By Chistine Grimon | For The Journal News
Restaurateur Anthony Delfino had owned Al Dente’s in Harrison for nearly 10 years when fire damage from a neighboring storefront prompted a reinvention. A new restaurant rose from the ashes this past November: the brand-new Delfino’s, a sleeker, more contemporary restaurant with a comfortable Italian menu and an active bar scene.
The white tablecloths and red walls of Al Dente’s have been replaced by lacquered dark wood tables, black leather seats, and weathered wooden wainscoting with soothing sage walls above. French doors still divide the dining room into two separate spaces for parties, though they’re left open for regular dining.
The copper-top bar from the previous restaurant is still there, but the bar has definitely taken a step forward in sophistication, as well as a step back in time — a large mural of the Jazz Age decorates the wall opposite. A stage in the corner of the bar area regularly hosts bands and DJs. The cocktail menu includes the popular Victoria’s Secret Martini, consisting of coconut and white rums, pineapple juice and cranberry juice. A wine list (ranging from $29-$95 a bottle, as well as selections by the glass) and bottled beers are also available, as well as a single draft beer, the Italian Birra Moretti.
The menu labels its appetizers as “tapas,” underscoring the fact that you should assemble several into a meal. Choices include crispy artichoke hearts in tomato basil sauce, eggplant rollatini, and broccoli rabe with sausage and white Tuscan beans.
Fresh homemade pastas are Delfino’s crowning glory, and are highlighted in a special box on the menu. One of the more popular pastas is their Paccheri Delfino, a thick rigatoni-like pasta served with shrimp, calamari and fresh clams tossed in tomato sauce. Entrees are classic Italian; favorites include Chicken Alex, which is breaded and topped with sliced tomato, fresh mozzarella and roasted peppers over spinach; and Pan Seared Salmon, served with spinach and Tuscan beans. A grilled pizza menu includes a gluten-free version of the classic Margherita.
There are daily chalkboard specials, which typically include a fresh fish — “We buy for the day; the fish is fresh, and when it’s done, it’s done,” says Delfino — as well as weekly specials. One evening, the specials menu included a pan seared mahi mahi with broccoli rabe and white Tuscan beans, and a fresh tuna bruschetta with tomato and balsamic glaze on garlic toast. There is always a bruschetta on the specials menu; they typically cycle among tenderloin, tuna, and broccoli rabe varieties.
The list of house-made desserts, presented on a blackboard by the waiter, includes Italian cheesecake made with high-quality Impastata ricotta (also used in cannoli) infused with vanilla, lemon and orange peel, and served with cocoa powder, confectioner’s sugar, mint leaves and raspberries. Tiramisu, crème brulee, and cannoli are also regular features on the menu.
Delfino’s, 60 Halstead Ave., Harrison. 914-835-2535, dineatdelfinos.com. Hours: Noon-10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, noon-11 p.m. Friday, 1 p.m.-midnight Saturday, 1-8 p.m. Sunday.