Restaurant Review: Conte's Fishmarket

Good value, good service and good food—no wonder reservations are hard to get at Mt. Kisco’s Conte’s



A fish store by day, a seafood restaurant by night

Good value, good service and good food—no wonder reservations are hard to get at Mt. Kisco’s Conte’s

 

Remember those credit card commercials that urged, “Don’t leave home without it?” If your destination is Conte’s Fishmarket in Mt. Kisco, don’t forget to bring a few portraits of Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Jackson. And while you’re at it, stick a bottle of your favorite Sauvignon Blanc in a paper bag. Conte’s doesn’t take any credit cards, nor does it have a spirits license.

 

During the day, Conte’s is a fish store, gussied up with hanging fishnets, lobster pots and phony portholes to give it that Nantucket feeling. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, it morphs into a restaurant packed to the, umm,  gills with diners. How come a place so unprepossessing is so popular that it’s almost impossible to get a reservation?

 

Reason No. 1: great service. It’s hard not to love a restaurant where the manager tells a total stranger, flabbergasted by the no credit card rule, “Eat and send me a check when you get home.”

 

Reason No. 2: good value. Conte’s ersatz version of cioppino, a tomato-based fish stew, includes a two-pound lobster, six to eight sea scallops the size of hockey pucks, six medium-sized shrimp and a half dozen clams and oysters, which from a fishmonger’s case would easily set you back $35. The dish for two at Conte’s costs $52. With this, you get slaw, wonderful crusty bread with garlic and parsley butter, and faultless service from waitresses who remember your name on a second visit.

 

Conte’s is a family business—there’s a Conte at the stove, a Conte at the wholesale fish market at 3 a.m., and a Conte (Rob) greeting the regulars by name and remembering their favorites (“I’ve got yellowfin tuna tonight”).

 

The menu is scrawled in nearly illegible handwriting on pages from a ship’s log. It doesn’t matter that it’s unreadable, because the regulars know exactly what they want; if they don’t, Rob Conte will remind them.

 

On the summer nights I dined at Conte’s—judging by the parade of red lobster shells passing by—more than half of the dinners contained lobster. There’s not only lobster in the cioppino and the bouillabaisse, but there’s steamed lobster for $31, and stuffed lobster, lightly breaded with shrimp and scallops piled on top and veggies on the side, for $39. While the lobster in my cioppino was soft as butter, the stuffed version was on the chewy side.

 

Conte’s offers appetizers, but with the generous main course proportions, few seem to bother. My dining companion had a wonderful cilantro-flavored tuna tartare served with almonds, currants and capers.  On one occasion I had a forgettable Maryland blue-claw crab cake.  There is also a dessert menu offering tiramisu, a homemade Key lime tart and, my favorite, a lemon sorbet served in a frozen lemon.

 

Aside from greenbacks and Chablis, there is something else you might remember to bring if you can get a reservation at Conte’s. On one occasion, the demand for lobsters out-stripped the restaurant’s supply of claw crackers, so slip one of those in your pocket, too.

 

CONTE'S FISHMARKET

448 Main St., Mt. Kisco

(914) 666-6929

 

HOURS:

Lunch, Tue. to Fri. 12-1:30 pm

Dinner, Thurs. to Sat. 6-9:30 pm

PRICES:

Appetizers: $8

Soups: $5

Entrées: $21-$27

Desserts: $8