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Nessa - Port Chester

We just came home from dinner at Nessa, the new Italian place on Main St. in Port Chester, across from the old Lifesaver factory.

It's still working out a few opening kinks, but we liked it a lot and we'll be back.

Service was well meaning and very pleasant, but somehow not quite proceeding with professional precision. We arrived around 6 on a Saturday night, the place was mostly empty, there were lots of servers, etc around, but I often felt like we were waiting a bit too long for certain things, like they didn't quite notice when we had looked at the menus and then put them aside, ready to order. But it's a quibble. Everyone was pleasant and helpful and I think they just need some practice. And kudos to them for being so nice to our 5 year old!

We started with bruschetta. I had prosciutto, ricotta and figs. My husband had white bean, truffle oil and tomato. They also sent out, on the house, one bruschetta with basil pesto for each person at the table. All very good.

For entrees, I had the linguine vongole. It wasn't the usual white wine sauce. There were a whole bunch of sweet little clams, grape tomatoes, a bit of pesto, a sauce I don't quite know how to explain, but it looked somewhat tomatoey (although not a full on tomato sauce) and there must have been a bit of cream. I liked it very much, although I couldn't finish it because it was pretty rich.

My husband liked his monkfish, but, having found a single bruschetta a very light appetizer (he doesn't like parmesan, so didn't have the pesto one they sent out) would have liked a side of pasta or something. Maybe next time he'll have a couple of bruschetta or a bruschetta and a salad.

The pasta and the monkfish were both a bit oversalted.

The occasional chowpup (sometimes he eats all sorts of interesting things and sometimes he eats like your basic fussy, non-chowish 5 year old) had plain pasta with olive oil and salt and was very happy.

I had a nice ricotta cheesecake for dessert with a dried fruit chutney that I didn't love. I don't think there was anything wrong with the chutney, I just don't think it was my thing. The chowpup had a very dark, very rich chocolate mousse with a red wine crema, whipped cream and crushed amaretti. After a few bites he decided he wasn't wild about the toppings, but ate about half the mousse, giving it an enthusiastic thumbs up and reluctantly agreeing to share with my husband.

They now have their liquor license.

When the bill came, they had charged us $16 for my son's dish of plain fusilli (the price for their fusilli entree with sausage, broccoli rabe, etc.) I went up to the bar to speak to the owner, Marc, who had stopped by our table earlier, told him how much we enjoyed our dinner but expressed my dismay at $16 for a plain plate of pasta. I expect to be charged, but not that much! He agreed that it was ridiculous and just took it off the bill.

So, on the whole, very good food, a few bumps in the road that I think will disappear with experience and a very welcome addition to the neighborhood.

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  1. Glad to hear this is a place to try - hopefully the kinks have been worked out. The $16 pasta should meet the $19 taco my chow-pup had at Boxcar Cantina! Glad the owner there was nice enough to fix it for you as opposed to our experience where we got a lecture on the quality of the food and cost to brning it in etc... after we expressed our dismay that a place FILLED to the brim with kids did not have a kids menu. annoying.... sorry for the OT rant.

    2 Replies
    1. re: KarenNYC

      We eat at Boxcar because our son likes it, but I don't think it's anything fabulous. It's in that middle ground of restaurants we'd never go to just the 2 of us, but are willing to go to with him. Although I do like their margaritas. Service there can be a weird mix of very nice and helpful and pretty oblivious.

      If it helps, what we usually do for him is get an order of tortillas and then fill it with whatever stuff from our plates interests him: chicken, steak, rice, beans, sides, etc. He's happy and it's just the cost of the tortillas.

      1. re: marcia2

        yeah - my pup was VERY specific in his request for tacos. I actually made him some tonight. If your son is a foodie and likes BBQ we went to a very kid friendly place in Darien called the Cookhouse. The food was good and was great for kids. My son loved it. He also loves My Favorite Place and Katzenburg's on the avenue.

    2. Went here tonight & had to get this off my chest...first of all, our waitress was extremely apathetic, and could not have been less friendly or accommodating. I had two bruscetta one with artichoke and brie and another with goat cheese. Both were mediocre at best and pretty disappointing. The goat cheese one was waay over-seasoned with dill, and both were tiny. I also had a beet salad and a crabcake. Again, very heavy-handed with the dressing on the salad to the extent that the small bit of lettuce contained within became soggy and wilted despite its being frisee! The crabcake was overspiced to the extent that I could no longer taste the crab. For four people to eat a VERY light meal, the bill came to $154! On a side note, the waitress made a huge point of not allowing us any "substitutions" to menu items, and refused my mother a side dish of any vegetables!!! The water they served us also happened to taste of sewer...not recommended. Pretty sad considering the amazing space they have and the wonderful bar area packed to the gills with beautiful bottles of every imaginable liquor. Total bummer.

      12 Replies
      1. re: triplb333

        >> and refused my mother a side dish of any vegetables!!!

        Huh? Sounds like a place that shouldn't be in the restaurant business.

        1. re: dolores

          interesting report..i have eaten at nessa many times..never had any experience like triplb333

          1. re: intrepid

            Here's my one experience at Nessa...a few months ago, early (around 6 pm after a movie in Port Chester), only one table was occupied, when told we had no res they took us to a dark and dingy back alcove, I asked if we could sit up front we'll be pretty quick, they said no, do you want the table. I said really? The young lady just looked at me like I was a serious intrusion in her life. I said, see ya. We left. Don't plan on returning.

            1. re: foodlad

              >>they said no, do you want the table.

              Ouch.

              I wonder how places like that stay open?

              1. re: dolores

                I went saturday at lunch and there was one other table filled-with one person!!! We were 4.We had a variety of bruschetta all very good. My mom and bro shared the carpaccio -they said it was excellent. My bro then had the liguine with clams. IT was eh - too sweet and it did not have the clam broth taste.Our friend had the fusilli with sausage and that was great. I had the crab cake too spicy and I agree you can't taste the crab!! The dessert we had was amazing the nutella and banana panini. Very good,but I do not think they used nutella it did not have the hazelnut taste.
                The owner was there and spent a lot of time talking to us. They plan to open a garden where you can eat outside.

                IF the Bastianch/Batali restaurant is entoteca Ness will be sunk!!!
                I hope the B/B is like the one in the city Otto which is superb!!!

                1. re: TessCooks

                  My only experience there a few months ago was poor also. The help was nice enough, food was poor at best. I hope they hire a capable chef. I like the "feel" of the place.

        2. re: triplb333

          Finally tried Nessa last night. I was armed and dangerous with regards to having the courses rushed so I planned on ordering apps first and then giving them our entree order later on - but the waitress would not take a partial order - YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME! So we spent a few minutes considering whether or not to stick around and then we placed our order and I asked the waitress to please give us some time between courses. I asked in a nice way and she promised she would comply and she did ok with it. The food was good but the order policy is a joke and I would never spend my money at a place with such rules - if I say that I'd like to place some appetizers and think about my entree order for a while there is only one answer - 'of course sir, no problem, what can we get you'.

          1. re: anchovy

            Let me see if I understand what you just wrote -- she would NOT take your appetizer order and then come back to take the rest of your order.

            How funny. I wonder how long before they close down?

            BTW, did you get rushed?

            Thanks for the heads up, another one to cross off my list.

            1. re: dolores

              Hi Dolores - correct - she wouldn't take partial order and she said it was their policy.
              I think the place is doing well - it does have a NYC vibe - but VEY loud accoustics.
              Also they tried sticking us in this aweful back room but we passed on that.
              We sat down a little after 9:00 p.m. and I requested that we not be rushed and we were not. My instinct tells me that if we were eating at 7:00 it would have been a rush job...

              1. re: anchovy

                they'll (nessa) be outta business in under 6 months after mario and bastianich open up the new tarry lodge.....
                their 'ordering rule' is absolutely ridiculous......they obviously only care about 'turning tables'....

                1. re: southlake

                  Well its been 6 months and they are still in business, and I must say that I never exprienced any hostile waiters or waitresses at Nessa. Always had a pleasant time alwaysand great food . Is it expensive? Yes....but this isn't Olive Garden.

                  1. re: YummyYummy123

                    This place has been opened more than 6 months. My first and only experience here was not good. It was a Thursday night, not crowded at all. My husband told our wait person we liked to eat slowly Apps were picked up and entree was served. This after he said "you tell me when you're ready for dinner". Some people don't like to wait between courses, we were very clear. Unfortunately it does have a cool vibe and the food was good not great. That kind of attittude turns me off. There are too many places to return where they are rude and don't care about pleasing their clientle.

        3. Perhaps they've changed their policies, etc. as my experience at Nessa was fabulous. Great food and great service - very accomodating. They were willing to alter any dish to your preference and they serve half orders of any of the pasta and salads. We did not feel rushed at all, in fact it was a very relaxed meal. And the food was so good. We left stuffed and the bill for four was only around $100.

          1 Reply
          1. re: fooodie

            Nessa is a great spot. We have had nothing but positive experiances there.

            Sunday Brunch is amazing as well, great for teh family. Try the French Toast....

          2. I agree it has a city cafe vibe to it. With that said, it was to loud for dinner. But is was good for drinks and a light dinner.

            1. Got around to dining at Nessa this past weekend, and I really enjoyed myself. The food was all very good (simple, comfort Italian "snack food"), but the main appeal to me is the vibe of the restaurant - from the large windows opening to the street, to the music playing, to the cool wine bar feel. But I most enjoyed the style of eating - small shared plates with no formal dining structure. This is the type of place where I like to go with a few people to enjoy some good food, wine, and conversation. These exist everywhere in NYC, but not so much to the north. A welcoming addition to the neighborhood. P.s. We had a very good experience with the service, including a very attentive manager.

              1 Reply
              1. re: wpfoodie

                agreed fully! Love it but be careful on Sunday brunches...vibe shifts quickly to annoying french toast & mimosa crowd in a bad way.

              2. Went to Nessa for an 8:30 dinner on a crowded night. Excellent service. Food is very good especially the Bolognese pasta. Chicken under a brick very good--lots of good white meat not dry and very flavorful. This is not a quiet restaurant and tables are close together. Pretty good value considering the comparable Italian in the near vicinity. My experience was nothing but positive and I would rate this a "worth a try". Management seemed to care that we were satisfied. Buon appetito!

                1. I think it's important to note that this original post is from 2007. Since that time, Nessa has really grown into itself and come a very long way in terms of the menu offerings, the staffing and the total experience. We go there often b/c we really enjoy the food, the service and the vibe. Some people may find it loud or a bit dim inside, but we like it. I find it a cool, urban vibe that isnt found in a lot of places up here. In just the past 6 or so months, they have added even more interesting things to the menu. The "ino w/ egg on truffled toast is outrageously good and light at the same time. I love, love, love the meatballs over risotto! Paninis and pastas have always been solid. But the entree offerings have been expanded. The mussel stew and the salmon are really quite good. I think for people who may not have "taken" to Nessa from the start, it might be worth giving it a second chance.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: MRS

                    I think Chowhound is spacing out too - they posted a link to a restaurant called Panini in your post!

                    1. re: wincountrygirl

                      Since it's your post, you can click on "Remove" next to the errant link (which yours got, too) and get it out of there.

                      I wish we could do something about this bug! The only alternative is vigilance when posting--checking what posts after we hit "reply"

                    2. re: MRS

                      I agree on nearly every count about its improvements, having gone over the past couple of years. Last time we were there was about a month ago. The one letdown, which was so striking it just felt like a weird joke, was a dessert we ordered, a tramezzini with peanut butter and... something else. It was just this weird, stale sandwich. Completely bland, no merit to it whatsoever. We didn't say anything as we were with friends and had such a perfectly lovely evening otherwise. But just... weirdly bad.

                      1. re: Mrs.Sean

                        I was there over the holidays for the first time and saw someone order something like this and couldn't figure out what it was. Maybe desserts are not a strong point. We had a banana dessert that was like sludge in a cup.

                        I can't complain about the main courses, but I was disappointed that a restaurant billed as Italian had such a limited menu, main courses that barely had any Italian influence (skirt steak with spinach?) and nothing at all adventurous. While I sort of knew this in advance by looking at the website, I exepcted there to be a number of specials offered since the menu was so short, but that was not to be.

                        1. re: rjka

                          It's funny that you say this rjka. We had a big discussion on places like this that are not old school Italian/Italian -American spagetti joints vs. the new school Italian joints like the Cookery, Arrosto, Tarry lodge, Nessa. It got very heated at times & people at our table actually got up and left becasue of it! I can't even say that it came down as an age thing becasue there were some 20 somethings that did not like The Cookery because they couldn't get meatballs! They could get lamb ones but not the standard beef ones with a big plate of spag & red sauce. Personally I like Nessa's bar-centric menu of small bites but I can see why you were bothered. At least you looked on the website!

                          1. re: cubanat

                            I've been to Tarry Lodge a couple of times. I'd call it more new school than Nessa, which seemed to me to be pretty old school on the pastas and non Italian on the mains.

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                            Tarry Lodge
                            18 Mill St, Port Chester, NY 10573