You know an Italian restaurant is going to be good when half of the people seated in the room eating alongside your table are speaking Italian. Add in the fact that the restaurant is owned and operated by famed chef Mario Batali and restaurateur Joe Bastianich, son of one of my all time favorite people, Lidia Bastianich, and chances are it should be pretty memorable.
I have eaten at the Bastianich restaurant, Becco, in New York City before (posted about here), and had a really fantastic, homey Italian meal. We have tried to get reservations at other Batali restaurants on past visits to NYC without luck, but luckily, as we entered Westchester County on our way back from NJ yesterday, I remembered Batali’s and Bastianich’s suburban restaurant, Tarry Lodge. We had just enough time to GPS the directions and to call ahead with a reservation before arriving in downtown Port Chester, NY.
Port Chester has an eclectic mix of restaurants and stores, and we kind of thought we were in the wrong place. But sure enough, we soon passed by Tarry Wine, turned the corner, and found ourselves looking for street parking right near Tarry Lodge.
The outside of the restaurant definitely sticks out from the otherwise drab surroundings, the smart green façade dotted with shaded windows. The inside is beautiful with lots of natural light, cheerful yellow walls, and fabric used as decoration rather than paintings or other art. One room offers a long, white marble bar while the other featured spaced out tables covered in white cloths.
Near the host stand, a wooden box holds business cards from other Bastianich and Batali eateries. My goal? To eat at all of them!
The menus at Tarry Lodge were a little overwhelming with tons of house-made pizzas and pastas, antipasti, and salad. Additional weekend brunch options and a pri-fixe menu, $19 for a salad and pizza, made choosing our food even more difficult!
The wine list was just as extensive with a great selection of wines, including Bastianich wines, by the glass. I decided on the 2008 Bastianich Refosco as I had tried it at the Newport Wine Festival.
As I sipped on my wine, our server brought soft focaccia and fragrant olive oil with a few olives basking in its deliciousness.
I don’t often eat the bread served to the table at a restaurant, but I did have a small piece of this focaccia and wished I could eat the entire plate without ruining my appetite.
My husband decided to take advantage of the $19 deal, and I shared his walnut and gorgonzola salad with him. Topped with tart Granny Smith apples and homemade cheese, this salad was crunchy, fresh, and steeped with flavor.
For our main entrees, we decided to sample Batali’s pasta and pizza. I ordered the Fusilli alla Crazy Bastard, yes, that was the name, which is a corkscrew pasta with a creamy pink goat cheese sauce, sundried tomatoes, and walnuts. The portion was enough for several people, and it made an excellent dinner many hours later The flavors in this dish were out of control, tangy, creamy goat cheese, salty sundried tomatoes, and some bitter greens dressed up simple pasta and made it something special.
Out of all of the pizza choices, we both fixated on the pizza with goat cheese, pistachios, and truffle honey. How could we NOT get that?
The pizza had a thin crust with chewy edges, mounds of fresh goat cheese, caramelized red onions, crunchy pistachios, and sweet, earthy truffle honey. It was pizza perfection.
We also brought some of the pizza home for a snack later that evening. The food was so satisfying and rich that a little really went a long way.
My full belly said no to dessert, but my reasonable husband questioned when we would be eating at one of Mario Batali’s restaurants again (um, hopefully soon!), and we decided to have espresso and the mascarpone cheesecake. We managed to eat every single bite
I love eating a big, fancy, delicious lunch that includes wine and espresso. My body definitely can’t do it everyday, but it is such a nice treat and broke up our forever long drive back to Boston.
The service at Tarry Lodge was as delightful and impressive as the food, and the setting was comfortable with a definite nod to the Italian countryside. It was nice to come in from a cold, bleak day, for a little bit of comfort in the form of some homemade Italian food.
Chef Batali and friends, if you are reading this, I am currently looking for a job and would love to collaborate with you on an Italy On the Road Again, as long as my other favorite person, Gwynnie is involved. Pretty please?
Have you ever eaten at one of Mario Batali’s restaurants or the restaurant of another celebrity chef? If you haven’t, do you have a dream restaurant?