Not every Italian restaurant needs baked ziti and eggplant parmigiana. At Zeppoleme, the chefs strive to create a hybrid, bistro-style setting that combines elements of a wine bar, a coffee house, and a trattoria underneath the same roof. Instead of designing a menu that incorporates dishes from every corner of the Italian peninsula, the chefs choose to present diners with a curated collection of dishes that is intended to spotlight the potential of a handful of items prepared with hand-crafted care, as well as the occasional modern touch.
Befitting its name, zeppole—Italian-style donuts—appear prominently on Zeppoleme's menu. The list includes the time-honored version so often seen in the kitchens of Italian homes and on the streets during the annual Feast of St. Joseph; however, the chefs also create their own version by folding ricotta into the dough, making the pastry lighter and fluffier than their traditional counterparts. As many as six different dipping sauces, including vanilla cream, Nutella, and lemon glaze, can accompany these zeppole for dessert. For a more savory take on the treat though, Zeppoleme also offers another modern innovation: appetizer-sized versions stuffed with hearty fillings, such as bacon, chives, and provolone.
Although the zeppole appear prominently on the menu and even attracted the attention of Food Network personality Giada de Laurentiis, the selection also features a number of heartier gourmet options. Butter-pressed panini include everything from spicy eggplant and goat cheese to broccoli rabe and beef short ribs that braise for a full 24 hours. Even the salads put on upscale spin on the expected, as evidenced by the classic caesar made with kale instead of standard iceberg filler.
Stopping in for a quick bite or a meal is always an option, although Zeppoleme also caters to the whims of passersby seeking a drink and an opportunity to lounge for a bit in a relaxed setting. Baristas make specialty espresso drinks while exclusively using beans from Stumptown Coffee Roasters, and the bartenders keep spirits high full by pouring fresh glasses of wine straight from the taps. Even with its gourmet bistro spirit and festively vibrant decor, Zeppoleme never manages to lose "the friendly, drop-in culture that thrives here," according to the New York Times.
La Panetière's elegant cuisine works its way into not only the stomachs but the hearts of those who dine within the restaurant's cozy French-countryside embrace. Tucked inside a 200-year-old building, the "hushed dining room," as it was described by the New York Times, is home to "artistically arranged dishes" straight from the brain of owner Jacques Loupiac. The AAA Four Diamond Award–winning restaurant changes its menus frequently, but consistently remixes French culinary staples with seafood, beef, and vegetables grown in the United States.
Complemented by pours from vintages drawn out of its historic cellar, seasonal dishes may highlight sautéed Maine lobster with minty zucchini and white gazpacho or sophisticated accents of foie gras and escargots. It's La Panetière's unwavering devotion to refinement that makes it a destination for romance and celebration, as well as a proud recipient of the Best French Restaurant award, as voted by the people who read and make origami dragons out of Westchester Magazine. The eatery also boasts high Zagat ratings—food, decor, and service are all in the “extraordinary to perfection" category.
Al Dente Italian Trattoria's owner and chef, Anthony Delfino, creates intimate dinners with a focus on great food and a welcoming atmosphere. Crafted with passion from fresh ingredients and following authentic recipes, Delfino's menu of hearty Italian fare sails to tables dish by dish for relaxed meals that unfold over the course of several hours. Dishes can also be served all at once, family-style, for large groups or patrons who like to put calamari on their cheesecake. An extensive wine list spares patrons the trouble of stomping their own grapes in the parking lot, with cabernet, pinot grigio, and other varietals enhancing the rich cuisine's subtle flavors.
Geranium red walls and a seemingly endless supply of fresh Thai orchids contribute to the serene ambiance at Reka’s Thai Restaurant, where the kitchen staffers create classics of royal-style cuisine. With a focus on subtlety of flavors, they fuse both imported ingredients as well as those from local merchants when creating dishes like Escargot Thai Style, Green Papaya Salad, Crispy Duck with Crispy Kale, and Wild Boar Jungle Style, all of which are plated with an artful flair. To complement the leisurely dining style, chords from a classical guitarist permeate the dining room on every Friday and Saturday evening.
At Mulberry Street Italian Kitchen, the aromas of cured meats, sautéed shellfish, and grilled steaks waft past leather-cushioned booths and dark wood tables set against exposed brick walls. In a partially open kitchen that’s visible from a raised dining area, chefs blend traditional Italian recipes with modern techniques, realizing the dream Leonardo da Vinci birthed when he invented the convection oven. They specialize in New York-style brick-oven-fired pizzas topped with ingredients such as spicy cherry peppers, italian sausage, prosciutto di parma, arugula, and clams. They also toss traditional pastas, and create classic chicken, veal, and seafood dishes in styles such as parmigiana, milanese, and saltimbocca. At a long, polished bar set in front of a row of arched windows, bartenders pour vintages from an extensive wine list featuring bottles from Italy, France, and California.