Modern Restaurant & Lounge, New Rochelle: Restaurants We Love

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For anyone who had dined at Modern’s old location — a humble pizza joint with a beloved old brick oven, a hodgepodge of tables and deliveries racing through the front — this new locale, now a year old, is a feast for the eyes.

A former car dealership, the restaurant is like a classy grande dame resplendent with brassy eye-catching fixtures, snazzy semicircular banquettes, giant arched windows, a vaulted ceiling, and a handsome bar with a see-through wine cellar. And though this lady has painted herself up and added a sophisticated air, she remains at heart a red-sauce establishment — a family business. There’s just more space around the table.

The signature brick-oven pizzas — dark on the bottom, with an addictive crispy crust and a dizzying array of options and toppings — are served in individual or full sizes. And there’s an expanded, almost diner-like menu: chicken, veal, seafood, steak, calzones and favorites like eggplant rollatini, sausage and peppers, and homemade soups.

Most entrees are accompanied by salad or pasta, and in some cases both. If you’re not starving, ask for a half order, or go for the whole shebang and enjoy the leftovers tomorrow. Portion control is definitely not on the menu.

What we tried

TJN 0202 RWL modern Pizza margherita: We ordered it as an appetizer, and it was the ideal combination of crispy and chewy with nicely sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil.

Veal piccata: Though the presentation was nothing fancy, the veal was nicely browned and full of the tangy, lemony flavor that makes it an ideal comfort dish.

Traditional pie: The tomato sauce and mozzerella cheese standby is cooked to a masterful, slightly puffy, char.

Sole: A generous two fillets are served atop garlicky sautéed spinach and lightly flecked with Italian seasonings.

Shrimp scampi: A liberal dosing of garlicky butter and white wine brings lots of flavor and sizzle to this dish.

Spaghetti: The noodles were perfectly cooked, and splashed with a hearty helping of thick red sauce bursting with a slight hint of sweetness.

Penne alla vodka: A creamy sauce features onions and prosciutto and finishes with a slight spicy zest. Add chicken or shrimp for a heartier meal.

 

TJN 0202 RWL modern

Drinks and dessert

An extensive and balanced wine list with wines mainly from Italy and the U.S. along with some from France, Spain, South America, New Zealand and Australia. There are more than 20 wines by the glass, and bottle prices top out at about $70 (only a handful are over $100). Also popular: sangria, the Southie Sangria (red), Zinful Sangria (blush), and the St. Anthony Sangria (white). For desserts, expect predictable Italian specialties like tiramisu, ricotta cheesecake and traditional layer cakes such as carrot and red velvet. We opted for the lemon mascarpone which, though heavy on the icing, paired well with our decaf cappuccinos. The molten chocolate lava cake, complete with vanilla ice cream, was very, very good. There are also gluten-free options such as flourless chocolate cake, and rice and chocolate pudding.

The scene

The restaurant accommodates all kinds of folks, from a gaggle of 20-somethings to older couples to families to after-hour office get-togethers. No matter your group size — and this place is ideal for large parties — it remains cozy and comfortable. Round tables easily fit groups of eight and semicircular banquettes work well for five or six.

The service

Well-thought-out and executed. Our waiter checked on our table more than a few times during the course of our evening, and our water glasses were constantly filled.

Inside scoop

Anthony Russo, who runs the restaurant with his cousin Sebastian Aliberti, says that though they tripled their space, they have kept prices the same. There’s now more party space, a back room that accommodates up to 80, and an intimate side room just off the bar with a clubby, lounge feel, for up to 30. A nice touch: a separate entrance in the rear of the restaurant for pizza pick-up and delivery, so diners are never bothered with takeout orders jostling through the dining room (the way it had been in the old location).

TJN 0202 RWL modern

What we will order next

Roasted Red Pepper Ravioli: a creamy, cheesy dish that’s so pink in its presentation, it makes for a great Valentine’s Day dish.

The Sandra Special: Chopped plum tomatoes, garlic, basil and fresh mozzarella pizza (no tomato sauce). The pizza specials all sound so good! Plus, it’s almost sacrilegious to come here and not order at least one pizza.

Where to park

Free valet Friday and Saturday nights starting at 4:30 p.m. and on Sundays starting at 1 p.m. Metered parking on both sides of Huguenot Street. There is also a municipal lot on the corner of Huguenot and Center Avenue.

What’s nearby

Regal New Roc City with its 19 theaters, including IMAX, is not far away on LeCount Place. Reverol & Co. at 300 Huguenot St. has ever-changing exhibits featuring contemporary art. It’s open from 4 to 9 pm Thursdays to Saturdays and from 5 to 8 p.m. Sundays, making it perfect for a pre- or after-dinner stroll. Eating earlier? Check out the gallery space at the recently opened recologie at 49 Lawton St., a multi-purpose venue with a vegan café, exhibit area and lots of one-of-a-kind recycled goodies to buy. For after-dinner entertainment, consider live music at the newly opened Roscoe’s Room at Alvin & Friends at 14 Memorial Highway where you can enjoy live music while sipping on cocktails.

— Jeanne Muchnick

The 411 on Modern Restaurant & Lounge

Cuisine: Italian, Pizza

Entree price range: $16-$24.

Noise level: Moderate

Great for: Big groups, cheap eats, date night, solo dining, take out, cocktails, dining at the bar, girls’ night out, kid friendly, late night eats, meeting for a drink, going out on Mondays, private room, dinner with grandparents, vegetarians

Hours: 4-10:30 p.m. Monday; 11:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday; 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, noon-9:30 p.m. Sunday.

Go: 310 Huguenot St., New Rochelle. 914-633-9479, modernrestaurant.com

You might also like

The Mountain House, Sparkill: Locals come for the thin-crust pizza at this family favorite, where the dining room has matching checked tablecloths and curtains Go: 333 Route 340, 845-359-9191.

Burrata, Eastchester: Purists will enjoy the ideally proportioned margherita, while the more adventurous will want to try the parigi, “French onion soup on a pizza.” Go: 425 White Plains Road, 914-337-3700, burratapizza.com

Coal’s, Port Chester: Rather than an extensive menu, loaded with Italian-style entrees? American simplicity: Great grilled pizza, wings, soup, salads, sandwiches and a burger. (Just one.) There’s a scrappy Brooklyn-esque atmosphere, and it’s great pre- or post-Capitol Theatre. Go: 35 N. Main St., 914-305-3220, coalspizza.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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