Enoteche: The Italian Food Lover’s Alternative to Tapas

Small plates go Italian at these snack and wine bars.



More foodie than wine bars, and more winey than snack bars, enoteche are the newest restaurant genre to hit Westchester in numbers. These super-casual restaurants take their inspiration from Italian wine shops, which traditionally offer glasses of locally produced vintages along with modest, Italian-style bar bites. Not surprisingly, in American hands, the traditional enoteca menu has been super-sized; our enoteche offer pastas, secondi, and even a little glamour.

While scale can differ, the essentials of enoteche are the same: they’re perfect, no-fuss spots to sample a variety of wines. By-the-glass lists are broad, and wines often come in sippable, swappable quartinos, as well as in half-bottles. Best of all, enoteche offer addictive Italian bar snacks, from bruschetti to panini, from salumi to formaggio. If you’re lucky, you‘ll even find irresistible, salty/greasy fritti (fried things), and, really—who wants more in bar food?

We took a tour of Westchester’s favorite enoteche and here’s what we found.

Antipasti

1 N Broadway, White Plains
(914) 949-3500; antipastiny.com

Antipasti’s sliced-to-order salumi.

Celebrity Chef Rick Laakkonen’s first suburban foray (he came into the spotlight at Manhattan’s iconic River Café and Buddha Bar) comes front-loaded with glitz and a stunning spectrum of choices—there are 50 wines by-the-glass, and 50 types of hot and cold antipasti (and that’s not even including the raw bar). For the full sensory impact, sit at the restaurant’s namesake antipasti bar, where visual prompts—of boutique, sliced-to-order salumi, formaggi, and addictive grilled and marinated veggies—are designed to whet the appetite and thirst.

While Antipasti’s vast main dining room can feel anonymous, the real dining scene is at the bar, where a throbbing soundtrack draws partiers as well as eaters. Don’t be surprised if dancing breaks out as you tuck into comforting standards like eggplant rollantini, caponata, stuffed mushrooms, and arancini (deep-fried rice balls). Cheese lovers will appreciate Antipasti’s mozzarella bar, where tender, house-made fior-de-latte spheres appear beside tangy mozzarella di buffalo, and bursting orbs of taut outside/creamy inside imported burrata. Scamorza (a style of smoked Italian cheese, here, mozzarella) is on offer, as well as bite-sized balls of fior-de-latte (boconccini). Also, look for the classic salad Caprese—fior di latte layered with tomato.

Antipasti’s wine program matches its bountiful menu. Look for 500 world-ranging vintages—with an Italian concentration, of course—and a deep roster of wines-by-the glass. Most glasses are priced from $9 to $15, although some vintages top $25.

Mima Vinoteca

63 Main St, Irvington
(914) 591-1300; mimarestaurant.com

Yonkers’s wildly successful Zuppa has a cozier younger sibling, Mima, which stepped smartly into the adorable tin-and-tile Irvington spot vacated last year by Red Hat. With charming waiters (clad in black shirts that insist, “drink wine”), cheerful chalkboard wine specials, and a wine program designed by Zuppa’s Randall Restiano and Armando Santucci, it’s an easy place to spend an Italophilic
evening. Still better, in warm weather, diners can enjoy sunset river views from Mima’s sidewalk tables.

Mima’s wines are available in mezzos (three ounces), quartinos (six ounces), and bottiglie (full 25+ ounce bottles), and are helpfully listed by grape, region, and where that region appears on the “boot.” This simplifying format provides a great vantage point to the wines of Italy, which span an overwhelming profusion of grapes and tiny regionalisms. Even more appealingly, Mima’s mezzos are priced for casual exploration, with many offered in the $4 to $6 range.

Mima’s antipasti menu features the classic wine-pairing snacks of Italy, including diner-designed affettati (sliced things)—wooden-board compositions of Italian cheeses, boutique hams, and cured meats. Those looking for more substantial fare can opt for small plates, including soup, salads, and lemon/salt-dusted seafood fritti misti. Others can linger for Mima’s familiar range of pastas and secondi. Whatever meal you choose—snack, light supper, or dinner—it’s best to save room for Mima’s delightful marble-sized bombolini. These warm, deep-fried dough balls are the perfect prelude to a chest-warming shot of grappa.

Nessa

325 N Main St, Port Chester
(914) 939-0119; nessarestaurant.com

Port Chester’s Nessa has tapped into a vein first mined by Manhattan’s ‘Ino and ‘Inoteca. These two fabulously successful enoteche offer casual drinking spots featuring carefully crafted panini and bruschetti. Simple in concept, the two restaurants are thronged with a night-crawling, wine-drinking crowd—the perfect customers to have in one’s crosshairs.

Of course, neither ‘Ino nor ‘Inoteca can boast of an outdoor bocce ball court, something Nessa proudly features, and Nessa also slings pastas and mains alongside its sandwich menu. While Nessa’s pastas are fine (and its brick-cooked chicken divine), it’s the bar bites that keep us coming back. Look for crisp bruschetti spread with creamy white beans, truffle oil, and tomato; and satisfying toasts of sweet/salty caramelized onion and Gorgonzola. Nessa’s bruschetti of rich, fatty chicken livers only miss a hint of woodsmoke—otherwise, they send us right back to our favorite hillside restaurant perched above Florence.

Corrugated from the press, Nessa’s panini offer the perfect crisp and oozy bites. Highlights include a soulful porchetta with molten mozzarella and biting broccoli rabe: we’re also fans of a crisp-seared pancetta with gooey Taleggio. And if you’re lucky, you’ll find Nessa’s minted fava-bean salad with shaved pecorino Toscana—it’s a lovely counterpoint to a carb-heavy dinner of sandwiches. Also check out Nessa’s salad of beet, frisée, walnut, and Gorgonzola.

To wash it all down, Nessa’s Italo-centric wine list was composed by ex-Restaurant Daniel Wine Director Jean-Luc Le Du. Most bottles are offered in quartinos and half-bottle carafes, with the bulk of quartinos hitting $11 to $15.

Pour

241 Main St, Mount Kisco
(914) 864-0606; pourmtkisco.com

In many ways, Pour is the most Italian in spirit of Westchester’s enoteche. Housed in a freestanding Victorian house saddled with “assembly only” zoning, Pour’s modest menu plays second fiddle to its wine list, just like the Italian model. Lacking even an oven (and since the City of Mount Kisco banned it, a fryer), Pour’s menu is executed in a rudimentary kitchen. Nevertheless, in owner Anthony Colasacco’s hands, culinary challenges have become triumphs.

Pour’s menu includes a short but thoughtful selection of the perfect wine-sipping compliments. Look for imported hams (ranging among wild boar, speck, and prosciutto), dried sausages and boutique American and imported cheeses. Satisfying enough, especially armed with a basket of Pour’s toasted Sullivan Street Bakery baguette slices, but a bowl of Colasacco’s white bean dip is hard to pass up. Here, the creamy beans are enriched with fatty Gorgonzola and salty Romano cheeses.

Diners seeking heartier fare might opt for Pour’s generous panini and cheesy flatbreads. We’re fans of a gooey fontina panino with caramelized onions and white truffle oil; and a fresh ricotta, rosemary, and guanciale flatbread is also a winner. Food is geared toward sharing at Pour, so arrive with a group and spend the evening; Pour’s intimate, candlelit rooms offer a seductive alternative to bars.

Pour’s mid-sized but well-curated wine list features many smaller producers, with most glasses priced in the $8 to $16 range. Helpfully, wines are categorized by body and intensity, which is a welcome overview to less familiar vintages.

Via Quadronno

199 Main St, White Plains
(914) 288-9300; viaquadronno.com

Westchester’s newest panini shop has something that the others don’t. Located at the foot of the Ritz-Carlton on a hopping White Plains corner, Via Quadronno offers a true evocation of an urban Italian bar/caffe. Duck in for a quick bite and you’re sure to meet someone you know. Or even better, toast life as it drifts by from one of Via Quadronno’s outdoor tables. (Heat lamps carry VQ’s sidewalk dining late into fall.)

 
 

While Via Quadronno offers a full (and fully-priced) Italian menu that spans pastas and mains, its panini menu hews closest to the enoteca original. The list is extensive, but favorites include VQ’s soulfully gamey Praga (smoked Prague ham and goose pâté), a tender open-faced sautéed porcini tartine, and VQ’s signature panino, an addictive composition of Genoa salami, brie, and creamy celery sauce. Of course, panini are only as good as the breads basing them—and at VQ, all breads come from New York City’s prestigious Tom Cat Bakery.

While Via Quadronno’s wines aren’t available in quartini and carafes, its by-the-glass list is long, welcoming, and molto Italiano. Look for a wealth of seductive glasses in the $9 to $15 range, the more indulgent sips will set you back $24.

Julia Sexton is a confirmed Italophile, spending as much time as she can afford in a nebbia-washed, three-room, three-story studiolo in Bologna with a rented Fiat Panda out front. Like everyone else in Bologna, she dresses in English Barbour jackets and layers of tweedy sweaters—though hers are somewhat stained with Pignoletto and coppa di testa.

 

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