Expect a fine-dining experience at Il Castello, where servers pull out your chair, place a white linen napkin on your lap, and scrape off table crumbs between courses. The service is one of the best features of the five-year-old restaurant opened by Lenny Balidemaj, an Albanian who grew up in Montenegro. Coming from a family involved in the food business, Balidemaj has worked in Westchester restaurants since he moved to the United States in 1994 and has a natural ability to make patrons feel welcome and cared for.
House-made pastas without heavy sauces to hide their freshness, grilled seafood, and succulent veal are highlights of Il Castello’s traditional Italian/Mediterranean fare. There’s fresh, house-made fettuccine cooked expertly al dente, tossed with wild mushrooms, fresh basil, garlic, olive oil, and (optional) hot peppers. Those accompaniments complement, rather than cover up, the star power of the fettuccine. The side vegetables are more than just an afterthought, cooked to the right balance between soft and crunchy.
“We’re less into overwhelming sauces and more into the flavor of fresh, natural ingredients,” Balidemaj says. He offers a long list of daily specials, and the menu changes seasonally. The grilled octopus appetizer, served with Tuscan beans, zucchini, and fresh herbs, has a smoky char and a tender bite. A wonderful veal chop special is blanketed by house-made mozzarella and stuffed with prosciutto and spinach. For the branzino, servers filet and finish cooking the buttery, melt-in-your-mouth Mediterranean sea bass tableside via a rolling cart. Ricotta cheesecake, tiramisù, and the velvety cannoli are house-made.
Balidemaj gave Il Castello a makeover in 2014, placing acoustic baffling on the ceiling so that chatter among the 65 to 80 seats doesn’t inhibit your own dinner conversation. The curtains are filmy and white, and the hardwood floor, polished. Classic oil paintings add elegance on the cream-colored upper portion of the walls, separated from the brick-red bottom by chair-rail molding. There’s a full liquor bar with four stools. All around, “grazie, Signore” and “buon appetito” sentiments flow freely.
576 Mamaroneck Ave, Mamaroneck (914) 777-2200