L’inizio In Ardsley: Unassuming And Great

While L’inizio offers wonderful cocktails and a well-priced, mostly Italian wine list, you won’t want to space out during the waiter’s recitation of the specials. On one night, we caught an evanescent starter of bursting, sweet, soft-shell crabs with cherry-pepper aioli, seasonal pea leaves, and pickled ramps. There are wonderful salads, too, like herbal celery with tart apple, dates, Gorgonzola, and walnuts. Or start with a selection from the seasonally changing list of pastas, which are offered in both appetizer and main portions. On one night, we liked the comfort of pillowy gnocchi with braised duck, Castelvetrano olives, and Marcona almonds; on another, there were ravioli with sweet English peas, oyster mushrooms, preserved lemons, and salty pecorino.

If there is any complaint about L’inizio—other than that its space is awkward—it’s that its four menu mains feel less inspired than the dishes that came before. One wonders if the Fratangelos felt compelled to offer meat-and-potato standards like seared New York strip steak (admittedly unique, with bone-marrow butter and Parmesan potatoes) or Hemlock Hill roasted chicken (admittedly deviating from the norm, with hazelnuts and Hudson Valley-sourced polenta). Faced with these unusual, albeit stylish, takes on the usual suspects, we hit the specials. On one night, these included fat planks of creamy-fleshed halibut in a deliciously briny broth with those English peas and Swiss chard.

As is L’inizio’s list of savories, Heather Fratangelo’s desserts are seasonal and sophisticated. There was the unexpected, like carrots in a torta with cinnamon semifreddo, mango, and sweet mascarpone (no longer offered); also daring acid in strawberry-rhubarb cobbler (it was tamed by the mild creaminess of vanilla semifreddo). Dares aside, there are crowd-pleasers, too, like cinnamon-dusted bomboloni or New York cheesecake baked in a jar with graham-cracker crumbles.

Finally, in what has become a long list of raves, there is the genuine hospitality offered at L’inizio, which is something that is difficult to teach in the corporate restaurant structure of celebrity-chef restaurants. For all of its spatial challenges, L’inizio is a warm and welcoming place with seriously delicious food. Smart diners will know when to turn off the Food Network and pounce.

Food 3.5 | Service 3.5 | Atmosphere 3 | Cost $$$

698 Saw Mill River Rd, Ardsley 
(914) 693-5400

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