editor: Morris Gut has covered the Westchester restaurant scene a long time. These are a few of his more “traditional” suggestions for Valentine’s Day if you’re dining for two:
The Vivolo family, proprietors of La Riserva, have been serving Italian classics here for over 38 years and the enhanced atmosphere and friendly ambiance keep it a treat. Be seated in the lovely refurbished dining room with lush red ceiling, now part vintage photo gallery, and let veteran manager Ellie Cucino suggest such specialties as: flavorful Polenta al Gorgonzola with shrimp; Angel Hair Abissi Marini, thin egg noodles in a light cream sauce with shrimp and mushrooms; Linguine Del Mare with seafood; Veal Chop alla Griglia, with mushrooms and roasted potatoes; or the Branzino Mediterraneo. Michael Vivolo’s son Dean operates Trattoria Vivolo in Harrison. Private party facilities. There is a daily fixed price lunch for $15.95. Open 7 days for lunch and dinner. Free parking.
La Riserva, 2382 Boston Post Road, Larchmont 914-834-5584 www.lariservarestaurant.com
Le Sirene Ristorante- The Fratelli Bruno: Cosimo and Gerardo, and their family have combined their considerable talents in opening on Palmer Ave. in Larchmont. The Bruno family are veteran restaurateurs who also own such venerable dining rooms as San Pietro, Caravaggio and Sistina in Manhattan. “Let natural food flavors express themselves,” is their culinary philosophy. Owner Cosimo Bruno is general manager and host, but also shares kitchen duties with Executive Chef Alberto Pepe, his nephew, who also grew up in Salerno. Hospitable Maitre d’ is Gabriele Pepe, also a nephew. Let the warmth guide you to your seat and let the professional staff give you a tour of the menu. The bar/lounge is to your right as you enter. The Brunos know their wines. Cosimo Bruno is a Certified Sommelier. The ‘pizzaoli’ is at his wood fired pizza oven at the end of the bar ready to prepare over a dozen of his tasty individually styled pies. Le Sirene 1957 Palmer Ave., Larchmont. Phone: 914-834-8300 www.lesireneristorante.com
Dubrovnik-For years Jerry Tomic, a native of Croatia, dreamed of bringing a true taste of home to Westchester. He premiered Dubrovnik, Westchester’s first restaurant devoted to Croatian cuisine and atmosphere, a multi-level 85-seat establishment with seasonal outdoor patio, state of the art temperature controlled wine cellar, al fresco wood burning rotisserie BBQ, lush seasonal herb garden and bar/lounge. Talented chef Selendic and his team man the kitchen and they will transport you to the beautiful Adriatic on the Dalmatian Coast in flavorful style. Joining Tomic is veteran restaurateur and floor manager Nada Bernic, previously of The Terrace in Manhattan. Most everything is house made from the bread to desserts. Try the Warm Octopus Salad; Steamed Mussels; Bay Scallops on the Shell; Fresh Cod Filet with grapes, olives, pearl onions; Mama Tereza’s lobster, shrimp, scallops, fish, clams and mussels steamed in a seasonal broth over pasta; Grilled Rack of Lamb; or whole roasted fish prepared out on the BBQ. Open 7 days for lunch and dinner. Live entertainment. Reservations suggested. Private party facilities. Valet parking. Dubrovnik, 721 Main Street, New Rochelle 914-637-3777 www.durbrovnikny.com
Mamma Francesca- An extraordinary 5-course Valentine’s dinner will be served for $59.95 per couple. The regular menu will also be available. When Nick DiCostanzo was growing up on the Island of Ischia on the Coast of Naples in Italy, his earliest memories where of the simple seaside meals he would enjoy with his family, farm-to-table and of course sea-to-table. As proprietor of Mamma Francesca Italian Restaurant in New Rochelle for over 30 years, located on the banks of Long Island Sound with 6-story views of the ‘Queen City’s’ seafaring boat clubs, this culinary philosophy still holds true, albeit with a sprinkling of contemporary taste. Specialties include: fresh Ischia Salad; individual sized pizza; Giant Meatballs; good retro versions of Chicken, Veal or Shrimp Parmigiana; Mamma’s Chicken Breast Europeo, stuffed with prosciutto, mozzarella, mushrooms and spinach in a Marsala wine sauce; a big platter of Misto Frutti di Mare loaded with shrimp, clams, calamari and mussels in a red sauce over linguini; and Pork Chops or Sirloin della Nonna, served with sliced potatoes, peppers, mushrooms and onions. Daily Happy Hours. Party facilities & off-premise catering. Free parking. Mamma Francesca, 414 Pelham Road, New Rochelle 914-636-1229. www.mammafrancesca.com
Rio Bravo- A salsa tasting and Margarita is a good way to turn up the heat. The artsy red statue guarding the Palmer Ave. entrance to Rio Bravo just hints at the many south-of-the-border pleasures waiting inside. It is a sprawling 200-seat environment strewn with colorful Mexican art and artifacts, multiple seating areas with a big bar/lounge for socializing. Brothers Edgar and Hector Brambila also operate a Rio Bravo in Fairfield, CT. and another in Westport. The menu is loaded with flavorful surprises: Milanesa Chicken Tacos, hand battered fried chicken wrapped in a tortilla covered with melted cheese, roasted poblano crema, pico de gallo and mixed cabbage; Torero Steak Fajitas, a giant portion of wood grilled marinated skirt steak; Southwestern Caesar Salad, a spicy twist to the traditional Caesar with corn, tomatoes, cotija cheese and chicken Milanesa, tossed with chipotle-ranch dressing; and Square Knot Salmon, achiote and lemon seared salmon with roasted pineapple. Happy Hours in the galloping bar/lounge Monday thru Friday from 3 pm to 6 pm feature half price house drinks and appetizers. Taco Tuesdays offer $1 tacos at the bar. Large selection of Tequilas at the bar and you can also build your own Margarita. Rio Bravo 1879 Palmer Ave., Larchmont. 914-341-1546 www.riobravotacosandtequila.com
La Piccola Casa- The regular menu will be served at lunch and dinner. Chef/owner Walter Ricci of La Piccola Casa is originally from Peru and had an Italian grandfather. He has worked many popular kitchens thru the years including the former Umberto’s in Rye and Giorgio’s in Port Chester. A few of years ago he moved his cozy 15-year-old restaurant into handsomely refurbished quarters in the landmark DeLancey House where author James Fenimore Cooper lived for a time across from beautiful Harbor Island Park along Rt. 1. Enjoy such Valentine’s house specialties as: Clams Oreganata as you have never had them; fresh Seafood Salad; a lavish Fettuccine Carbonara; tasty Pollo Scarpariello; Snapper Posillipo; along with such occasional specials as Rack of Lamb and Osso Buco. Cozy bar/lounge with a view. On and off-premise catering. Open 7 days for lunch and dinner. Free parking. 410 W. Boston Post Road, Mamaroneck (914-777-3766)www.lapiccolacasarestaurant.com