HVRW: Zuppa in Yonkers

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Hey all — Liz here.

My Hudson Valley Restaurant Week got off to a great start at Zuppa in Yonkers. I’m going to say this up top, in case y’all are skimming all the reviews: if you haven’t yet decided where you’re going for HVRW, may I suggest you put Zuppa at the top of the short list.

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The highlights of the meal were a gorgeous escarole salad, grilled calamari on skewers and a juicy roast chicken.

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The desserts, especially the famous zeppole, were great, too.

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And everyone I spoke to at the restaurant agreed: Zuppa is doing HVRW right. There are four appetizer and five entree choices, and all represent the restaurant very well.

Here’s Kelly Spodnik and Keith Ryan, who recently became engaged. (Congrats and best wishes, guys!)

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They had the escarole salad with gorgonzola, candied walnuts, hudson valley apples and cranberries; the fava bean and mascarpone ravioli and the free range chicken with pepper dolce, cremini and roasted potato in succo natureale. They live in Yonkers and had never been to Zuppa before. They promised they’d be back. When I asked how their meal was, they said: “Awesome.” “Out of this world.” And when I asked what their favorite part or favorite dish was, Kelly said: “The entire thing.”

A ringing endorsement, I’d say.

Alicia Camacho, left, and Priscilla Pareddes, also both of Yonkers, were equally happy. “Loved it,” they said.

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Priscilla had the salmon, Alicia had the ravioli.

My table? We had everything on the menu. Hey, there were four of us. And we decided to try the fifth entree, too, so we asked them for that to share. And you know what’s so cool? We didn’t specify which was the “extra” entree  we wanted — and the restaurant charged us for the least expensive entree on the menu, the parpadelle with veal bolognese at $19.

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All the photos —  and my thoughts — after the jump.

So I mentioned there were four of us at the table. We sampled the whole HVRW menu. First up, the soup of the day. Fennel and cauliflower with a parmesan crostino:

 

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Rich and velvety. I remarked how I couldn’t believe it didn’t have cream. (Also, it’s entirely vegetarian, for those who are interested.)

Here’s the calamari. Grilled on skewers with aromatic breadcrumbs and warm tomato concasse:

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Points off for using freshly chopped tomatoes out of season in March. But you know what? For March, they weren’t bad at all. And the calamari? Outstanding. There was just a whisper of breadcrumbs. Enough to make you notice the crunch, but not so much to take away from the calamari. Genius.

Here’s the Luganica sausage with red grapes, veroneses stewed lentils and ricotta salata:

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Two skewered things was a little weird, but I’m being nitpicky. The sausage was pleasant — mild tasting with fine-ground texture — and the lentils were a good match. The grapes were quite flavorful, too.

And the final appetizer on the menu was the escarole with gorgonzola, candied walnuts, apples and cranberries in a honey-mustard vinaigrette:

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A brilliant salad. Everything was in balance. Just the right dressing, crisp apples, sweet cheese, tart cranberries, crunchy nuts. Lovely.

It was also the best dish with our wine pairings. Here’s a cool thing: for just $12, you can pair the HVRW meal with three three-ounce pours of wine — and you have two choices for each course. For the first, it’s either prosecco or a  sauvignon blanc from La Vis in the Trentino region of Italy. This one knocked us down crying for the price. A nose like a New Zealand sauv — kinda grapefruity, kinda lychee — but the dryness of an Old World wine. We were happy.

Now on to the entrees. the pairings here, by the way, are a Super Tuscan or a Cannonau, a “rustic light red from the grape grenache grown on the island of Sardengna by Soletta,” according to the menu.

OK so first, here’s that chicken:

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Crisp skin, juicy meat, earth mushrooms, bright peppers and some potatoes to soak it all up with. What more could you ask for?

I wish I could give as much love to the salmon.

Herb-crusted wild salmon with arugla, farro and sundried tomatoe in citrus oil and zenzero balsamic:

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The salmon was overdone and the farro was coated with too much fat — I’m not sure if it was the citrus oil or butter or the fat from the salmon. It wasn’t very special.

On the othe hand, the fava bean and mascarpone ravioli with sage, shiitake and pomodoro fresco was a close second favorite on the entree side:

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It’s a little too busy — I didn’t expect so much tomato sauce and cubed tomato (and it’s the same tomato concasse from the calamari), but the flavor of the fava came out nice and clear despite the heavy hand on the sauce. It was rich, so it probably could use a little acid, anyway. Very satisfying.

Here’s the papardelle with veal bolognese, parmigiano and fresh mint:

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The pasta — homemade, and you can tell — was delicate and light, but wide enough to stand up to the sauce. Besides that pretty garnish of a sprig of mint, we didn’t find any mint in the sauce. But it was a hearty plate for sure. A good warmer on a chilly night like Monday.

And the fifth entree is the Flat Iron steak tagliata with pancetta potato mash, pepper and cippole and brunello:

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Nice piece of meat. Char on the outside. Very rare on the inside. (If you like it even medium rare, you should ask for that.) Sauce was thick and rich. This meal is worth the $28 on its own.

On to dessert, shall we?

OK there’s a reason the zeppole are famous. Because a puffy piece of fried dough with powdered sugar and three dipping sauces is good, even if it’s bad. Which it absolutely is not.

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This is called “sexy Zuppa Inglese with custard, biscotti, chocolate and alchermes liquor”:

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Really tasty. And the chocolate ganache cake was too. Very dense:

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For our wine pairings for that, we could choose among the brachetto, a red sparkling wine d’acqui by marenco made in Barolo, or a cielo d’alcamo, a vine-dried sauvignon and cattarato from Sicily by Tenuta Rapiatala.

I really felt welcomed at Zuppa. There wasn’t any of this “second-class citizen for ordering off the HVRW menu” — even the menu itself is beautifully presented on a heavy-stock card that could almost pass for a wedding invitation.  There was one tiny thing:  when we asked our waiter what he’d recommend off the RW menu, he did say “if you choose to order from the restaurant week menu” with just a touch of disdain. But the otherwise flawless service — and I do mean absolutely flawless — service made up for that in a hurry.

I’ll say it again: if you’re still deciding where to head for HVRW 2010, may I suggest you put Zuppa at the top of the short list. And please report back here!

The 411 on Zuppa.

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About Author

Liz Johnson is content strategist for The Journal News and lohud.com, and the founding editor of lohudfood, formerly know as Small Bites. As food editor, she won awards from the New York News Publishers Association, the Association of Food Journalists and the Associated Press. She lives in Nyack with her husband and daughter on a tiny suburban lot they call their farm — with fruit trees, an herb garden, and a yardful of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, shallots, cucumbers, zucchini, radishes, cabbage, peppers, Brussels sprouts and carrots and four big blueberry bushes.

4 Comments

  1. You made my reservation with a party of 30 for next week even more exciting…can’t wait to try it all. Thanks for a great review! We are going early. Can you see the Hudson from the restaurant?

  2. Hi Donna, Sorry… I just saw this. No, you can’t see the Hudson from the restaurant.

    But you can see it from the end of the street. And may I suggest: take the train to Yonkers. You can walk from the station, and, at least for me, living in Nyack, it’s faster than driving. I make sure to time it with the express from Tarrytown, and I’m there in about 20 minutes flat.

  3. Liz-The service at our table for 20 was outrageously GREAT! They were so attentive and all of us got our meals at the same time. The food-each and every course was very good. All enjoyed each dish and were especially surprised at the tenderness of the calamari skewers. The manager was so accomodating in every way. He personally handled our large crowd. Wine selections and all. This restaurant should def. be on your list before the week is out. YUM! Thanks to your review it was the one we chose to dine at this week.

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