For a restaurant to be included in this article, it must have opened in 2014 or later. Making its debut in January 2014, L’inizio just made it. But even if it had opened a month or two (or three) earlier, we likely would have made an allowance. L’inizio is indeed the kind of place exceptions are made for. It’s a mod Italian star without the celebrity chef attached to it.
Executive Chef and Co-Owner Scott Fratangelo has the cooking chops to be taken seriously—he previously owned, with his wife, Heather (L’inizio’s talented pastry chef), the well-reviewed Spigolo in Manhattan, and he spent time as sous chef at Union Square Cafe.
One might not think of greatness based on L’inizio’s trappings: the self-effacing exterior on Saw Mill River Road in less-than-stirring “downtown” Ardsley. There’s a droplet of a bar in the middle of two small dining rooms that make up the modest interior (sit in the rear room to avoid the more cramped front quarters). But appearances belie the wonderful, sophisticated offerings, both behind the bar and in the kitchen.
There’s a mostly Italian wine list (on Tuesdays bottles under $100 are 50 percent off) plus a short list of artisan cocktails made from spirits aged in-house in charred oak barrels—try the Old Fashioned with blueberry and orange peel-infused Larceny bourbon and the Margarita of white tequila imbued with Calabrian chili and honey.
Pastas, such as ravioli with peas, oyster mushrooms, preserved lemon, and pecorino, are excellent.
Almost anything on the food menu is a delightful union of artful plating, skillful cookery, and sustainable ingredients from local purveyors such as Blooming Hill Farm in Monroe, New York; Fazio Farms in Modena, New York; and The Hudson Milk Company in Shrub Oak (the milks and creams are used expertly in semifreddos and custards). Starters include a rustic chicken liver pâté and smoked Maple Farm ricotta and acacia honey on grilled bread. Pastas, which can be ordered as app portions or full-sized entrées, change seasonally and are excellent. Recent selections include ricotta cavatelli with fennel sausage Bolognese and fettuccine with wild mushrooms and kale.
Many diners pass on dessert; at L’inizio, that’s a mistake. Executive Pastry Chef and Co-Owner Heather Fratangelo, a French Culinary Institute graduate who worked at Manhattan’s Eleven Madison Park, db Bistro Moderne, and Salute before meeting Scott at Union Square Cafe, delivers a magnificent sweets selection. Among them: a choice of killer semifreddos and cinnamon-sugar bomboloni (Italian donuts).
In Italian, L’inizio translates to “the start.” It’s safe to say the Fratangelos have gotten off to a great one and are now on their way to establishing a Westchester original. There are plans to expand, but, for now, don’t concern yourself with the awkward space—as soon as the first plates arrive, you won’t care a bit.
WHAT TO ORDER: crudo, chicken liver crostini, baked clams, smoked Maple Farm ricotta with honey on grilled bread, celery and green apple salad, any of the seasonally changing pastas, Hemlock Hill roasted chicken, semifreddo, bomboloni (Italian donuts), s’mores baked Alaska
698 Saw Mill River Rd, Ardsley
(914) 693-5400; www.liniziony.com