Modern Italian at tredici NORTH

Giuseppe Fanelli  gives his spirited classic-Italian cuisine the star treatment at recently launched tredici NORTH in Purchase. Deadly serious in the kitchen, where he constantly stretches his palate (catch a glimpse of this in his winning Kitchen Casino and Chopped episodes), he seems an anomaly against the backsdrop of the funky interior, devised by a fun-loving designer. 

From a wall of gorgeous onyx downstairs to one of black-velvet flocked paper upstairs and a powder room with skull-and-bones floor tiles, the interior will tickle your sense of humor. Unfortunately, the ear-splitting noise level (soon to be remedied, we were told), amplified by piped-in music, marred what were otherwise almost perfect dinners. 

As for the food, it’s top-notch. Fanelli, a Sleepy Hollow resident, honed a stellar reputation at tredici in Chelsea (tredici means “13” in Italian and is considered a lucky number), reaping rave reviews. Previously, he was sous chef at Lidia Bastianich’s Felidia, worked the stations at Union Pacific and showcased his culinary expertise at Rao’s and Baldoria.

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The interior is big-city sophisticated 

His beautifully plated dishes are about making you happy. Take his recast of the familiar arugula salad with Parmesan shavings. He adds fried baby artichokes and a fistful of capers. The earthiness of the artichokes played handsomely against the saltiness of capers and the acidity of the vinaigrette made with lemons imported from Sorrento. His renditions of familiar Italian dishes are also revelations, like spaghetti with a lively sauce from juice of those incredible lemons. These elementary dishes were as perfect as they can be.

Fanelli is known as a chef who syncs his menus to the seasons and to what is available from his purveyors at any particular time, so what one orders on one visit may not be available the next. This spring, for example, Fanelli created a ravioli dish we’ve never had during our long friendship with Italian food. Four stuffed pasta circles—all pasta dough is house-made—embraced burrata with an unusual spring harvest of ramps, nettles, spring garlic, and English peas tempered with the cucumber-cooling taste of borage leaves. A brush of smoked sugar brulée imparted an unexpected luscious flavor.

And yet, because Fanelli cannot escape the popularity of calamari, meatballs, and burgers, the kitchen keeps them on the menu but with a spin. Fire cracker calamari—not so spicy, really, nor as chewy as is commonly found—played with tidbits of Gorgonzola cheese and minced celery, while two oversized meatballs of beef, veal, and pork with mozzarella and ricotta were an amazing treat in a scoopful of gentle marinara sauce. A “Fat Bastard” burger fit for the Mike Myers character came with appropriate trappings, including a giant beer-battered onion ring so good, you won’t want to divvy it up.

Veering off course from sunny Italy was Fanelli’s take on tuna tartare. Instead of capers that signal beef tartare, there were mustard seeds, soy, and wasabi oil cloaking sushi-grade raw tuna. It would have benefited from more tuna and less avocado—perhaps just a smear, since there was also sour cream in the mix.

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Homemade ricotta lies within the “Inside Out” meatballs, made with a beef short rib, veal, and pork blend

Other dishes speak to top-notch American steakhouses where a tender, medium-rare filet mignon (a $38 special one night) and a juicy braised short rib on a soft cloud of creamy polenta could each feed two people easily. A one-pound lobster appetizer gave four of us succulent strips of tender meat to share. We eschewed the familiar veal chop Parmagiano for fish: thick fillets of sweet sea bass and orata partnered with either al dente broccoli rabe or a corn-kernel melange. Lovely. Since the fish was served skin-side up, some dexterity with a knife was required to cut through the tough skin to the succulent fillet. Next time, we’d ask that the skin be removed. 

Kudos to our waiter, who let us take our time enjoying each course and who knew as much about Fanelli’s dishes as a sous chef.

Skip the desserts, not a strong suit here, unless you order Longford’s vanilla ice cream with berries. The short wine list is impressive, with humble choices by the glass and princely ones by the bottle, like two Amarones. If you prefer to sip a cocktail, try the Mezcal Smoke in Mirrors, with its huge smoky-flavored ice cube.

Food 3/4 | Service 3/4 | Atmosphere 2/4 | Cost $$$$

tredici NORTH
578 Anderson Hill Rd., Purchase 
(914) 997-4113
www.tredicinorth.com

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