Spuntino Wine Bar & Italian Tapas in Westbury, NY- Needs A Little Somethin’ Somethin’

Spuntino Wine Bar & Italian Tapas in Westbury, Long Island has what appears to be the perfect makeup for an excellent delicious food adventure… From its name (wine bar & tapas – trying to impress much?), the location (a popular mall location for foot traffic), the interior of the restaurant (open ceiling, dark wood, and accent lighting), the awards (OpenTable and Wine Spectator), the menu (you will see), to the web site (fresh, great UX, and bright beautiful photos), everything is set up to appeal to the young and hip crowds, including families.

But do you know what Spuntino lacks? Authenticity. #SpuntinoFoodie Spuntino is like the millennial- competitive down to the core with its setup/life, gears toward the community, tries to please the people, and is still looking for what makes it/each person authentic and unique. I don’t think Spuntino has arrived yet. It may soon.

As you see below, my friend and I ordered a combination that showcased Spuntino’s prowess.
PROSCIUTTO & MOZZARELLA: Topped with capers and red pepper. Not bad for the classic. The mozzarella could use an upgrade. It was a little hard.DUCK CONFIT POLENTA: Duck confit, mushroom ragu, Asiago polenta, toasted hazelnuts, Parmigiana Reggiani. I’ll be real honest here. The dish sounded good but was not terribly memorable. The polenta was watery like baby food. I remember digging for the duck. I love duck confit and wanted to love this duck, too.CHARRED OCTOPUS: Farro, olives, celery and cherry tomatoes with lemon vinaigrette and parsley oil. Too few pieces of octopus. The use of Farro threw me off; it took away the octopus. I also think the use of celery is not harmonious with the octopus; the celery stood out. Celery’s crunchiness went poorly with the protein. I love charred octopus and wanted to love this octopus, too.
PORK CHEEK: Slow-braised Asiago polenta, fried Brussels sprout leaves. Pork cheek was excellent albeit too salty. It was cheeky and tasty. My favorite for the night.

I was reminded how pleasurable it is to dine with an old friend who is also a foodie. From the time I sat down to the end of the meal, I was engaged and the critiques on the food flowed seamlessly and in sync. In summary, Spuntino did everything right by the book but needs to find that special somethin’ somethin’ to call its own.

I heart ❤️ foodies friends and restaurants on the verge of greatness.

This experience took place at

Spuntino Wine Bar & Italian Tapas
1002 Old Country Rd
Westbury, NY 11590
Phone:(516) 228-5400

Andrea’s 25 North in Mamaroneck, NY- Happy Holidays with Angry Losters 

This was a work holiday lunch with a partner agency at Andrea’s 25 North on Boston Post Road on Mamaroneck. The restaurant is a beautiful house with cozy corners and large bright windows. The wait staff was attentive and knowledgeable. The food was excellent. The specials were plentiful and mouth-watering, especially the 2-3 pound angry lobsters. It was a happy meal for the growth ups and a wonderful break from a busy work week. Thank you! Appetizers: Broccoli rabe & sausage egg rolls, Burrata, shrimps and salad. Lobster Ravioli Deana: Cognac infused pink cream sauce with asparagus, mushrooms & diced shrimp This was George’s: plain chicken pieces with potatoes. You would not guess from the type of food he orders nor the amount of food he eats that George is a statuesque former wrestler. NY Strip Steak: 14oz. Prime N.Y. Strip. Served with creamy mashed potatoes & cabernet sauce. Steak was no cooked to the temperature that was ordered. It’s over done.Chicken Piccante: Classic chicken francese sautéed with cherry peppers topped with melted mozzarella over a bed of sautéed spinach.  Kerri – I Don’t think this is Chicken Martine.Special: Red snapper with tomato sauce and salmon on a bed of zucchini. Salmon was a little dry but red snapper was moist.
Special: Veal with rigatoni pasta
Special: 2-3 pound Angry Lobster on a bed of angel hair pasta. They offered for us to go pick out our own lobsters from the tank downstairs. 🙂  Special: Angry lobster. The knife is placed there for scale. This was a big plate.
Special: Angry lobster. Although the lobsters were angry, they made many of us very happy.  Special: Lamb chop lollipop. Best dish by far. Tender and juicy. Best lamb chop lollipops I have ever had.

Highly recommended for a large gathering. Authentic Italian cooking. Cannot go wrong.

This experience took place at

Andrea’s 25 North

974 E Boston Post Rd,
Mamaroneck, NY 10543
Phone:(914) 698-2597

Lombardo’s Pizzaria in White Plains, NY- A Pizzette Deliciously Enough for A Day

I like pizza. There are many places that are supposed to have the best authentic pizza in Westchester, such as Sal’s on Mamaroneck Ave and Roma’s in Eastchester. There are places that serve gourmet pizza such as Fortina’s. Best of both worlds, there are places that straddle the line between the traditional and the gourmet like Lombardo’s Pizza Bar & Restaurant on Mamaroneck Ave in white Plains.I was at Lombardo’s many times before but never ordered the pizza. This is the Fra Diavolo: fresh tomato basil sauce, homemade mozzarella, crumbled Italian style sausage and sliced hot cherry peppers.

It was perfection at $12.50. Loved the spicy, the dried sausage, the soft cherry peppers and the mozzarella and the tomato sauce that tied the pie together. The curst was just right. I had the pizzette for lunch, dinner and breakfast the next day. That was how much I loved it. Highly recommended it to people who like traditional pizza with a flair.

This experience took place at

Lombardo’s Pizza Bar & Restaurant
1203 Mamaroneck Ave,
White Plains, NY 10605
Phone:(914) 615-9090

Risotto in Thornwood, NY- Homemade Italian Food in A Working Class Neighborhood

My friend and I were at Risotto’s in Thornwood for the Hudson Valley Restaurant Week in the Fall. The showing of the restaurants during the event is always plentiful and I wish I had enough time during the two weeks to visit them all. The next Hudson Valley Week is coming up in March 2016, 3/7/16-3/20/16. This fall, Risotto, was the only other restaurant I visited, besides Red Hat in Irvington.

Risotto offered a great value for the three course dinner. For $29.95, we had the Beet Napoleon, Osso Buco and a mini dessert. The amount of food was staggering. A glutton is who I was at the end of the meal.
Beet Napoleon: roasted red beets, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, roasted peppers & balsamic glaze. Hard to say no to red beets, mozzarella and peppers drizzled with balsamic. The only critique is that the mozzarella was pedestrian, felt like one of those generic mozzarella you get from a supermarket.  Osso Buco Piemontese: braised and slowly cooked pork shank served in a reduced vegetable wine sauce over homemade risotto. This was an awesome dish. The pork shank was huge with lots of meat that fell off the bone. I ate so much that my utility curve went straight downhill.
Mini Risotto Creme Brûlée: custard made with risotto with a cracked sugar top. Risotto knows what they are doing with their parings. This mini risotto creme brûlée is just the right size despite the heaviness from the risotto.

Risotto serves homemade comfort Italian food in a working class neighborhood of Westchester. It’s a diamond in the rough. The food tastes good and your tummy will always be full. Buon appetito!

This experience took place at


788 Commerce St
Thornwood, NY 10594
Phone:(914) 769-6000

Il Gattopardo in Manhattan, NY- Impressive Rockefeller Townhouse with Not So Impressive Food

I met up with a chef friend in the City for a day. He was looking to revisit restaurants that he frequented with his parents. Unfortunately we were zero for two and we ended up at Il Gattopardo on West 54th Street between 5th and 6th. We stopped in front of the townhouse, impressed by its architecture and the fact that a restaurant is inside. This is one of The Rockefeller Townhouses designed by “architect Henry Hardenbergh (Dakota Building and Plaza Hotel), on the so-called ‘Millionaire’s Row’ in the heart of Midtown Manhattan.” “The buildings were designed in the Beaux Arts Renaissance style.”

Perhaps it was the location. We had a weird experience at Il Gattopardo. With its exterior and prestigious address, we assumed the food would be decent and the interior would match the outside. We were wrong. Once we walked in, we were transformed to the 80s, where the color brown and an out-of-date approach dominated the decor.
Brown wicker dinning chairs for a “loyal upscale New Yorker clientele,” per Il Gattpardo. These maybe more appropriate for their atrium.
Chef’s compliments. The round ones had cheese and the other ones had spinach inside. We were not impressed. They were at best, ok.  Special: Campanelle with a rabbit ragout. This was the best dish for the meal. The pasta was fresh and cooked perfectly. The rabbit ragout was a tad salty but fine.
Spaghetti alla “Carbonara”, with egg yolk, pecorino cheese and black-pepper corn. This was horrible. The spaghetti was too al dente , bordering on being uncooked. The entire dish was way salty; I think it was salted at least twice. These are rookie mistakes. This was my friend’s dish. Being a chef, the last thing he would ever do was sending back a dish and he considered it very seriously. For $22 a plate, this hurt even more.  

Do not recommend this restaurant. Not worth the money.

This experience took place at

Il Gattopardo

13-15 W 54th St
New York, NY 10019
212 246 0412

P.S. Their website is also terrible with unnecessary cooking noises as the audio. The user experience is sub par with confusing navigation functions.

Obicà Mozzarella Bar in Manhattan, NY- The Best Mozzarella Money Can Buy, What a Claim!

OBICÀ is a global mozzarella bar in midtown Manhattan. There is a location on Madison Ave and 56th in the IBM Atrium and one in the Flatiron district. I walked by the Atrium location with a friend on a weekend night and thought the Atrium setting was nice to rest our tired legs. We had no idea what we walked into… “Mozzarella di Bufala Campana DOP is the best Mozzarella money can buy,” said Obicà.

This is a short clip on how Obicà make their mozzarella. The director went a bit long-winded and arty yet still very enjoyable.

Mozzarelle di Bufala- Burrata: deliciously creamy. Other than the perfect soft cheese that oozed out when the knife cut in, I also found their menu well written. Here is what they said:

“From the fertile plains of Campania comes the unique Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, endowed with a Protected Designation of Origin certificate. We have selected the very best farms, which milk their own herds and ensure a superior product, with the characteristic porcelain white shine, milky texture and distinctive taste.”

They touched upon the origin of the ingredient, the trust from a certificate, and the look and taste of the cheese. Covered all basis. It was not the best burrata I have ever had but it was pretty awesome. It was indeed deliciously creamy. They have lived up to the marketing hype.Accompanied the burrata with cherry tomatoes and basil pesto. Hmm. Thought this would have been a slam dunk. But it was not. The cherry tomatoes were perfect and sweet but the pesto somehow did not go well with the burrata. We ended up doing our own vinaigrette for the cherry tomatoes and adding burrata to the bite. That worked much much better.  Tiramisù Ricetta Tradizionale – Homemade Tiramisù. My friend loved the Tiramisu. It was melt-in-your-mounth sweet and creamy, like the burrata. It was not pretty to look at but it was definitely quality Tiramisu. I could have had the whole bowl by myself.
Torta di Capri – Flourless Chocolate and Almond Cake. Flourless chocolate cake is one of my favorite desserts. Unfortunately, this cake was crumbly and tasted bad. The almond was a miss. Luckily, the same friend also loved this cake so he polished it off for me.

In retrospect, I should have ordered the Selezione di Salumi – Prosciutto Crudo, Salame Felino, Bresaola, Speck to go with the burrata. I saw other tables having it with their mozzarella and I was jealous.

This was good eating. May not be the best money can buy but I will definitely repeat and sample more. Two thumbs up!

This experience took place at

Obicà Mozzarella Bar
590 Madison Avenue (56th Street)
IBM Building, ATRIUM
NY 10022 – New York
Tel. (212) 355 2217

Fortina in Armonk, NY- December Challenge 2 of 17, Buzzing Flies Accompanied Our Brunch 

Fortina is a very popular restaurant in my hometown. The three prior visits yielded much happiness and fulfilled tummies. See my Fortina posts, click here for my first experience, here for the pizza and here for the Rye Brook location. However, this Fall brunch visit is rather different, unfortunately. To quote my 11-year-old, “Even the flies are trying to get out of here.” The restaurant was loud with music and buzzing sounds of flies. We could not bat the flies away quick enough.

Really? Multiple flies buzzing in our ears and above our food in a restaurant that charges $21 for a small pizza? Shame on you, Fortina.
WOOD-FIRED POLPO with white bean, olives, salumi vinaigrette. Decent octopus. The white beans were ok. The wood-fired anything in Fortina is usually good.
HAM AND EGGS with prosciutto, soft poached egg, crispy potatoes, parm. Looked interesting and tasted salty. My daughter found it not worth eating. She picked at the crispy prosciutto and potatoes and skipped the poached egg completely. THE LUIGI BIANCO pizza with burrata, robiolona, parmesan, black truffle. This had been my favorite of Fortina. It kind of was still fine but the constant swatting of the flies did not enhance my enjoyment.
Here is the bill, $60. Probably would have been justifiable without the flies. We finished our food as quickly as possible. In fact, ate only less than half and ran out of the restaurant.

Do you think I should have asked them to swat the flies for us? Don’t forget to bring your fly swatter when you go eat at Fortina’s. Buon appetito!

This experience took place at

Fortina Armonk
17 Maple Ave
Armonk, NY 10504
(914) 273-0900

Wanderlust Edinburgh, Scotland- Patisserie Valerie and My Ménage à Trois of Desserts

I love desserts, especially anything chocolaty. Since I was in Europe where some of my favorite desserts come from, I went and investigated the dessert scenes in Edinburgh. Patisserie Valerie is a chain bakery and I visited one on Rose Street (next to the famous pub Rose & Crown) in the Edinburgh town center. I was a bit hesitant when I saw only this display case of cakes. Was not terribly impressed.These are my selections. From left to right: tiramisu, chocolate mousse, and double chocolate cake. This is my ménage à trois of desserts where both chocolate cakes triumphed. The chocolates were dark and not repulsively sweet like the Godiva. The mousse had the perfect texture- beaten just soft and fluffy enough to caress with a lingering sweet aftertaste. The double chocolate cake was perfect in taste- the spongy dark Belgium chocolate cake portion coupled with smooth/soft cream puff on top played well off each other.As life would have it, the fire alarm went off at 1:43am in the morning in the hotel while I was enjoying my cakes. I got myself out of the room after my call to the front desk went unanswered. The customer service at the Apex Waterloo Palace Hotel was not excellent. Furthermore, both their paid search and organic research results are currently linking to a runtime error page. Obviously their digital marketing efforts also sucked.

Definitely check out Patisserie Valerie when visiting Edinburgh but not the Apex Waterloo Place Hotel.  Patisserie Valerie is well worth a stop and a cup of tea.

This experience took place at

Patisserie Valerie
158-162 Rose Street
Edinburgh, Scotland EH2 3JD
+411 0131 2201336

Mulino’s in White Plains NY- Usually Exceptional Pasta and Meat Ragu

I was at Mulino’s a long time ago and recently had the opportunity to return with the Principal of Chinese School of Southern Westchester, where I taught for the past four years. Mulino’s is a well-known Italian restaurant in the area and gets superb reviews. It was no different today.

Special of the Day, Portbello with Four Cheeses on top of a bed of arugala and cheery tomatoes, drizzled with balsamic vinegar. Almost perfect other than the fact that the four cheeses made the dish just a tad too salty.

Tagliatelle alla Bolognese: Long flat ribbons of pasta tossed in a meat ragu (1/2 portion). This was pasta made and cooked to perfection. Love the meat ragu, making me want to learn how to make it. Loved. Loved. Loved.

Garganelli alla Carbonara: Garganelli pasta tossed with pancetta, eggs, and parmiggiano reggiano.

Sicilian Style Homemade Canoli: almost perfect other than the fact that it had cinnamon/cinnamon oil. The waiter did not believe me when I offered him a piece to try. He politely declined leaving me not able to successfuly argue my case. Would have been fine if I liked cinnamon but I did not.

It was an exceptional meal: the wait staff was attentive and knowledgable; the ingredients were fresh; the execution was close to perfect. The pasta was simply really really good. Highly recommend it.

This experience took place at

Mulino’s of Westchester
99 Court St
White Plains, NY 10601

Roma Restaurant in Tackahoe, NY- Best Regular Pie in Westchester County?

This is a simple post. A friend believes Roma Restaurant has the best pizza in the Westchester County. I was there to validate or disapprove the theory. Roma restaurant is an old style restaurant – literally it has decor from the 70/80s with wood paneling and balloon valences. The waiters all looked like they have been eating pizzas day in and day out and can rest the pizza tray on top of their bellies; the clientele looked the same.

Needless to say, I fit right in with my workout clothing and updated 2014 sunglasses and handbag. 🙂

The pizza was awesome. For a regular pie, this was awesome. I am almost willing to say it’s the best regular pie in the entire Westchester county.

However, if you are looking for a gourmet pizza, read this post on Fortina. Their Luigi Bianco is mouth-watering come-again good. Sorry, buddy, I am too much of an elitist.

This experience took place at

Roma Restaurant
29 Columbus Ave.
Tuckahoe, NY 10707