by Linda Viertel –
The deep pleasure of experiencing a warm and inviting neighborhood bistro can never be over-estimated. When my husband and I walked into Bar L’Inizio, he turned to me and said, “I love this place,” even though we hadn’t even begun to enjoy our dinner. That was an engaging start, which is exactly what L’Inizio” means — a beginning.
Veteran Chef/owners Scott Fratangelo and his wife Heather (the restaurant’s pastry chef and engaging hostess on weekends) opened L’Inizio in January 2013, with the bar to follow two years later, after a successful nine-year run at their two-star restaurant, Spigolo on Manhattan’s East Side. With a move to Westchester and a family on the way, the Fratangelo’s decided it was time to create a new cozy, local eatery in the same model: utilizing locally sourced produce and developing relationships with growers and meat providers (Heather is Matt Campbell’s – of Campbell Meats in Dobbs Ferry- sister-in-law), they have succeeded far beyond their original expectations.
L’Inizio evidences Chef Fratangelo’s expertise gleaned from five years of experience in Danny Meyer’s kitchens at Union Square Café and Gramercy Tavern as well as from the demands of creating his own highly rated Manhattan eatery. His maître d’, sommelier, and general manager, David Kurdys, brings his own Manhattan restaurant experiences from such stellar restaurants as Patroon, Jojo and Jean-Georges. Now a Westchester resident, he explains the joys of working in a family-run restaurant. “It’s smaller, and everybody does everything.” And, he’s right: L’Inizio feels like a community of like-minded souls who seriously care about high-quality food, hospitality and home-made preparations.
Fratangelo’s Mediterranean menu features signature dishes, ever popular since opening: baked clams with bacon in bagna cauda, chicken liver pate with crisp crostini and apple moutarda, and ricotta cavatelli with fennel sausage Bolognese and parmigiana. Specials change daily and are listed on the blackboard. But, there are so many inviting choices “per tavolo,” primi, pasta and secondi choices for those who love meat, fish and vegetable dishes, it would be hard to pick a favorite. House-made chicken sausage graces the chicken scarpariello for those who eschew pork. Chef Fratangelo is that careful in creating his plates.
Tasty winter vegetables receive deft treatment: crispy Brussels sprouts are served with sriracha aioli and cider gastrique; golden beets accompany burrata with a complement of beet puree, pistachios and cara cara orange; kale salad is topped with goat cheese, dried cherries, crispy shallots in a sherry vinaigrette, creste di gallo (ruffled whole-grain) pasta is flavored with wild mushrooms, kale, truffle oil, and parmigiana; and market steak gets the full treatment with parsnip puree, roasted squash, and red onion. L’Inizio’s famous gouda burger, layered with roasted tomato, arugula, B&B pickles, and lavished with a flavorful horseradish aioli becomes a fulsome dinner with the addition of crispy fingerling potatoes.
Heather’s home-made desserts (literally created in their Rye Brook home) feature bomboloni (Italian doughnuts) with cinnamon sugar and coffee panna cotta for dipping, a warm chocolate tart with her signature vanilla semifreddo and a “cookie board” providing five delectable choices, not to mention her famous New York cheesecake.
A prix-fixe menu for $33 Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday brings Restaurant Week to L’Inizio year-long. It’s an unbeatable and delicious deal.
L’Inizio’s bar serves a full menu as well, presided over by veteran mixologist David Shermet. He is constantly experimenting, creating seasonal and standard cocktails complemented by his barrel-aged cocktail offerings: the spirits in these cocktails have been aged in American charred oak barrels for 2 weeks. Negronis, sazeracs and margaritas have never tasted better.
Kurdys selects his extensive wine list with consummate knowledge and the express goal of pairing wines with his chef’s Mediterranean preparations. He has found moderately priced Portuguese, Sicilian and Spanish wines along with a full selection of Italian, French and Californian reds, whites and roses. L’Inizio’s wine list also offers Super Tuscans plus a Reserve List for full-bodied choices. Kurdys
features wine specials every two weeks, and these are posted on the blackboard.
With seating for 14, the bar is humming, especially on weekends. The room’s burnished pine woods walls, beamed ceiling and charming lighting create such a welcoming atmosphere, thanks to Heather Fratangelo’s design, that it’s become a destination dining spot. Rough-hewn wainscoting, soft ochre walls, and small rooms help diners hear one another during dinner at L’Inizio- an oft over-looked aspect of enjoying the dining out experience. The back room can be closed off via a charming barn door for private parties, if needed, and seats 30; an ante room seats 10; a main dining room seats 30 and all provide inviting small gathering places for diners who enjoy great food, good wine and one another in a convivial atmosphere. “Diners feel like L’Inizio is an extension of their homes,” said Kurdys. And, that’s exactly what a neighborhood bistro should be.
If You Go:
L’Inizio and Bar L’Inizio
698 Saw Mill River Road, Ardsley
Hours: Tues.-Thurs. 5-10 p.m. Fri.- Sat. 5-11 p.m. Sun. 5-9 p.m.
Happy Hour at Bar L’Inizio: Tues.-Fri. 5-7 p.m.
(914) 693-5400 | To go orders: liniziony.com
Parking: On street plus in a next door lot
Private parties | Catering available