L’Inizio, Ardsley | Restaurants We Love

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Three years ago, Scott and Heather Fratangelo said goodbye to their beloved Spigolo, an award-winning Italian restaurant on the Upper East Side, and left the city for greener suburban pastures.

At first glance, L’inizio is not too different than Spigolo. And like the Fratangelos’ former restaurant (where he served as executive chef and she as pastry chef and charming hostess) the food speaks for itself.

Delicate handmade pasta, house-cured sausage and artfully prepared desserts are the Fratangelos’ bread and butter, and the menu presents some difficult choices. There are plenty of vegetarian options, and pasta dishes are available in half or full portions, which allows some room for ordering extra items off the antipasti list.

L’inizio sits on a busy street in Ardsley, which was particularly bustling at 6 p.m. when we were in the area, struggling to find parking. But the doors open to a quiet, unassuming dining room. Neutral, earthy tones fill the space and a single flickering candle on each table keeps the room cordial.

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The room is L-shaped, and a tiny bar separates the front dining room from the back one, somewhat awkwardly, but once you’re eating fresh gnocchi nothing else really matters.

What we tried

House-made pork sausage: Discs of peppery sausage are served in a bowl with soft braised romano beans in a sweet reduction of roasted tomatoes, herbs and lemon. A single toast point garnishes the dish, not nearly enough to sop up all of that magnetic sauce.

Baked clams: Thankfully these are nowhere near the thickly breaded boats of some typical Italian restaurants. Instead, you’ll find a row of hot clams, brimming with buttery bagna cauda and succulent chunks of house-made bacon.

Potato gnocchi: Scott Fratangelo will be the first to admit he’s a bit gnocchi-obsessed, which is why a variation of this dish is always on the seasonal menu. Mine was unbelievably decadent, with velvety handmade gnocchi nestled among shreds of braised Fazio Farms rabbit and briny olives.

Red snapper: A special for the night. Pan-seared snapper in a puddle of creamy onion soubise, on a heap of earthy mushroom, soft leeks and crispy Brussels sprout leaves.

Drinks and dessert

We were there on a Tuesday, which is notable because every wine bottle under $100 is half off that day. At the recommendation of the staff, we ordered a lovely sangiovese (normally $45) off the heavily Italian list. Cocktail specials included one particularly tempting aged bourbon concoction that featured a bourbon-soaked cherry, but the wine special was too good to pass up.

Dessert was a rich, generous round of pumpkin cheesecake stuffed with plump cranberries, drizzled with a light prosecco caramel sauce and topped off with a nearly transparent sheet of pumpkin seed brittle.

Who goes

Date night couples and groups of four meeting for a casual weeknight dinner. Most of the parties fell into the over-40 crowd.

Inside scoop

The Tuesday wine special is a great offer, but probably won’t last forever. Instead, look to L’inizio come happy hour, when Barrels and Bites is offered. Enjoy sophisticated small plates like ricotta marinara meatballs with a house-special negroni or old-fashioned, all made with spirits that have been aged in American charred oak barrels and run $5 apiece. Barrels and Bites happens from 5 to 6:30 p.m. and from 9 p.m. to close Tuesday through Sunday.

What we will order next

Something from the Barrels and Bites menu. Although our wine was perfect for the meal, the bourbon drink special is still on my mind and I’d be interested to taste L’inizio’s other cocktails.

What’s nearby

If you live in or near Ardsley, L’inizio undoubtedly falls on your main path, located within walking distance from Starbucks, CVS and DeCicco’s. If you’re traveling there for dinner, parking can be a challenge. We ended up in the lot of the auto body shop next door.

Twitter: @megmccaff15

The 411 on L’inizio

Cuisine: Modern Italian.

Entree price range: $22-$28

Great for: Date Night, Excellent Desserts, Seasonal Menu, Brunch, Cocktails, Girls’ Night Out, Romantic, Dinner with Grandparents, Small Plates, Special Occasion Dining, Vegetarians, Wine List.

Noise level: Moderate.

Hours: 5-10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 5-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Sunday brunch and 5-9 p.m. Sunday dinner. Closed Monday.

Go: 698 Saw Mill River Road, Ardsley, 914-693-5400, www.liniziony.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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