Zanni At Mariani Gardens Opens In Armonk

We had trouble finding Zanni, not realizing that it’s part of a landscape design center, Mariani Gardens. We kept circling the nursery, not familiar with the old café, a small, casual place with light fare. It’s busted through all sorts of walls to become a designer’s showplace of high ceilings and glass, with fireplaces, sofas, sky-high wine racks, and, of course, plenty of plants. In Armonk, fast filling with fine dining destinations, it distinguishes itself by concept and design.

It might take first-time visitors a while to find Zanni, since it’s part of Armonk’s Mariani Gardens; Inside you’ll find a cozy, complete-with-fireplace area to eat, drink, and chat.

Thirty-degree weather guaranteed we wouldn’t be dining on the front patio with (dormant) fireplace. But just inside is a large fireplace with a real, roaring fire and modern, landscape-inspired furniture, such as a glass table that seems to contain moss-covered rocks. One can walk into and explore the garden center from the same entrance.

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The “luxe greenhouse” theme spills into the dining room, where a metal matrix hangs over the bar, and to a glassed-in, greenery-filled back room. Once seated at a plush banquette, bolstered by throw pillows, you’re not only very comfortable but also reluctant to hoist yourself out.

It soft-opened 2 weeks ago with the same chef, Daniel Van Etten, and is open for breakfast and lunch (and perhaps, by now, dinner, scheduled for early December). The Napa-inspired menu offers not only light foods but also main courses. Despite the towering wine racks, there’s only a mini wine and beer list as of yet.

Food doesn’t try to get by on looks alone, but could. Butternut squash and sweet potato soup (at top) is topped with a filigree of cinnamon mascarpone. Burrata, served spilling over oily ciabata crostini, is ablaze with teardrop tomatoes and arugula pesto. Both starters were outdone by veggie cappellini—shoestrings of zucchini, yellow squash, and spaghetti squash in fresh tomato garlic sauce. Thin-crust pizzettes are also on offer, such as the wild mushroom, bacon, caramelized onion, and smoked mozzarella we enjoyed. With the many big-time big pizza options now in town, this is a welcome light alternative.

One of Zanni’s thin-crust pizzette options; Shredded Napa cabbage salad with avocado, yellow and red peppers, mint, and cilantro with apple cider vinaigrette; Burrata.

Everyone was craving salad that day, even the carnivore. There are eight on the lunch menu, and the several we ordered, while beautifully constructed with fresh ingredients, all needed more oomph in the dressing department. Best was shredded Napa cabbage with avocado, yellow and red peppers, mint, and cilantro with apple cider vinaigrette, accompanied by a small but very good piece of salmon. Chickpeas and lentil with cucumber, scallion, mung beans, Kalamata olives, quinoa, and endives is a good vegan option. Shaved Brussels sprouts with celery, romaine, pecorino, and toasted hazelnuts was mysteriously absent of the Italian speck it was said to contain. There were several such slight mishaps, but the place just opened and we are guessing they’ll work these things out.

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No one had room for anything more substantial. Another day for the Lamburgini burger with Gorgonzola butter; roasted organic chicken with cannellini ragu; wild salmon with butternut cranberry orzotto; and whole-wheat bigoli with venison cherry sausage and chanterelles. But you could just as well start your day here at 8 am with crêpes, pancakes, frittata, and fresh juice—and pick up some rare trees and shrubs while you’re at it.

Zanni at Mariani Gardens
45 Bedford Rd
​(914) 273-6700; (under construction as of 12/2/14)

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