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Feb 15, 2011 06:56 AM

Sabatino's Coal Brick Oven (Hawthorne, NY)

Diners pay too much attention to branding, and too little to the guy actually doing the cooking. Case in point:

I tried much-lauded Sabatino's a few years ago, and found it just okay. I went back yesterday, and it was slamming (broccoli rabe and sausage pie). The chef was a young Central American kid, who didn't appear to be all that into it. But his work was magnificent, and, as we walked out he was sipping a soda at one of the tables, and he looked up with a sly grin and asked, sincerely, how we liked the pizza. We told him how awesome he is. He takes lots of pride.

Eventually he'll leave, and maybe the pizza will get better, and maybe worse. But it's always all about the chef. All the "brand" usually ensures is recipes and ingredients. But I want my whole to be much more than the sum of those parts. And that depends on the touch and care and skill of the chef. I'm real chefcentric.

Anyway, news: they have added garlic knots to the menu. They're GREAT.

And I'm wondering how the rest of the menu is. Anyone go through the non-pizza offerings yet? Or, for that matter, has anyone tried the somewhat forbidding seafood restaurant upstairs?

Sabatino's Coal Brick Oven & Cafe
101 Old Saw Mill River Rd, Hawthorne, NY 10532

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  1. Are they located across from the movie theatre?

    1 Reply
    1. re: apples

      Yup - that's the one. Always loved their pizza and chicken dishes. I haven't ventured upstairs to try the seafood though. Great review, Jim - was just thinking about garlic knots the other day too - will definitely give them a try!

    2. We have had the chicken parm, and numerous pastas among other dishes. The entrees are better than the pizza! Excellent but a tad expensive. Must report that our last pie (whole wheat) was seriously burned on the bottom. Not good! To show our distaste, we left four slices turned upside down with the black sides sunny-side up.

      2 Replies
      1. re: budinado

        Why not show the waitress and ask for another? I"m not usually big on sending food back, but that sounds like it'd be an easy sell on the visual....

        Looking forward to the other dishes. Are the cooked upstairs in the other restaurant? I only see a pizza kitchen in the downstairs.

        1. re: Jim Leff

          Well Jim we were a bit pressed for time that day. Must report that on previous visits the pies were properly cooked so it might just be an issue with the whole wheat pie (or a fluke).
          We ordered entrees downstairs. Just ask for a menu.
          Rarely order pies at Sabatino´s anymore after discovering Zero Otto Nove on Arthur Ave. Worth the trip.

      2. we were in the area last night and tried Sabatinos for the first time. While it doesn't measure up to the brooklyn shrines, it was certainly the best pizza we've had in westchester with the caveat that we haven't tried pepes yet. The sausage is not sliced, instead they use big hunks of crumbled sausage. The knots were good and we brought a takeout chicken parm hero home for my son that he pronounced great. it's a little too far from home for takeout but if we're in the area for a movie, it's a no-brainer.

        btw, they closed the restaurant up top and are renovating to become a catering service. They are still making their own fresh mozz for pizza.

        15 Replies
        1. re: vinouspleasure

          Thanks for the report, and for reminding me to update.

          I never saw that pizza cook again. In fact, I've never had my pizza cooked by the same person twice. And I've never enjoyed any non-pizza offerings aside from the garlic knots. I'll try a chicken parm hero, though.

          1. re: Jim Leff

            I dunno, the guy making the pizza looked like he might be from central America and I heard someone call him Jose. He knew how to throw a pizza. They fried the cutlet fresh for the sandwich and melted the cheese in the brick oven. Not sure it would have been as good if they used pre-made cutlets.

            1. re: vinouspleasure

              Sounds good. Was Jose young? If so, that's my guy, and Im surprised you didn't love your pie more!

              I want a chicken parm hero right now....

              1. re: Jim Leff

                I'd guess he was 28-30. The reason I didn't like it quite as much as the famous brooklyn joints was the crust. I love the artifacts of a pizza cooked in a coal oven: a crispy, slightly charred crust with a woody flavor profile. While the crust was competently made, none of those characteristics were present. still, best I've had out of nyc (not counting italy).

                1. re: vinouspleasure


                  But, you know, lots of people hate char. So, I've come to regard that parameter as stylistic variation rather than "quality" - in either direction.

                  But you're right. That's the diff. And I, too, like char.

                  (btw my guy was younger I think)

                  1. re: Jim Leff

                    I agree, in this thread alone are accounts of "burned crust" that I suspect would have been right up my alley. anyhow, it's been just one pizza, I'll post back after five or so and we'll see where we are. thanks for the heads-up on this place.

                    1. re: vinouspleasure

                      You can go a hundred times, but you won't get char. It's not their aesthetic.

                      I keep meaning to try the Pepe's in Yonkers.....

                      1. re: Jim Leff

                        jim leff- if you can go the distance and try pepe's in fairfield, it is far better than yonkers, have probably saved thirty lbs. by yonkers (which is near me) not being up to pepe standards(:

                        1. re: rich51

                          Dude, if I'm going all the way to Fairfield, I'm going on to New Haven!

                          I heard Yonkers was the happening Pepe's a year or so ago. Has that changed, or did I hear wrong?

                          Also on my Yonker's pizza-to-try list: Yonkers: Silvio's for pizza (and linguini vongole), Catania's for white pizza and lasagna pizza, and John's Pizza on Devoe Ave. for classic NY slices. Thoughts? From a "destination" perspective, rather than strictly local?

                          1. re: Jim Leff

                            Jim - I can only give you my thoughts on Catania's. A great choice on your must-try list. The lasagna pizza is delicious & filling-- one slice and you'll be good for the rest of the afternoon. It's been so long since I've had their white slice, but they do everything good there. Not to be overlooked: their great calzones. They're not half-moon shaped like they are in most places. At Catania's, they look like little domed turnovers - which is nice because you can buy 2 or 3 and sample more of their fillings.

                            If you're coming from a long distance, I'm not sure if it's "destination-worthy" like Pepe's in New Haven, but it's well worth a detour in YO to Catania's.

                            1. re: Sra. Swanky

                              Gracias, señora!

                              I also have an ancient note to try the sfingi at cafe trento across the street. Still worthy?

                              1. re: Jim Leff

                                Caffe Trento in the Highridge shopping center? Definitely still worthy! It's my favorite Italian bakery. Sharpen your sweet tooth - sfingi is top-notch and the tiramisu and cannoli is among the best I've had. Now you've got me jonesing for it! :o)

                            2. re: Jim Leff

                              I've gone to the Yonkers Pepe's semi-regularly since it opened. For my money, still the best pie in Westchester, though I haven't been to the Mount Vernon duo of Johnny's and Lincoln Lounge yet - or Sabatino's.

                              Now, I haven't been to the original Pepe's in New Haven, but I have been to Modern and Zuppardi's in West Haven. The Yonkers Pepe's is certainly in the same league as those places.

                              1. re: Jim Leff

                                jim- point is the last few (admittedly not recent) times, fairfield was superior to new haven, so why go further. certainly not a destination but both johnnies in mt.vernon and lincoln lounge are very good. i stopped going to johnnies when his prices kept going up esp. with toppings, makes a very good thin crust pie, but it doesn't really fill you because it is so thin, the large can be eaten by one person

                                1. re: Jim Leff

                                  I love johns on devoe. He has my favorite neighborhood no frills pizza. I swear by the Lincoln Lounge in mount vernon. The square pizza to me is one of the best ive had. I just tried ZaZa on central ave and basically ive had five pies in about three weeks.

              2. we were there again tonight, different pizza chef. My son wanted to try the poppers and they were crazy good. It's an italian take on poppers, with fresh ricotta cheese and a grilled jalapeno pepper. The knots weren't quite as good but the pizza was better. It had that slightly charred, crispy crust I like and a little more basil that last time. I'm a convert.

                1. Establishment (as well as Tino's) is closed. Bought by owner of of Casa Rina, this will be a steakhouse.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: newwestchester

                    :o( Great - there goes another delicious Westchester slice....loved that real coal oven and the delicious pizza it created. Thanks for the update. I'm gonna go mope now...

                    1. re: newwestchester


                      Use it or lose it, you guys. Place was perpetually empty. If you want good guys to endure (and encourage other good guys to open), vote with your wallet and taste buds.

                      1. re: Jim Leff

                        Maybe all the reserved mobster tables sunk them. Kidding about the mobster part. Maybe. Was weird that they did always have so many reserved tables.....reserved for who?

                        1. re: chloe4ever

                          I went there once. The pizza was great, but I must say the place had a very strange vibe. The lighting was very flourescent, and the emptyness was a little creepy.

                        2. re: Jim Leff

                          I live about 5 minutes away, and I tried this place 3-4 times, never got the attraction. Pizzas I got were mediocre to downright lousy. I loved the late Totonno's in Yonkers and I think the Pepe's on Central Ave does a pretty close facsimile of the New Haven pizzerias, so I like to think I have a reasonable judgement on pizza.

                          I bet it was the slow death of the Saw Mill Multiplex across the street that did them in .