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Apr 9, 2008 12:23 PM

I know it's been done before, but I must review my dinner at Spadaro's of New Rochelle

After hearing the praises of many visitors to Spadaro, and reading up on the background of its owners/management, I was very intrigued. My friends told me, "They're from Rome!". Dolores said, "Italy comes to New Rochelle"! I even found a letter on the web written by the city's mayor, extolling the brilliance of this new eatery.
What was I waiting for? So I went last night, with two companions, intending to sample as many offerings as possible. I should tell you from the outset that I, like Dolores, have no complaints. Perhaps a couple of small details could have been closer to perfect. But the only thing that was bad about my experience there was the haircut on the guy at the opposite table.
The chef, Antonio, hails from Montecelio in Lazio, just south of Rome. His wife, Rina, is Barese (from Bari, Puglia) and his sister, Rosa, works the dining room with her. There are no busboys and no hostess. Just a small room (holds max 40) that, aside from the unfortunate foam board ceiling, looks as though it could have been a Roman neighborhood trattoria that was picked up and transported directly to Main Street: white tablecloths, dark brown wooden chairs, rust tile floors and warm ochre walls filled with framed photographs set the scene, with lively Italian classics playing in the background and a window through the back wall that gives a partial view to the kitchen.
There are no written menus, as the daily offerings vary according to what is found at the market that day (imagine!- yes, in Westchester!). We began with the house assortment of hot and cold antipasti. Little did we know that this would turn out to be a meal unto itself! Dishes came out in well-paced succession and included: some of the most delicious plain bruschetta (crusty grilled bread rubbed with garlic and drizzled with oil and sea salt) I have ever had; a small cheese and salumi plate with pecorino, hot sausage and prosciutto; "Roman beans", which were bortolotti in a spicy tomato sauce with small bites of pork (fantastic); grilled rounds of sweet and creamy eggplant; a spicy sweet and sour relish of eggplant with onion and tomato (not quite a caponata but close, also fantastic); roasted strips of red and yellow peppers with olive oil; sauteed lemony asparagus; a bowl of mussels and clams in a tangy white wine garlic broth; a dish of assorted olives... and possibly more that I cannot recall at the moment. All wonderful.
We also asked for one of the house special "carciofi all romana". A large marinated artichoke arrived at the table for the three of us, and we just couldn't get enough of it. It was tender and juicy and sweet and meaty all at the same time, with just the right lemon-olive oil flavor. The outer petals could have been slightly more soft, but they were delicious, just the same.
We then ordered three pastas: ravioli "al cardinale", which is a pink sauce; tortellini (meat) bolognese; and the Spadaro signature pasta, fettucine "al Spadaro", which comes in an egg, mushroom, and black pepper sauce with prosciutto. The tortellini were very tasty, almost too tasty, as the bolognese was a highly-spiced, intense tomato version with a very distinct flavor that was good, but I'd had enough after eating 1/2 of the very large serving (I hardly needed a pasta dish after the antipasti, but I was determined to try everything!). The ravioli were lovely- very creamy cheese interior on round ravioli topped with a generous amount of light tomato-cream sauce. By traditional Italian standards, this dish probably had too much sauce. But it was so delicious that, had I not been on the verge of overfull, I would have gladly scooped up the remaining sauce with bread. Finally, the fettucine Spadaro, which was the best of the three: perfectly cooked egg pasta with a silky sauce, semi-dry in texture, and a parmigiano-rich, woodsy flavor. Just the right amount of black pepper highlighted all of the best flavors in this dish.
After all of this food, we just couldn't order secondi. However, we were told that assorted grilled fish and meat options were available: calamari, shrimp, swordfish, veal and pork chops, and beef.
Desserts are by Bindi, which is not my favorite, and so I was relieved to pass on them without feeling as though I was missing out :) Rina told us that she may try to incorporate homemade desserts in the future, but, for now, they really have their hands full.
They do not yet have a liquor license, so we came prepared with our own wine, which they gladly opened (there was no corkage fee on the bill, but we did not ask what their official policy on corkage is). Espresso is served short and strong, as it should be. A bottle of Panna water costs $8.
FWIW, our bill total was under $100. I can't remember the last time I ate so well for $31 per person, as we could easily have paid as much as $41 or $51 each for this meal and left very happy. To me, knowing that such a place exists here, where I can get a taste of my beloved city, my first home, is priceless. They even serve gnocchi on Thursdays, in the classic Roman tradition. Now I just have to find someone else to bring so I can get back there asap!
They are also open for lunch (and packed, from what I hear).

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  1. no argument about the food, but my experience there was just awful. read my post elsewhere.

    1 Reply
    1. re: raider

      raider, i can definitely imagine the hectic atmosphere that must arise when the place is full on a weekend night. after all, there were only the two ladies working in the dining room when I was there on a Tuesday, and they had their hands full (though it was pleasant and not at all harried) at %65 capacity. i really appreciated the personal service by people who were warm, friendly, knowledgeable and personally invested in the restaurant, but i doubt that level of attention will be possible on a saturday night. that said, i certainly felt more like i was being served at a relative's house than by a professional waitstaff, and i curbed my expectations accordingly. this is family-run all the way.

    2. I agree, vvvindaloo, aren't they wonderful? Incomparable to any other Italian restaurant I've been to in Westchester.

      Rena said there will be a corkage fee for BYOB when they have their liquor license, but I didn't ask on the particular price.

      I can't wait to go back.

      1. Do they take reservations? Thanks!

        3 Replies
        1. re: Marge

          They do take reservations. We have one for Sunday! I'm really looking forward to trying this place.

          1. re: Shawn

            even witih a reservation be prepared to wait -- perhaps a long wait.

            1. re: Shawn

              The owner told us that they are fully booked for the next two Fridays and Saturdays, but did not mention Sundays... hopefully, that means it won't be too chaotic.

          2. We add our voices to the growing chorus of raves for Spadero. We ate there tonight, and I was so glad that we had a 6PM reservation. The restaurant was a little further down on Main Street than we had realized, so we doubled back and wound up being about 10 minutes late. Initially, they said that they had given our reservation away, but then they realized that we had reserved for 3 not 2, and we were seated promptly. Having once worked in a small restaurant when I was younger, I was not surprised that service could be spotty. There are too few people doing everything, and I doubt that the owners had reckoned on the success that they have had. However, we had no complaints and our hostess was unfailingly gracious and warm. Everything we ate was delicious, but I will caution those who are expecting a grand restaurant that this is a charming mom and pop operation, and as such, it is extremely casual. We loved that atmosphere as much as we enjoyed everything we were served. We started with the antipasto, which was spectacular. One of the things I greatly appreciated was that there was just enough of each item to taste. These are modest portions, which is very Italian and as it should be. It would be hard to gorge on the portions. The three of us then shared two pastas -- the house specialty and the papardelle with the boar ragu. Fantastic. We then shared a swordfish and a branzino. Everything is on the grill and dressed simply with olive oil with a whiff of garlic and herbs. By then, the line was out the door and we decided to take pity on the supplicants, and get our check and leave. This was not before our hostess implored us to return earlier in the day next time to have a more leisurely meal. By the time we left, she was like a long-lost relative and kissed me on both cheeks and thanked us for coming. I could see how pure exhaustion would be setting in for the entire staff of the restaurant before the evening was half over. I only address this because of other comments I have read about Spadero. But the unexpected success has not diminished the food in the least. It was like being back in Italy.

            22 Replies
            1. re: roxlet

              Thanks for chiming in, Roxlet. I am glad you had a good experience. And I hope that they continue to have success, because there are truly very few chefs/restaurateurs in this area who have the inspiration/cultural background to do what they do.

              1. re: vvvindaloo

                I agree. The food is like no Italian I have ever had, and the service couldn't be more warm and attentive. I too don't think the owners knew what an onslaught of patrons they would get, but I'm sure they didn't know that Westchester is a wasteland of outstandingly superior restaurants, which is what Spadaro is.

                1. re: dolores

                  Dolores, you must go to Italy! This is what every corner bistro and little family restaurant is like! It is unbelievably authentic. It is remarkable that there are so few restaurants like this here. Everyone seems to need to pump it up with bigger menus and richer foods and very few do the authentic Italian experience. The swordfish and bronzino put me in mind of a tiny restaurant we ate in in Sicily, and although I am Italian, and my husband and I are both avid cooks, there is something about the simplicity of the flavors with the very light hand at seasoning that we never get 100%. They get it right.

                  1. re: roxlet

                    roxlet, that's what someone at the next table said, that the food was just as she had it in Italy. Yes, I really have to get there, but may not come home the same weight!

                    1. re: dolores

                      You might not come home period! I keep on thinking about the beans they served that had a bit of a spicy bite and little pieces of prosciutto. Heaven!

                      1. re: roxlet

                        Roxlet, those were my favorite, the borlotti/roman beans with pancetta, picante. Those beans with some pane di casa could be a meal in itself. Their cheese was pretty good too. : )

                        1. re: Cheese Boy

                          Well Cheese Boy, you're true to your name! I was trying to figure out what kind of cheese it was. It was certainly a sheep of some variety, and my son was convinced it was pecorino Romano, but I think not (pretty sophisticated for a 12-year-old, wouldn't you say?). I am thinking next time of having a starter of the beans and then trying the veal chop with a salad, but actually I would eat just about anything they put in front of me!

                          1. re: roxlet

                            Roxlet, you're lucky to have a precocious child in your midst. That's usually indicative of better things to come. Pecorino Romano was a good guess, and quite possibly an accurate one. (The owners are from Rome afterall).

                            Spadaro is offering their appetizer sampler as a "promozione" so that on your subsequent visits you can order any *one* that you enjoyed most. Feedback from diners will certainly help them figure out portion control and price. The veal chop with a mixed greens salad sounds delicious. I will definitely have that if it's offered to me for sure!

                          2. re: Cheese Boy

                            Cheese Boy, what was the chesse with the black rind? I preferred it to the other. It was melt in your mouth good.

                            1. re: dolores

                              Dolores, the day I was there, they served us two cheeses: pepato and canestrato. No black rinds on either. Not sure what they served on the day your were there. A black rind cheese could have been anything, but usually indicative of an "aged" pecorino of some kind. Surprised they served it to you with the rind still on.

                              1. re: Cheese Boy

                                The black rind cheese is what we had, and although my son thought it was a Pecorino Romano, it tasted slightly different to me. I guess we'll have to ask them next time. Interesting about the "promotion." They didn't say anything about the antipasti being a temporary part of the menu. We kept on saying that it was too bad that the place was so small that they couldn't have the antipasti display that they have so frequently in Italy in the entrance of the restaurants. I've occasionally seen it here, but not so much recently for some reason.

                                1. re: roxlet

                                  hello if youre looking for " antipasti display that they have so frequently in Italy in the entrance of the restaurants. I've occasionally seen it here, but not so much recently for some reason." go to...Piave .. located at 20 North Central Avenue, Hartsdale, NY 10530

                                  1. re: intrepid

                                    Aside from having the antipasti display, how's the food there, Intrepid?

                                    1. re: roxlet

                                      food is ok/not bad, worth a try, i was there once, i will go again, stay away from weekends, lots of kids/noise

                                      1. re: intrepid

                                        Hmmm. That's a pretty tepid recommendation! I guess I'll wait on the Antipasti displays!

                                        1. re: roxlet

                                          yea i know, but i would give it a try

                                          1. re: intrepid

                                            We love to cook and need it to be really special when we dine other than at our clubs where we unfortunately have quarterly minimums to eat up. So unless it's notable, most likely not!

                                  2. re: roxlet

                                    Roxlet, I neglected to mention that Rina makes pasta e fagioli with those same beans - same exact recipe - just adds pasta to them. I think I'll ask for that on my return visit. Don't worry about the appetizer sampler going away any time soon. It's just a way for Spadaro to showcase what they can do.

                                    1. re: roxlet

                                      Thanks roxlet. It wasn't like any PR I've ever had. No doubt this was the real deal.

                                      *sigh* I wish I could be a regular at this place.

                                      1. re: dolores

                                        It would take planning, but it would be great!!

                                  3. re: dolores

                                    Dolores, I am pretty sure that it's Fior di Sardegna, which is one of my favorite italian table cheeses. lt's a sheep's milk cheese, but nowhere near as sharp as Pecorino Romano.

                          3. re: dolores

                            dolores, the food at spadaro is very very close to what you would get at your neighborhood trattoria in Rome. obviously, some of the ingredients are different, and many of our products (both meat and vegetable) just don't have the same flavor, but the offerings, method, and presentation are spot-on.

                      2. We went to Spadaro last night, and I am sorry to report that we had a horrible experience. Almost the exact experience reported by another poster here. We arrived for our 7 pm reservation, wine in hand, only to notice that the small, cramped dining room was packed with people-- very few of whom had even been served their first courses yet. It was obvious that we wouldn't be seated for a while. We stood in the limited empty space by the door, waiting to be acknowledged. It was obvious that the staff saw us, but we were totally ignored. We waited for around 5 minutes, then I walked up to the woman who was answering phones to tell her we had a reservation. She said, "I'm not the one to talk to." She pointed to another woman who was in the middle of taking orders, then walked away. Although I repeatedly tried to get the attention of the "right" woman, she pointedly avoided looking at us.

                        It was now 7:15 and we still hadn't been acknowledged. I approached yet another woman there, and asked how long it was going to be. She said, "Oh, it will be soon, but one of the tables for 2 has to leave first. All the groups tonight were larger groups, so there are very few tables for 2." Well, um, we had a 7 pm reservation for 2, so don't you think you should have saved a 2 top for us? I guess not. She then helpfully added, "We're serving people fast because we are out of desserts tonight. So people aren't lingering."

                        I don't know why we continued to stand there, but we did. It was now 7:30. The tables for 2 weren't even close to being served their entrees. To add insult to injury, one larger table near us told the waitress they were ready to leave, and she said, "No dessert?" She then read out a dessert list (I thought they were out of desserts!), and convinced them to linger on... There was a group of 4 that had been waiting as long as we had, and they finally walked out. At 7:40 with no table in sight, we did the same.

                        I don't care how good the food is at Spadaro. I believe from what people said that the food is good. It looked good. But no food is worth that type of service, standing there in packed quarters, being ignored by the staff, waiting and waiting in a strip mall in New Rochelle when you had made a reservation a week in advance. We ended up going down to Artie's on City Island, and while our meal there wasn't delicious, the food was decent, the atmosphere was warm and we felt welcomed. I'd rather spend my money at a place where our business is appreciated.

                        14 Replies
                        1. re: Shawn

                          Not good, Shawn. Not good at all.

                          How does a restaurant get into this predicament?

                          1. re: dolores

                            Their method of granting reservations leaves a lot to be desired, apparently. They must be underestimating how long people will stay, and overestimating how quickly they can serve them. The only other possibility I can think of is that a large party of "friends" or "special guests" showed up unexpectedly and they did not turn them away. This, of course, is no excuse- any guest with a reservation should be made to feel "special". I hope they straighten this issue out quickly, for everyone's sake. I will be limiting my visits to Monday-Thursday, as it seems that the problems always take place on weekends.

                            1. re: vvvindaloo

                              I don't think anyone special is showing up. I think it's just a matter of being inexperienced in knowing how to run the house properly. We were there on Friday night and noticed a very long line building, and it was just regular diners. I could see how they were beginning to look quite harried, and we left at about 7:45 so I can't imagine how things must have gone from there. When we sat down, my husband said, "Let's just relax and assume that this will be a leisurely meal," but in the end, we were actually surprised by how quickly we were served.

                              1. re: roxlet

                                From what I noticed last night (and I had plenty of time and opportunity to observe), some of the tables were served alarmingly quickly-- ie, appetizers brought out before they even finished ordering. And other tables waited endlessly without receiving a dish.

                                I don't think it was a matter of "special" guests showing up and getting preference. I really believe it is a matter of not knowing how to run the house properly. The thing that was most upsetting was being totally ignored the entire time. If someone had approached us and apologized or explained something it wouldn't have made the evening "great," but it wouldn't have left us with such a bad impression. I certainly understand how they could be overwhelmed by their massive success. Even if they are "embarrassed" about making their diners wait, it is not an excuse to make your customers feel invisible.

                                I would be willing to give Spadaro another try if/when I hear the service issues have improved. My husband, however, would take a good deal of convincing.

                                1. re: Shawn

                                  Regarding the pace of service at various tables, I suspect it had to do with who ordered made-to-order items and who ordered prepared items. A good number of the antipasti are best prepared hours ahead, kept hot, and left to "marinate", so they can be served immediately. When I was there, Rosa seated us and took our antipasto order. Those dishes were already coming out by the time Rina came over and took our pasta order. We were fine with it, but perhaps it looks funny from the doorway...

                          2. re: Shawn

                            Well, we did notice that there was a large crowd of people waiting after we had been seated for a while. No question that they have over-estimated the number of diners that they can accommodate on a given evening. And I am not sure that your business is unappreciated. I think that they are clearly overwhelmed with the response to the place and have no idea how to properly deal with their disgruntled patrons waiting for a table. They are very nice people, and my guess is that they are embarrassed to be making their waiting diners wait. I think that our 6PM reservation last Friday was the way to go, and I wouldn't try to go any later than that. Unlike some posters, I prefer to eat earlier rather than later, and when we arrived at the restaurant, it was not yet full.

                            1. re: Shawn

                              the funny thing is that i actually had a 7:30 rezzie last night but cancelled last minute because a member in my party prefered indian food......looking back now i'm glad i didn't walk into that hellish situation......i don't think i would've been so patient........incidently ended up going to was excellent and the owners are super super gracious hosts!! i always love it when expectations are superexceeded!!!
                              i'd still like to give spadaro the benefit of doubt........maybe i'll check them out on a week night........on the early side to save me from the headache that you encountered!!

                              1. re: Shawn

                                shawn, i feel your pain. my experience there was so bad, my wife will not go back, notwithstanding the great food at cheap prices. i don't understand how people can run a business and just ignore such an obvious problem. for cryin' out loud, at least hire a busboy!

                                1. I'm going to ignore the question about my having been to an Italian restaurant before, jhopp, and just note that my comment was not largely about the waiting itself, but the whole experience. There is no way to "get comfy" while waiting at Spadaro. No bar area. No waiting area. If you want to wait inside at all, you are basically resigned to standing in between the tables and gazing longingly at other people's meals while the staff brushes by you with their back to you so they won't have to meet your eyes. If that's the mark of a great Italian restaurant, I guess it's my loss.

                                  1. re: Shawn

                                    I don't know the setup of the restaurant, and you did make it clear that you were basically standing with nowhere to go, but I've been in that situation before. I am usually a little more understanding when a place is new, but normally to make an impression some food or drinks are brought out. It seems to me that this place never thought they'd do as well as they are, and in the long run it will pay the price. The fact that the food is supposedly wonderful makes it all the more upsetting.

                                    1. re: jhopp217

                                      jhopp217, it's a sign of the sad dearth of extraordinary restaurants in Westchester. No, I don't think they thought they would be met with this barrage of people, and in a place as tiny as this, how DO you get people to leave? No, there isn't room to offer drinks and some food if someone is waiting. I can't even figure where they will put a bar, it's that tiny.

                                      My thought would be to buy the place next door and knock out a wall, IF the restaurant would not suffer from expanding. I don't know the mechanics of that, but some places do suffer when they expand.

                                      jhopp217, believe me, if Spadaro pays the price for underestimating their onslaught of Westchester Wasteland patrons, I will be the one to suffer.

                                      1. re: dolores

                                        Dolores, when I was there I overheard someone saying that they did plan to expand into the place next door.

                                        1. re: Shawn

                                          Ah, that 'should' take care of the seating problem.

                                          Given the outstanding quality of the food, this place will be jammed to the rafters for as long as the owners are able to hold out.

                                        2. re: laylag

                                          I expect when they have their liquor license, laylag, they just might do this.