The Moderne Barn restaurant — the restaurant owned by the Livanos family of Oceana in Manhattan — opened yesterday in Armonk. Here’s a little video about it:
And the story, which appeared in today’s paper, is after the jump.
To say the anticipation has been building would be a bit of an understatement.
For the past four years, people have been driving past the old Modern Furniture Barn location on Route 22 in Armonk, looking for signs that a new restaurant — owned by a family with years of experience in Manhattan and Westchester — would open in its place.
Would it be soon that the brown butcher paper would come down from the windows? How long until they could enjoy a casual meal in a cool setting?
Well, last night, the Moderne Barn, a New American restaurant owned by the Livanos family of Oceana and City Limits Diner fame, finally opened.
The name, taken from that former furniture store, is appropriate: the restaurant feels just like a barn, albeit an upscale one — something that fits perfectly in northern Westchester’s horse country.
The first thing you notice is a a stunning wood-and-glass wall of wine along a catwalk perched above a long bar.
Chandeliers with Edison bulbs hang from a vaulted, arched walnut ceiling.
And hand-stitched, wool horse-blankets, with bright, primary colors cover the banquettes.
With the fanciful décor, and a menu of delicious, homey dishes, such as grilled calamari —
— and a big, juicy burger, the restaurant strikes the right balance between casual and sophisticated. It’s the kind of place you might go for a celebration, but you wouldn’t be afraid to take the kids, either.
In other words, it looks like it was worth the wait.
The Livanos family is synonymous with the restaurant business. The family owns Abboccato and Molyvos in Manhattan, and they also owned Cafe in Meze in Hartsdale. But the reason for opening a restaurant in Armonk was simple, says Nick Livanos, who is partners with his father John, brother Bill and sister Corina. It’s in the family’s own backyard.
(From left, Nick, Corina, Bill and John.)
“I’ve been living in Armonk for 10 years … During this time we’ve seen the dining void that exists in this area,” he says. “So that was part of our inspiration to want to open a restaurant here. At the same time, we wanted not to do anything fancy or too formal; we wanted something with no pretension — that everyone will think of it as their restaurant.”
The relaxed atmosphere is dictated by the easygoing design, which Nick says his designer called “Urban Country Chic.”
There’s a communal table by the bar, and round booths on one side. And wood. Plenty of wood. A striking visual element is a big wall of black and white photographs by Roberto Dutesco of the wild horses of Sable Island.
“There is a little bit of a barn feel, this is horse country, Bedford and Greenwich, and we’ve already seen the reaction of some of the people walking in, they actually recognize his work right away,” says Nick. “They totally relate to it.”
As for the menu, chef Ethan Kostbar has created an appealing mix of American and Mediterranean dishes that fit any mood. There are comfort-food appetizers such as Nonna’s Meatballs —
— easy-on-the-waistline dishes such as the Moderne Barn Chopped Salad —
“The philosophy behind the food here at Moderne Barn is approachable food, casual,” says Kostbar. “You can sit down, enjoy it, have a memorable meal and not feel put out.”
And you should be able to match it with just about any bottle of wine. The smart, diverse and interesting list was put together by wine director Christopher Gambelli, formerly of Blue Hill at Stone Barns. But even if you’re not imbibing, you’re certain to enjoy the wine — that storage wall and the catwalk in front of it is the centerpiece of the restaurant.
“Besides being a very practical part of the restaurant —storing 900-plus bottles up there in the temperature control — it’s a major visual detail of the restaurant,” says Nick. “I wonder how many times we’re going to catch people walking up there?”
Technically you’re not allowed up there. But?
“But we kid around,” says Nick. “If someone wants to attempt it, or go have a cocktail up there, why not?”
Why not indeed? After all, after four years of waiting, there’s something to celebrate.
The 411 is coming. Til then: Moderne Barn, 430 Bedford Road, Armonk. 914-730-0001. modernebarn.com
Most photos by Joe Larese/TJN.