtains off to the side, you’re in another ambience entirely, an all-American luncheonette called Village Luncheonette, where you can get breakfast any time of day, not to mention all kinds of sandwiches and burgers. Owner Hector Vasquez, who owns both spaces, lends each eatery a vibe akin to an extended version of his living room.

While he’s owned the luncheonette for years, it’s only within the past 10 months that he opened the Peruvian place in homage to his chef. And though there are other selections on the menu, including homemade shrimp chowder, a grilled tilapia salad, and fresh fajita-style beef, it’s the succulent combination rotisserie chicken that’s the standout: well seasoned and balanced with a heap of rice so hearty, you’ll no doubt leave with leftovers. Best of all: it’s BYOB (for now).

Roasted Peppers’ festive exterior.

Roasted Peppers (320 Mamaroneck Ave, 914-341-1140). Open for lunch Monday to Saturday, every day for dinner, and Sunday for brunch.) There are a lot of roasted peppers at Roasted Peppers. To start, roasted-pepper hummus with toasted bread, which is brought to nibble on as you sit. And then there’s the signature stuffed roasted pepper appetizer: one half Picadillo stuffed pepper with ground beef, diced zucchini, carrots, onions, and green olives; the other half stuffed with romesco and goat cheese and ladled with charred tomato salsa. You can even get roasted pepper-and-crab chowder and a salad tossed with roasted-pepper olive oil.

No less impressive are the truffle fries, the perfect balance of flavor and crisp (the sweet potato fries were a close second), and the vegetarian panini: a huge portion of portobello mushrooms, eggplant, zucchini, Jack cheese, and yes, roasted peppers, with a sage-tomato spread.

And what about the guacamole, served with corn tortillas and pico de gallo garnish? It’s fresh and delish and, when paired with a glass of wine, could be a meal in itself.

A young couple who know to enjoy some gelato—in front of Sal’s.

“There hadn’t been a lot of causal American eateries here,” says co-owner Juan Lepe, who, along with his business partners, opened this American eatery last November. And though some might say it’s a tad expensive for the Avenue—dinner entrées range from $16 to $25 (though you can get lunch for around $11 to $13 per person), the food is inventive and worth the detour. Where else can you find a jalapeño brownie with coconut ice cream, warm cinnamon-spiced rice pudding with Bourbon sauce, or raspberry jelly bread pudding with almond-spiced whipped cream?Larchmont resident Jeanne Muchnick has been dining in Mamaroneck since moving to Larchmont 12 years ago. She’s big on ordering in from the many restaurants there, and in fact features some of her dining-in escapades in her new book, Dinner for Busy Moms (Plain White Press). Go to dinnerforbusymoms.com or jeannemuchnick.com for more information.

Also Worth Checking Out

Café Mozart (308 Mamaroneck Ave 914-698-4166) The old-timer on the street: a low-key place to dig into oversized salads and other healthy fare, though the decadent desserts and wide variety of coffees and teas make it ideal for a post-movie pit stop or afternoon snack attack.

Juarez (626 Mamaroneck Ave 914-315-1334) A cozy luncheonette serving food from the Pueblo region of Mexico. Try the tortilla soup and the house-made roasted chicken (but bring your own wine or beer).

The Post Bar & Grill (599 E Boston Post Rd 914-835-7746) Mamaroneck’s little-known secret for live music with no cover and affordable comfort food. Kate Hudson was seen here snuggling with A-Rod way back when they were an item. It’s also a hot spot for many local Grammy-award-winning artists.

Super Pan Bakery (362 Mamaroneck Ave 914-630-2324) A Guatemalan bakery with a few tables in front where you can sit with an authentically prepared Guatemalan sweet and coffee or order a hearty meal. Though the décor isn’t much, the food is delicious—the dishes are all courtesy of the owner’s mom’s recipes.

Chaves a Português Lda (360 Mount Pleasant Ave, 914-698-2640) A mini Portuguese grocery store that feels like it should be on a corner in Lisbon. Everything is imported, including the gorgeous ceramics.

Bar Vivace (215 Halstead Ave, 914-315-6460) Wood-burning-oven pizzas, fresh fish, and a to-die-for white sangria (ask owner Greg Colico to whip it up for you) are specialties at this cozy trattoria.

Opening Soon

Piri-Q (360 Mamaroneck Ave) A reprise of what Chef Rui Correia, known for his Portuguese fare at Oporto in Hartsdale, did there, but with a more casual bent to appeal to families. “It will be more approachable food,” he says of his 39-seat eatery.

 

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