Tuxedoes, Antipasti, And Anisette on Show at
Old-School Italian from the people who bring you Pelham’s La Fontinella
People go to restaurants for many different reasons. Some go strictly to eat delicious food, while others don’t mind the food as long as the scene is chic and hip. Some diners want to be challenged by edgy decor and unlikely flavor combinations, while others go out to be comforted—they’re looking for a cozy and familiar place; they don’t want any surprises.
Il Teatro, a one-year-old restaurant launched by the same folks behind the well-received La Fontanella in Pelham, is perfect for the conservative diner. You’ll see no cooler-than-thou, headset-rigged waiters or skinny-jeans-and-Converse-wearing hipsters; you’ll hear no blaring rock music. Instead, tuxedoed waiters greet diners respectfully as they sit to complimentary antipasti of Parmigiano Reggiano chunks, olives, and salami slices. It’s not a stop-the-presses amuse bouche, but it is comforting and familiar. It feels like you’ve stepped back in time to an older sort of Italian restaurant—post-Sinatra, pre-Mario Batali. Located on an unparkable block off
, across the street from
There are several considerately priced bottles on Il Teatro’s wine list, many in the $35 range. We were especially pleased with a full-bodied Salento Primitivo for $29. Wines by the glass are presented less appealingly: there’s no written list and, when I asked what was available, I was only told the type of wine (Chianti,
Il Teatro’s starters are divided into cold and hot antipasti. The lineup has all the usual suspects—baked clams, eggplant rollatini, beef carpaccio, prosciutto with melon or figs, salad caprese—alongside some innovations, like shrimp with polenta and wild mushrooms. The latter innovation was regrettable, arriving as a large, very firm brick of polenta garnished with three shrimp and a beefy-tasting wild-mushroom sauce. Il Teatro’s less edgy carpaccio starter was better. The only notable flaw was the overdressed, too vinegary salad on which rested a thin slice of delicate raw beef.
On our second visit, we avoided unpleasant surprises by sticking to the basics. A starter of rollatini di melanzane arrived as fried eggplant slices wrapped around a goat cheese-and-ricotta filling. It was tangy and rich, but a bit too salty. My baked clams were better, and pleasantly simple—just fresh-shucked littlenecks broiled under pleasantly gritty breadcrumbs and olive oil.
Pastas are a good choice at Il Teatro. My favorite was gnocchi con ragu di vitello e parmigiano. Here, light and silky gnocchi are dressed in a mildly beefy ragu—it’s satisfying, though not particularly memorable. The same could be said of my classic bucatini alla amatriciana con pancetta. Having run out of bucatini (the hollow, spaghetti-like pasta), Il Teatro substituted dried, hole-less spaghetti. The resulting dish was fine, although I did miss the amatriciana’s classic pasta partner, bucatini, whose hollow shaft makes bucatini alla amatriciana so comically hard to slurp up. Il Teatro’s tomato-based amatriciana sauce had a nice peppery heat, but I was hoping for more porky soul from the pancetta.
My favorite secondo was vitello al limone. Here, tender, mild veal scallopini were served in a buttery lemon sauce. This dish was definitely more about butter and lemon than veal, though—the tender slices served only as neutral substrates. The scallopini were paired on the plate with two why-bother sides: a couple of large, irregular chunks of boiled potato garnished with a few toasted cheese shreds and a small pile of steamed veggies. Il Teatro’s plate-filler sides proved even more of a problem with my scampi aromatici. Here, a meager six butterflied shrimp arrived propped upright in a pool of buttery herb sauce, flanked by those ho-hum plate fillers. After the six bites that the tasty, tender shrimp yielded, I was left with big, unappetizing hunks of plain boiled potatoes (whose cheese garnish vied with the shrimp) and steamed vegetables. For the $28 the dish cost, I expect a more thoughtfully composed entrée, including interesting and appropriately matched sides.
Desserts are fairly standard at Il Teatro, running from gelati to tortoni to cakes, with most of the offerings made in-house. But Il Teatro does deliver a great last impression. After your meal, large bottles of Sambuca Romana and fruit brandy are placed on the table, along with pony glasses and biscotti. This is a thoughtful and traditional gesture, a mark of hospitality that you’ll find in many Italian-American homes. Paired with complimentary antipasti, these touches go a long way toward pleasing Il Teatro’s customers—who know exactly what they’re getting as soon as they walk in the door.
IL TEATRO â˜… ½
576 Mamaroneck Ave
Mon to Thurs 12-10 pm; Fri 12-11 pm
Sat 5-11 pm; Sun 4-10 pm. Appetizers: $7-$12; entrées: $17-$32; dessert: $7-$8
â˜…â˜…â˜…â˜…—Outstanding â˜…â˜…â˜…—Very Good