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clamsandchorizoSteamed clams and chorizo.The flavors of Latin American cuisine are adding a vibrant taste to the New Rochelle culinary scene with the recent opening of Minis Latin Fusion Restaurant. It is owned by Nicole Pirraglia Piparo and Michael Piparo. Upon chatting with Nicole, she indicated that she worked in several restaurants on City Island as manager and in the front of the house. Driving to New Rochelle to pick up her children from school, she noticed the empty storefront that previously housed Fratelli for many years. The rest is history. She decided the area needed a change of pace from the many Italian eateries in the area. Thus, Minis Latin Fusion was born. “Our food is Spanish with influences from many Latin cultures. We offer something for everyone. The person who I would have loved to experience Minis, is my grandmother, a great cook. My goal for the future is to expand to many locations. For me, the best part of the business is the social interaction. The hardest part, is being away from my young family.”

The space has been redesigned. Seating about 50 guests, the bar is to the right and the dining room to the left. To give the space a south of the border ambiance, the many works of Mexican artist Leonid Afremov adorn the white stucco walls. They depict many areas of the arts. The dance and music themes compliment the Latin food.

We enjoyed several appetizers. One of my favorites was a bowl of steamed clams paired with chorizo. The fragrant cilantro flavored sauce was perfect with the delicate clams and nicely spiced chorizo. Toasted slices of bread were just right for dipping. I requested a spoon to lap up every bit of the sauce, and I was told that another guest indicated that if he had a glass, he would just drink the beautifully flavored sauce. Empanadas con Picadillo with creole sauce were quite good, as well. These “meat pastries”, were filled to the brim with a well seasoned meat mixture and were fried to a golden brown. I had been instructed on how to navigate the empanada and followed the rule…. I bit off the corner of the pastry and the tantalizing aroma of the beef mixture with its combination of herbs and spices filled the air. Quesadillas are popular in many restaurants. At Minis, the filling is chicken that is roasted and tossed in a mole sauce. It was a very pleasant variation with that great chocolate enhanced sauce of Mexican origin. Chicharron de pollo arrived as fried to a crisp nuggets of chicken. They were as crunchy as could be and pleasant when dipped in some creole sauce. --- One caveat----- They are not boneless, so be careful when biting into these delicious morsels. Creamy garlic shrimp were another tasty appetizer. The diced shrimp tossed with a creamy white garlic sauce were serve atop freshly fried tostones. Yet to be tried among the appetizers are shrimp soup with Juarez Sherry, black bean soup and sancocho, a soupy dish with chicken or fish, popular in the Caribbean. For a lighter beginning try the Arcadian green salad with sherry guava vinaigrette or tomato avocado salad with chipotle orange vinaigrette and tostones. carneasadaSteak with Argentinean Chimichurri Sauce

Many dishes are creatively presented at Minis. Ropa Vieja is a dish I have enjoyed through the years. Translated as “old clothes”, this dish of shredded beef is a Cuban specialty. Here the shredded beef is served in a Peruvian presentation. The meat mixture is layered with rice and white beans. This mountain of flavors was enhanced with aji Amarillo, a Peruvian yellow chili, avocado and a few slices of tostones, those fresh , fried green plantains, on a plantain leaf. The origin of the dish is Cuban and the “ tacu tacu” presentation is Peruvian.

Other entrees are varied with dishes popular in Puerto Rico, Peru, Cuba and the Caribbean, to name but a few. There is the popular arroz con pollo and seafood paella. Grilled NY Steak has a Latin touch when served with Argentinean chimichurri sauce. Pernil, pork shoulder , from Puerto Rico, plantain crumb crusted chicken breast, pork chops with moduros, sweet plantains and mofongo , a popular mashed plantain dish , with meat, vegetables or seafood. There is even mac and cheese with chorizo and chicharon crumbs.

Desserts include carrot cake bread pudding, cheesecake brulee as well as a Latin inspired tres leche Maduro sundae with those terrific sweet plantains, nuts and syrup.

Minis serve lunch Tuesday through Friday with Latin touches joining popular favorites such as fish and chip sandwiches with spicy Caribbean tartar sauce, carne hero with chimichurri sauce, and tamarind bbq pernil. Enjoy happy hour Tuesday through Friday from 4-7 pm. Sunday brunch is offered from 11.30-4 with selections including Venezuelan frittata, chorizo mac and cheese, and chimichurri steak and eggs.

Park your car in the parking area of the strip mall or on the street and enjoy the ray of Latin sunshine at the new Minis Latin Fusion Restaurant soon.RopaViegaRopa Viega

Minis Latin Fusion
237 East Main Street
New Rochelle
(914) 355- 5609

Recipe: Beef Empanadas (10 empanadas)

2 pounds ground beef
1 large onion, finely diced
3 Tbsps chopped garlic
½ red bell pepper finely diced
½ green bell pepper, finely diced
4 Tbsps. tomato paste
2 Tbsps. capers
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
½ bunch chopped cilantro
½ tsp. adobo
½ tsp. salt
10 Goya empanada shells, 5 inch rounds
2 Tbsps. olive oil

Olive oil for frying empanadas

In a large pot mix together all filling ingredients. Saute stirring, in 2 Tbsps. oil until meat is browned and cooked through. Chill the mixture. Divide it among the 10 shells. Fold each in half and crimp the edges tightly. Fry in olive oil on both sides until golden. Drain and serve.

ravioliOn a rather cold and windy day in early January, I visited La Bocca in White Plains. A warm and friendly environment enveloped me as I shed my hat, gloves and scarf. This cozy spot, serving delicious regional Italian food is owned by the gracious and talented Tony Spiritoso who hails from Calabria. When asked to describe La Bocca in a few words, he simply said, “La Bocca is a short trip to Italy.” His pastas, cheeses, oils and many other ingredients are imported from Italy. Spiritoso has years of personal experience from a country with centuries of culinary history. Alessandro Crocco oversees the dining room and is a most capable director who assures that everything runs smoothly and that the waitstaff is working efficiently. 

La Bocca seats about 14 at the friendly well stocked bar and about 60 in the dining room. A private party room accommodates about 80 guests. The dining room has a homelike cozy feeling. Brick archways are the background for the colorful Italian pottery and plates. Italian related artwork, posters and photos line the walls. Photos and memorabilia of well-known Italian actors add to the ambiance. Hand painted portraits of Marcello Mastrioanni and Roberto Benigni hang beside a portrait of Tony Spiritoso. On the back wall is a mural depicting La Bocca Della Verita,” the mouth of truth sculpture”, which is in Italy. It is said that if you lie and put your hand in its mouth, your hand will be bitten off. True or just a myth, you can be sure that when dining at La Bocca, you will enjoy a delightful meal in a warm and friendly setting where the attentive service matches the carefully prepared food. 

A basket of country bread and a bottle of organic Italian olive oil arrive, as you check out the menu. You can start your meal with classic salads or innovative ones such as beets with walnuts, arugula and robiola cheese, insalata alla Bocca with spinach, and a mixed fruit dressing or Contadina with arugula, pears, walnuts and gorgonzola. A hot antipasto, baked clams, fegatino di pollo with mushrooms and balsamic sauce are nice starters. I enjoyed a fresh seafood salad with shrimp, polpo and calamari. Fresh lemon juice and celery added flavor to this combination of ingredients resting on two cups of red lettuce. Very popular here is the sapori d’Italia a nice selection of Italian meats.

What would an Italian meal be without a pasta dish? With a homemade sauce, nothing could be better. One of my favorite sauces is a Bolognese sauce, At La Bocca ribbons of homemade pappardelle were bathed in Chef Spiritoso’s rendition of Bolognese with beef, veal and pork in just the right proportions. A sprinkling of grated cheese was offered to complete this course. Among the pasta and rice dishes, many of the pastas are dried and imported from Italy. Spiritoso indicated that you can cook them al dente for good results. Gluten free and whole wheat noodles are available upon request. I look forward to sampling cavatelli Marietta with pancetta, potatoes and tomato, linguine alla vongole with Manilla clams, garlic and oil, rigatoni alla nonna with meatballs and sausage and vegetarian lasagna. Risotto Tirolese with Arborio rice, sausage, peas and pesto is another appealing choice.seafood

Veal dishes, for me, are often a means of assessing the quality of the meat. At La Bocca, they were most accommodating in preparing veal martini for me in place of the chicken martini that appears on the menu. The scallops of veal were tender enough to cut with a fork and were encrusted with parmesan cheese and finished with butter and white wine.  The generous portion shared the plate with fresh asparagus, roasted potatoes and crowns of broccoli, resulting in a lovely entrée. Many classic chicken dishes are prepared in traditional ways such as chicken valdostano with Italian ham and provolone in a brandy mushroom sauce and pollo scarpariello with garlic, sausage, peppers and potatoes. Rack of lamb, sliced sirloin with a balsamic reduction, and a Berkshire pork chop with hot or sweet peppers, onion, cherry tomatoes and potatoes are some of the meat and poultry choices. 

A special attraction that makes La Bocca stand out among the many Italian restaurants in the area, is the wide selection of wild meats, such as rabbit, quail, venison and boar. Just inquire to find out what is available on the day of your visit. 

The fish choices are very fresh. Try the zuppa di pesce where shrimp, calamari, clams, lobster tail, mussels and squid swim in a tomato and garlic sauce over linguini. If lobster tail is your desire, try it fra diavolo or with mussels and shrimp marinara. Very popular is branzino grilled whole or filleted. I thoroughly enjoyed gamberoni gratinati. Here jumbo, tail on shrimp were crusted with nicely seasoned breadcrumbs and baked with a touch of white wine. A citrus scented lemon sat beside the shrimp and the combination was light and delicious. The shrimp were properly cooked without becoming rubbery in texture.

Desserts, if you have room, include a selection of Bindi creations such as, spumoni bomba, espresso panna cotta, and chocolate salted caramel souffle. For me a perfect finale would be fruit and imported Italian cheeses and espresso over gelato.

As noted on my recent mid-day visit, La Bocca is a popular lunch destination. An a la carte as well as a lunch special menu are offered. 
If classic Italian dishes are your wish, without getting on a plane, just take a short ride to White Plains and enjoy the friendly ambiance and traditional Italian fare at La Bocca Ristorante. Instead of a passport, bring a hearty appetite.
Meter parking as well as municipal parking is available for your convenience.

La Bocca Ristorantebolognese
8 Church Street
White Plains
914 948 3281

lillysoctopusn busy Mamaroneck Avenue, with its many pubs and bars, Lilly’s stands out with its Victorian décor and thoroughly modern menu, a most unusual and pleasing combination. A tin beamed ceiling, dark wood floors, brick and dark wood paneled walls, deep red tufted leather banquettes, wine colored fringed draperies, crystal chandeliers and gilt mirrors set the mood.  You can choose to dine at the 25 plus seats at the marble topped bar, adorned with marble statuary, at a high top table or at a cast iron pedestal table, as we did. In warm weather an outdoor patio in the rear of the restaurant awaits. 

I arrived at Lilly’s on a weekday at noon. Within a short time, the restaurant was filled with guests. There were business groups, ladies who lunch, and shoppers among them. Each table was presented with a large extensive menu.  It was fun observing the various groups choose from the innovative and varied choices available. 

My host was one of the managers, Manny Campos. His favorite part of working here is  communicating with his guests and staff. “Lilly’s is a feel at home restaurant serving modern tapas and much more. Our goal for the future is to get better and better in food and service.” Owner Brian Mahon who also owns Hudson Grill, next door, is a seasoned restauranteur who sets a cheerful mood at his establishments. 

Chef Tyler Jacobs has headed the kitchen at Lilly’s since its inception and his creativity is still operating at full speed. Everything is prepared from scratch with top notch ingredients. Culinary school and the kitchens of BLT and Picholine in Manhattan, led him to heading the kitchen here in Westchester where he has utmost respect for the ingredients and combines them in creative wonderful ways. I remember him saying, shortly after they opened, that he expected to train to be an architect. Well, here he is, a culinary architect building unusual and tasty dishes here in Westchester.

Chef Jacobs has created about two dozen “small plates “for his dinner menu.  During my recent visit, I tried the seared scallops. The very fresh scallops were seared to a golden brown and arranged atop a tabbouleh salad, a puree of sweet potatoes and a touch of pomegranate vinaigrette. It was a sophisticated and fine combination of flavors. Sliced and grilled hanger steak was simple and delicious with herbed citrus aioli.  The very popular tuna tartare was unique with its grapefruit vinaigrette enveloping the cubes of freshly cut tuna.  Guacamole, cilantro and sliced red radishes added interest and crisp chips Lillyssaladaccompanied this classic with “the Tyler Touch.” Not to be missed are the ricotta croquettes. Six of these fried balls of ricotta dough were flavored with rosemary infused honey.  It would be difficult to eat just one.  Although they are listed among the small plates, I think they would be a fabulous dessert, as well. Return visits might include small plates of fish tacos, lobster skewers, grilled octopus, steamed mussels, meatballs, or the outstanding roasted cauliflower, brussels sprouts with Caesar dressing and parmesan, burrata or gnocchi with sage, shitake mushrooms and apples. All of the above are presented as small plates. They certainly are large enough for sharing, which allows you to sample a large variety of these gems at one meal.

If fresh seafood is your passion, indulge in a selection from the raw bar. Oysters and clams, as well as seafood platters with lobster tail and shrimp await your tasting.

Pizza here is a popular option.  Choose from their innovative toppings. Atop a nicely charred crust was a topping of crumbled short rib, cheddar, caramelized onions and red wine. It was quite delicious. Another favorite was the clam pizza with freshly chopped clams, parmesan, parsley and chili flakes. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice added to the flavor. I was delighted to find the chopped clams tender and not tough in this oven baked pie. Very popular is the bee sting pie with sliced soppressata, honey, mozzarella, oregano, parmesan and a generous sprinkling of chili oil.  Other tempting choices are truffle pizza, Peking duck pizza, Kalamata pie, feta and spinach pie fig and arugula and Lilly’s meatball pie. For the traditionalist a classic Margherita pie is offered. Upon request, a handmade gluten free dough is available.

liillyspizzaIf you haven’t sated your appetite with small plates and pizza, try one of the large plates, as we did.  Upon Manny’s suggestion, we ordered the pan roasted branzino.  The whole fish appeared on the plate, which concerned me, since deboning a fish is not one of my favorite activities. A sigh of relief upon opening the fish (like turning a page in a book), I found it was completely filleted, delicate and divine.  It rested on a nest of quinoa, chunks of roasted beets, fennel and orange segments with an orange vinaigrette. This original combination of ingredients was lovely since the grain, vegetable and fruit complimented the delicate fish instead of overpowering it. I anticipate trying other large plates of seared salmon with celery root puree and figs, brick pressed chicken and wild mushroom risotto in the future. A Tuscan kale salad with buttermilk ranch dressing is one of the pleasant salad choices offered. 

I couldn’t manage dessert, but butternut squash cake with port roasted figs, brulee pumpkin cheesecake and apple cobbler with streusel topping are among the choices to complete a beautifully prepared unique meal.

The lunch menu is extensive, as well, with many of the dinner dishes as well as interesting sandwich choices such as grilled vegetable panini, sliced steak sandwich with fontina, horseradish aioli and red wine onions, and prosciutto grilled cheese. Brunch is served with complimentary bloody mary or mimosas. Choose from cinnamon raisin French toast, loaded bagel, chicken and waffles, banana flambé pancakes, smoked salmon pizza and much more.

There is a happy hour from 4-7 Monday through Friday at their roomy bar.

Yes, Lilly’s is a fine spot to enjoy lunch, brunch or dinner with a large creative menu offered at each meal. There are seasonal changes on the menu and weekend specials, as well. With Chef Tyler Jacobs at the stove you can always expect a creative and delicious meal. Try Lilly’s soon.


169 Mamaroneck Avenue
White Plains
914 997 5600 

LendmeatenorMistaken identities, sexual innuendos, risky encounters and plenty of slamming doors – they all come together on one fateful evening in Cleveland in “Lend Me a Tenor,” the fast-paced and utterly charming comedy now playing at Westchester Broadway Theatre in Elmsford.

The action takes place entirely in a Cleveland hotel suite in 1934, as the Cleveland Grand Opera Company prepares for the widely anticipated performance of the world-famous tenor Tito Merelli. Tito is late to arrive, which becomes a huge problem for Max, the assistant to the general manager of the Opera, who also happens to be his girlfriend Maggie’s father. And when Merelli finally shows up, it isn’t long before he becomes…well, indisposed. How will Max save the Opera from disaster and preserve his relationship with his boss? There seems to be only one way out for Max – who, as luck would have it, fancies himself a tenor worthy of the stage. 

The consequences for Max, Maggie, and the entire gang of colorful characters are surprising and funny in this modern version of a traditional English farce.
Of course, for a comedy of this nature – with a relatively thin plot and a relatively heavy dose of pratfalls – to succeed, the cast has to be on its game. And happily, the actors on stage are nimble, energetic, and eager. In particular, J.D. Daw, as Max, serves as a capable centerpiece to the show, and also has an undeniably wonderful operatic voice. What’s more, some of the minor characters do some delightful scene-stealing – such as Sam Seferian, who plays the bellhop, and Tregoney Sheperd, who’s irresistible as Julia, the chairman of the Opera Guild. 

“Lend Me a Tenor” has an impressive past, having opened on Broadway in 1989 under the direction of Jerry Zaks and with a cast that included Philip Bosco, Victor Garber and Tovah Feldshuh. It won three Tony awards back then, and was revived in 2010, earning the Tony for best revival of a play. 
To be sure, the play isn’t brilliant or thought-provoking, and it won’t make you ponder any of the deep mysteries of life. But it’s a wonderful antidote for the winter blues, and will certainly make for a fun local theatrical experience.

“Lend Me a Tenor” runs through January 26th. WBT is located at One Broadway Plaza in Elmsford. For ticket information, call 914-592-2222 or visit www.BroadwayTheatre.com.

Pictured at top: The Cast of Lend Me A Tenor  (front: Molly McCaskill (as Maggie), J.D. Daw (as Max) Back l to r: Sam Seferian (as the Bellhop), Tregoney Shepherd (as Julia), Joey Sorge (as Tito), Kathy Voytko (as Maria), Hannah Jane McMurray (as Diana) and Philip Hoffman (as Saunders).

railhousekebobsA quote from Luciano Pavarotti appears on the menu at The Rail House; ”One of the very best things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is that we are doing and devote our attention to eating. ‘’ And so I did.

Upon checking out the address of The Rail House, it seemed familiar. It has been home to Bacci, Villa Nova and Casa Amore. Its newest occupant is the charming, rustic Rail House Restaurant. It is managed by Florio Rugova, a familiar face in the Westchester world for over 30 years. I remember his professional presence at La Fontanella and Jordan Hall in Pelham. Rugova believes that a restauranteur needs to be “a people person”, gracious, understanding and with a good knowledge of the business.” He certainly fits the bill. For Rugova, the best part of the work is to see his guests leave happy. Rugova indicated that among the many restaurants in Pelham, “The Rail House is unique because of its diverse menu, its ambiance and its railroad theme. We are very proud of our product and our Italian American menu offers a little bit of everything to suit every taste. If Rugova was a guest at The Rail House, his meal might start with chicken dumplings, tuna tartar or ceviche. This would be followed by short rib, branzino or pappardelle with short rib stroganoff and his meal might end with a flute of hazelnut chocolate, mango guava or lemoncello gelato.

A black awning greets you as you enter this cozy restaurant. It has been completely redecorated in black and white tones. The main dining room, with its beamed ceiling, seats about 70 guests. Black and white railroad related photos and signs adorn the walls. The adjoining bar is roomy, as well. Upstairs, there are two party rooms for private events. They are open seven days a week. On Monday through Friday you can enjoy a happy hour from 4 to 7 PM.
We were seated at a cast iron pedestal table with the sun shining in from the window as we awaited the treasures being prepared by Chef Rolando Cordado, who has honed his skills in several high end New York City restaurants.

As we checked out the menu, warm bread and a dish of fresh ricotta, olive oil and a dip of eggplant, sun dried tomatoes and roasted peppers was presented for us to nibble on. As our dishes arrived one by one, we noted that the simple white dishes displayed each course beautifully. We started our meal with plump Maine mussels. The creamy Dijon mustard sauce enhanced the flavor of the mild tasting mussels. Thinly sliced grilled toast absorbed the flavor of the rich sauce. Chicken dumplings were pan fried and generously filled with a mild chicken filling. The won ton wrappers remained crisp. A tangy sweet chili sauce sat beside the dumplings for dipping. They were delicious and can also be prepared steamed instead of fried. I look forward to enjoying the steamed clams, with white wine and chorizo, potato gnocchi with grapes and goat cheese, and other interesting appetizers. The raw bar included clams, oysters, seafood towers, shrimp cocktail, ceviche and smoked salmon. We couldn’t resist the tuna tartar. Here, pristinely fresh ahi tuna was coarsely chopped and formed into a disc. It was topped with avocado and set on a bed of seaweed and sprinkled with black and white sesame railhousestunaseeds. Chili sauce completed this light and excellent starter.

With winter weather outdoors, a good entrée choice is the braised short rib. The slow low braising process produced a very tender and flavor filled dish. I never used the knife at my place setting since the meat fell apart at the mere touch of my fork. This tender cut of meat rested in a nest of mashed potatoes, surrounded by roasted Brussels sprouts. Branzino was nicely fileted and blackened for a full bodied taste. It was served atop the currently popular, healthy and tasty Brussels sprouts. This time the sprouts were shaved and tossed with mushrooms. Barolo wine and a bit of sweet mango salsa complimented the spicy blackened spices on the coating of the fish. Other creative entrees include wasabi tuna, the railroad tracks, (skewers of filet mignon, shrimp and chicken) and classics of New York strip steak, chicken scarpariello, chicken martini, paella, as well as lighter fare such as a signature burger, a salmon burger and fish tacos.

Of the pasta selections The Station, pappardelle with short rib stroganoff, and the sea linguini marinara or fra diavolo are waiting to be devoured. A massive brick pizza oven glows in the back of the dining room offering a variety of pies such as buffalo chicken, vegetable, sausage and broccoli rabe and of course Margherita. Salads here include a classic Caesar and some inventive combinations such as a Thai salad with cabbage, pine nuts and romaine dressed with a sesame ginger dressing, beet and kale with quinoa and almonds and a chopped Greek salad. Add a protein for a light but hearty meal. One of the daily specials of the day was indeed special. Our parmesan encrusted cod was divine in its simplicity. The delicate filets were lightly crusted with crumbs and parmesan. The filets surrounded a mound of freshly sautéed spinach. This combination of ingredients sat on a pool of beurre blanc studded with a small dice of tomatoes. It is clear that fish cookery is one of Chef Cordado’s many gifts.

Complete your meal with a sweet bite. A slice of cappuccino cake was rich but not too sweet and a lovely ending to our meal. Espresso infused chocolate cake layers were alternated with coffee cream and topped with a sprinkling of cocoa powder. Freshly whipped cream shared the plate. A flute of hazelnut chocolate gelato was a light conclusion, as well.

Lunch specials are offered seven days a week from 12-3 o clock with a choice of appetizer, entrée and coffee or tea.
A leisurely lunch or dinner at The Rail House offers friendly, professional service and a beautifully prepared variety of dishes. It is a fine addition to the growing restaurant scene in Pelham. The manager and host Florio Rugova makes you feel welcome at this new and charming dining venue.

The Rail House Restaurant 10803railhouseoysters
65 First Street
Pelham, New York
914 365-1044

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