Salvatore Cucullo Jr. spent much of his youth in the kitchen as part of a family that thrived on Italian food. That led him to train at the Culinary Institute of America, where he made a lifelong passion into a career. It’s no wonder that he still whips up classic Italian fare at The 808 Bistro, right down to his nana’s gnocchi recipe. Cucullo isn’t content to rely solely on tradition, though, so he partners traditional plates with modern ones that he creates himself. He infuses pork rib eyes with the distinct flavor of fennel, serving the cuts of meat with carrots glazed in truffle honey and thyme. The ginger-orange-marinated duck breast gets an Italian kick from the bed of mushroom risotto that it’s served over, which Cucullo carefully shapes into the form of a Roman gladiator’s sandal. Of course, no Italian meal modern or classic would be complete without wine. The 808 Bistro’s selection revolves around Italian pours, though it also includes selections from California, Argentina, and Australia. The restaurant’s dining room sports a sophisticated color scheme of silver and pale-purple tones. Light pours in from the large front windows, reflecting off of tin ceilings, decorative mirrors, and the patterned tile lining the bar and walls.
Pas-Tina's, a repeat honoree on the Best of Westchester list, beguiles taste buds with old-world recipes conjured from fresh ingredients. Guests can eyeball the extensive menu over the lip of a house-made sangria aperitif ($8) or dip into a hot antipasto plate spotlighting clams, mussels, and shrimp backed by eggplant pinwheels and stuffed mushrooms ($11). Succulent slabs of filet mignon arrive surrounded by savory barola-wine moats guarded by uniformed mushroom sentries ($26), and the tilapia puttanesca sports chopped tomatoes, capers, olives, and a confetti of fresh basil ($23). The menu's two dozen generously portioned pasta dishes include tender gnocchi ($16) and king-size pillows of jumbo ravioli ($15) cuddled up with mozzarella security blankets. At dinner’s end, sweet teeth can sink into a choice of layered napoleon pastry, tiramisu, or tangy cheesecake (a $7 value).
Father-son restaurateurs Pasquale and Francesco Coli chose the name Massa' Italian Kitchen & Bar as a tribute to the southern Italian farmhouses, known as “masserias,” that line the countryside of their native Puglia, located on the heel of Italy. Their passion for the rustic, Old-World charm of Puglia permeates the kitchen, where chefs hand form pastas, chop local farm vegetables, and assemble housemade sausages. As a nod to Puglia's centuries-old maritime traditions, they also seek out fresh shipments of fish and seafood every day. Before diners embark on a gustatory expedition to Italy, servers suggest wine pairings from a list of more than 100 bottles, and bartenders mix signature cocktails with vodkas they infuse with vibrant fruits.
Today the restaurant continues to embrace its rustic roots, catering to diners and families who appreciate classic Italian cuisine and healthy portion sizes. The easy, dining-room evokes the feel of a rural cottage with its exposed-stone walls, floor-to-ceiling fireplace, and woodwork, which was constructed out of materials salvaged from century-old New England barns to created a relaxed dining experience. At each table, Old-World crafted entrees steam atop white plates, while families and friends breezily chatter amid the homey ambiance to the split-level dining room and wine bar.
Chef Alvaro Camilo curates a culturally diverse selection of pastas, seafood, and steaks at Zagat-rated Caffé Azzurri. With a bar and two dining rooms, the eatery facilitates romantic, chandelier-lit dinners as easily as it enables quick glasses of wine with friends or sentient glasses of wine. Entrees marry the rustic traditions of Italian cuisine with the eclectic flavors of American recipes to create both classic entrees, such as potato gnocchi with basil pesto béchamel, and contemporary dishes, including the sesame Ahi tuna in a plum-ginger glaze. The décor may be the food’s most flattering garnish, as The New York Times lauds the venue's "lovely fixtures [that] cast a subdued glow on wood-paneled walls" and its "handsome wide-slatted window blinds," which block the bustle of the street outside.
The menu at Frankie & Fanucci's Wood Oven Pizzeria is dominated by the offerings from the authentic 800-degree wood-burning oven, which chars the tasty toppings melting against thin crust dough and crispy panini rolls. The simple margherita pizza consists of fresh mozzarella from Brooklyn, imported italian plum tomatoes, and fresh basil (16", $16.95). Personal pizzas measuring 10 inches entice eaters with a smaller-sized saucer, a whole-wheat crust option, and more table room to build napkin skyscrapers reinforced with forks ($9.95-$12.95). The wood oven also blisters hot-pressed chicken provolone panini and its mix of provolone cheese, tomatoes, caramelized onions, and sweet roasted-garlic dressing ($8.95). Opposing cool textures of the pear and gorgonzola salad allot a small forest of mixed greens topped with roasted walnuts and pear dressing to prepizza palettes ($8.50). Pasta, available at the Mamaroneck location, teams with the scratch-made Grandma's Sunday Sauce to create flavor-saturated entrees such as cheese ravioli ($13.95). The Hartsdale Village location, mentioned in a New York Times article, imparts passionate discussions of sweets through the nutella pizzetta, where the delicious chocolate-hazelnut spread smoothes over pizza crust before being struck with a vanilla ice-cream meteor ($7.50).
The pizza options are seemingly endless at Mezza Luna Pizzeria & Restaurant. Choose from Sicilian-style pizzas, make-your-own creations, or 15 specialty pies that include a baked ziti pizza, a lasagna pizza, and a meatlovers pizza sprinkled with ham, pepperoni, ground beef, and sausage. Other Italian-American options, such as calzones, heroes, paninis, and pastas, round out the menu.