Italian Kitchen in Ardsley: First Taste

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Italian Kitchen, the new restaurant in Ardsley owned by chef Shea Gallante, is giving Dobbs Ferry darling The Cookery some stiff competition when it comes to modern Italian food.

Photos by Xavier Mascarenas/TJN

But not to worry, there’s room for everyone. Look carefully and you’ll find a world of difference between the two restaurants. While David DiBari, the chef-owner of The Cookery, plays fast and loose with bold flavors, offal and all things pig, Shea Gallante takes a softer, more even-handed approach to his menu.

That’s not a surprise considering Gallante came up through such kitchens such as Bouley and Felidia, both in Manhattan. At Italian Kitchen, like at his other restaurant, Ciano, in Manhattan, Gallante takes a cuisine known for its simplicity and pairs it down even further to the essence of its ingredients. He may play with your expectations a bit, but he won’t try to shock and awe.

You might think of Italian Kitchen as The Cookery’s sophisticated, well-traveled older brother. But that doesn’t mean stuck-up or boring. You will walk away from a meal at IK dying to return. Soon. And while you’re there, you will wonder how Gallante, above left, and his executive chef, Paul Mancebo, above right, who also worked at Ciano, pull it off. How do they cram so much flavor into each morsel, yet keep each dish so balanced? I wondered myself at a recent meal. In the end, I just decided I don’t need to know the answer. I just enjoyed. And yes, plotted my return.

The restaurant is small and casual with sunny painted walls and a rustic interior complete with bookshelves holding cookbooks and kitchen tools. There’s a narrow front dining room, a service bar in the center of the room, and a rear dining room that’s more square. Black-and-white photos show people loving food. Which is what you’re about to do, too.

We did three courses for our dinner: apps, pastas and mains. OK four, we also had dessert. (More on that later.) But the great thing about the menu at IK is that it’s flexible. Order a salad and a pizza. Or get a pasta and a dessert. Or go for a few shared appetizers and then order an entree.

Our meal, after the jump.

We started with yellow tomato gazpacho with watermelon was the best of both worlds: sweet, smooth melon tempering the acidic tomato. It was a spoonful of summer.

The bibb lettuce salad was as light and airy as cotton candy, but with sophisticated flavors: anisy fennel, peppery radish and sharp radicchio. The truffle dressing took the edge off and made the dish balanced and complex. Yes, all that in a salad.

Grilled pizza is not exactly as you’d expect, but that seems to be a theme here. It arrives on a wooden board, cut into squares. The crust isn’t that thin, Neapolitan-style we’ve been seeing so much of lately, but rather like a cross between flatbread and focaccia, with a crispy underside and a chewy crust. The toppings are outrageously good: don’t miss the pecorino-guanciale-pesto.

The roasted beet salad was garnished with crunchy pistachios and blended with a tangle of peppery arugula.

Lusty linguine pomordoro with roasted meatball would be like your grandmothers Sunday gravy if your grandmother trained with David Bouley. It hit all the right notes with a shaving of cheese on top to bring home the umami.

You won’t find a dish like Shea Gallante’s Cortece with Octopus and Calabria Peppers on another menu in Westchester. The sauce will wake your mouth up: garlicky-peppery-crunchy. Slivers of sweet octopus sneak in there every other bite or so. (And no, it’s not chewy. Not at all.) Cortecce, a flat, oval-shaped pasta, keeps things slippery and smooth.

Here’s Xavier’s better photo:

I thought the risotto with lobster and saffron would be my favorite of all the pastas, but alas it had a bit too much saffron and so was metallic tasting. But the fish were fresh and the rice was cooked well.

The diver scallops with sweet corn was the shining star dish of the night: little golden morsels of sweet scallops paired with the freshest summer corn. We scraped the bottom of the dish.

The chicken wasn’t far behind, either. Prepared “al mattone,” which means under a brick, it had crispy skin, juicy meat and a soupy mix of farro, earthy mushrooms and escarole. A late-summer reminder that fall is not far off.

Just when we thought we couldn’t be wowed any further, we tasted dessert. A restaurant without a pastry chef doesn’t have the right to make desserts this good. Panna cotta with blueberries compote:

Creamy, light and not at all too-far-set. The panna cotta was jiggling on our spoons as we dug in. And that’s a good thing.

And I’m usually a fruit dessert person rather than a chocolate one, but the chocolate tart, made with Valrhona, made me a convert. Or was it the accompanying Nutella gelato with sea salt flakes? Oh my. This might be my favorite dessert all year.

The menu has already changed since my visit a few weeks ago. And expect it to keep changing. That’s the beautiful thing about a farm-to-table restaurant: when the seasons change, so does the menu. And that gives us all a reason to return.

The 411 on Italian Kitchen is coming, but until then, here’s the short version:

Shea Gallante, known for Ciano, his farm-to-fork restaurant in Manhattan, took over the former Giuseppe’s space, and created a small and casual with sunny painted walls and a rustic interior complete with bookshelves holding cookbooks and assorted kitchen essentials. The compact menu includes variety of small and large plate options that highlight the best available ingredients of the season. Diners can expect dishes like grilled filet of bass with tomato, black olives; roasted hanger steak with polenta, caramelized onions and radicchio as well as Gallante’s widely popular grilled pizzas. 698 Saw Mill River Road, Ardsley. 914-693-5400, www.ik-ny.com

 

 

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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.

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