Mamaroneck's Culinary Revolution
Once upon a time, this Sound Shore village would apologize for its lack of eateries. No longer.
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Photography by Cathy Pinsky
A diner’s map of Mamaroneck
1. Il Castello
Chef Rui Correia, the former chef at Oporto in Hartsdale who also owns Douro, a Portuguese restaurant in Greenwich, Connecticut, says he never really considered bringing his signature food to Mamaroneck…until now. “Mamaroneck’s location near Larchmont, New Rochelle, Scarsdale, Rye, and White Plains makes it ideal for business,” says Correia, whose restaurant Piri-Q is set to open any day now. “Plus, look at all the new restaurants on the Avenue. It’s great.”
Indeed, in the last two years Mamaroneck has upped its restaurant count by 10, with more slated to open within the next few months. Once known beyond its borders only for Walter’s Hot Dogs and Sal’s Pizza, this Sound Shore villlage has become a gastronomic destination rivaling Port Chester with its variety of ethnic eateries. Here, Asian outnumbers Italian, Portuguese is hot, Italian remains a favorite, and old-fashioned bakeries abound.
Mamaroneck Mayor Norman Rosenblum, who grew up here, explains the restaurant explosion by what he calls the “McDonald’s effect”: when one opens and is successful, another one follows, creating business for everyone.
The following is a peek at the most recently opened eateries. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find a new favorite place.
Il Castello’s signature branzino
Il Castello (576 Mamaroneck Ave, 914-777-2200. Open Tuesday to Friday, lunch and dinner; Monday and Saturday dinner only, Sunday 2 to 9 pm). Expect solid Italian fare with Old World touches at this comfortable eatery, which took over the Il Teatro space six months ago. The restaurant, which used to be at 327 Mamaroneck Avenue for years, serves the same classic dishes it was known for before it switched locations, including homemade cheese ravioli, pollo paillard, and jumbo shrimp fra diavolo. Owner Lenny Balidemaj says many old customers come for the signature branzino (striped bass), wheeled in for a tableside deboning, before being moistened with a wine, garlic, and herb sauce. It’s from-the-dock delish and, of course, the theatrics of the “old school” presentation make it even more enjoyable. (The Caesar salad, another favorite, also is prepared tableside; order it to fully appreciate how this dish used to be prepared before it became a chain-restaurant staple.)
The service is attentive, with waiters (many with heavy Italian accents) who are lightning-quick in clearing dishes and refilling water glasses. Many pastas are made in-house and are so fresh you’d swear someone’s nonna was in the back whipping up creations in her housedress (try the fettuccine with two different kinds of mushrooms and jumbo shrimp sautéed in garlic and oil). It’s a quiet place; there’s nothing fancy or trendy about it. But with free valet parking, a welcoming platter of cheeses, olives, and two kinds of hearty, crusty bread upon arrival, not to mention a warm welcome by Balidemaj, you won’t be disappointed. That is, unless they’re out of branzino.
La Piccola Casa (410 W Boston Post Rd, 914-777-3766). Open every day for lunch and dinner.) Cozy is the word to describe what literally translates to “the small house.” This Northern Italian restaurant, which used to be farther down Boston Post Road in Rye Neck, has been at this Mamaroneck location for the past nine months and seems to have brought along many of its regulars, as well as some new faces. Located in a compact 1792 frame landmark, the former home of James Fenimore Cooper, it offers hominess and comfort, just like dining at a friend’s house. And it faces Harbor Island Park, which means outdoor seating with a view come warmer weather. The setting inside is minimalist, but sweet, with patterned curtains framing the windows, a warm Tuscan beige color on the walls, fresh rosebuds in miniature vases on white tablecloths, and attentive and friendly service—the perfect balance of unobtrusive and helpful.
The menu is what you’d expect—lots of pastas and chicken, with a fair share of seafood, veal, and steak accompanied by various tomato and white-wine sauces. Plump, gorgeous shrimp come in a light wine, lemon, and butter sauce and make for a pretty presentation, and a salmon special sits on a base of light tomato sauce with an assortment of seafood, perking up the usual fish dish. And oh, there’s the tartufo dessert drizzled in chocolate sauce and served with a frothy decaf cappuccino. This little house, indeed, serves comfort and charm in a big way.
La Herradura’s lively and brightly-colored atmosphere beckons a daily fiesta.
La Herradura (406 Mamaroneck Ave, 914-630-2377). Open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.) You can’t fake hospitality, and, at this vibrantly colored hacienda of an eatery, they aim to please. Tables laden with cheerful Mexican tiles? Check. Helpful servers? Got that. An abundance of offerings at decent prices? Got that too, and we haven’t even mentioned the full list of margaritas (the frozen mango is our favorite).
The list of options is exhaustive with a full serving of American breakfast offerings (think pancakes, omelets, French toast), Mexican breakfast selections (huevos rancheros, chorizo mollettes), and a full range of salads and a wider range of fajitas, quesadillas, tacos, burritos, and burgers. (And yes, even pizzas and chicken fingers for the kids.) Go simple: a warm flour tortilla heaped with grilled chicken, onions, green peppers, and served with yellow rice, refried beans, guacamole, and sour cream—paired with a frosty margarita. Here, the beans are juicy, almost meaty, and the dishes appropriately spicy, with enough kick to make you appreciate the fact that you can never duplicate the same at home.