Wine & Food Festival Q&A of the Week
For the second in our series of chats with participants in Westchester's June feast for the senses, we keep things simple and clean with L'inizio co-owner and chef Scott Fratangelo.
Photo: Heather Fratangelo
Ahead of our annual Wine & Food Festival, Westchester is eager to whet your appetite by offering a weekly interview with a participating chef, purveyor or grape fermenter. Last week, we got between the buns with Katharine Woodward of historic Walter’s Hot Dogs in Mamaroneck. Today, we get inside the mind and kitchen of Scott Fratangelo, co-owner (along with his wife Heather, who doubles as pastry chef) and chef of modern Italian eatery L'nizio in Ardsley. Below, Scott preps Wine & Food ticket holders for what they can expect from his table at Friday, June 10's "Evening With Westchester's Tastemakers", how he and Heather balance marriage and managing a business, and whether or not a customer should always be compelled to order the special.
So what's on the menu for your appearance at the festival?
I was going to do a soup shooter and a fruit crudo.
Dish aside, how do you plan to stand out from the other chefs?
I have to say personality. And giving them, I think, a nice snapshot conceptually of what the restaurant is about. And we’re about food. It's clean, it's simple, it's pure.
Has that approach helped redefine the way people go out to eat around Westchester?
I like to think that we stood true to what we did in the city and brought that kind of vision up here. These are discerning diners up here. We give them an environment they feel they’re comfortable in. And what’s on the plate is something that they could very well see in an urban setting.
What was the most crucial decision you made that really helped business take off?
More than anything it was hospitality. The biggest focus since we’ve been open is people not feeling like after the first year we’re not gonna be around anymore. We’re not fly-by-night. We’re just here to deliver. With that comes listening and hearing what the suggestions or the pros and cons are from people and working it into our program. [Coming to Westchester] was a little change of mindset in the sense of community, but we still execute the level of service and attention to detail that we aspire to, from the kitchen to the front.
What's the secret to running L'inizio as husband and wife?
Wow, that’s heavy. The advice I would give [a couple] when they come to me is I’d ask them straight away: Do you share the same goals? Do you share the same vision? And is that the driving force for you? That has to be the case, on top of the ability to be a couple and completely separate when it’s all business. We’ve done it where we go at each other, and I’ll resist her and she’ll resist me and then we’ll come to terms and figure it out at the end of the day. When Heather wants to do something and I wanna do a different thing, then we just sit down and I say, "These are my ideas and why I think we should do it this way," and she’ll shoot off why she thinks we shouldn’t and why it would be better another way. And then we come to what’s best for clientele, servers, what’s gonna make everyone’s job easier and not just be my idea.
Last, most essential question: Is it a true axiom that one should always order the special?
As a restaurant guy and as a diner, I would definitely dabble in a special. I wouldn’t commit my whole meal for it if it’s my first time going. If I frequent a place, then I do push on the specials because I start to see the consistency and creativity of the kitchen.