Created by proprietors Marc Tessitore and his father, Peter Tessitore, the swanky nessa (no, the “n” is not capitalized) is named after the younger Tessitore’s wife, Vanessa. To evoke a hot-spot vibe, father and son infused the atmosphere with old-timey jazz and world music; white cylindrical lights; dark wood laminate floors; black curtains that divide the long, narrow dining room from the bar; and gray walls touched with golden yellow wheat paintings.
It would be a shame to skip the talents of master mixologist Al Corbelli, who worked at the trailblazer of artisanal cocktails, Milk & Honey in New York City. The tasty Margarita with lime-peel curly-cue and sea-salt foam will give you a snowy mustache—and you won’t mind a bit. Even though fall is long gone, you’ll find a drink to assuage the lost experience in the Autumn Sour with amaretto, mulling spices, lime, egg white, pumpkin purée, and a cherry wrapped in an orange shaving. The wine menu is curated carefully, too, and it’s inspired by Jean-Luc Le Du, award-winning former head sommelier at Daniel in New York City. The supple Pinot Nero la Scolca Piedmonte 2008 is a full-bodied, flexible choice to pair with a mix of dishes.
Venerated chef Brady Duhame of Vox and Picholine, among others, created the menu when nessa opened a decade ago, and he was called back to refresh the menu, which now features pappardelle with lamb ragu, Gaeta olives, golden raisins, and ricotta, as well as pan-roasted salmon topped with Greek yogurt sauce flanked by a nicely spiced quinoa salad with diced carrots, almonds, and raisins. “It’s mostly Italian, but I wouldn’t say ‘authentic,’ because we like to throw in something else here and there, like the sauce for the calamari, which has Indian spices in it,” says Marc Tessitore. The seasonal menu will likely keep our two must-haves year-round: the creamy, spicy, hand-crafted ricotta cavatelli with sausage, Swiss chard, and sage; and the no-knife-needed short ribs, braised slowly with tomato broth, lemon, thyme, and escarole. The nessa salad’s fragrant arugula, fennel, and bright lemon dressing is a good way to start.
No matter how full you are, at least sample the bread pudding with figs, caramel drizzle, and vanilla ice cream or the satisfying Nutella banana panini with fresh whipped cream and strawberries. Then you might be able to resist the sweet-smelling zeppole served next door at zeppoleme, the Tessitores café that also serves Stumptown coffee, panini, salads, and homemade soups.
325 N Main St, Port Chester (914) 939-0119