Hype is a strange thing. It’s what anyone selling a product strives for, an escalating mixture of excitement and buzz that spreads like a virus and hopefully leads to huge business. But it has a downside — build too much of it and you risk reaching a tipping point where lofty expectations can’t be met, disappointment sets in and customers realize the product wasn’t worthy of all the hype in the first place.
Which is a long way of saying that I expected big things from Tarry Lodge, the Batali/Bastianich trattoria that’s got all of Westchester buzzing — but I was also wary.
I met my friends Ron and Michael at the restaurant about an hour before our reservation, with plans on grabbing a drink at the bar. Only the bar’s not really a “bar” — people were eating full meals there; it’s also situated closely to the tables so if you stand with a drink some poor customer’s going to get your butt in his face while he tries to eat his dinner.
We went to another bar and came back. The hostess led us to an upper level table with a great view of the dining room.
She handed us the menus… and hey, what’s this? A brand new restaurant with name cache that’s NOT trying to gouge its customers with outrageous prices?? My mind struggled to compute. I’d read Joe Bastianich’s Westchester Magazine interview in which he mentioned Tarry Lodge’s family friendliness and moderate price points, but it still surprised me. Pizzas ranged from $10-$16, pastas from $14-$17, entrees $16 and up. You could pay more at your local Olive Garden (and for some reason, people do).
We picked out a few appetizers to share, like this bright salad with apples, walnuts and gorgonzola.
And a creamy, cheesy cauliflower gratinate.
For our entrees we all had the same idea: pasta. It was cold out afterall, and nothing soothes the soul like a bowl a well-made pasta. Ron ordered the Fusilli alla Crazy Bastard (a name preferable to Fusilli alla Fat Bastard) — fusilli luxuriously bathed in goat cheese, and arugula I think. Michael chose orecchiette with fennel sausage and rapini. Here they are tucking into their meals.
My gnocchi with braised oxtail qualified as rustic comfort food of the highest order.
The gnocchi were light and pillowy, the oxtail meltingly tender. What more could you want on a frigid winter night? I don’t need high-concept, fussy food with foam and god knows what else. Serve me a dish like this with a glass of wine and I’m as happy as a clam.
We were stuffed. There was no way we could each eat a dessert, so we shared a serving of biscotti, conveniently cut up into bite-size pieces.
(My only gripe: Tarry Lodge needs to do something about the noise level. Sounds bounced all over the hard surfaces and even among the three of us, we had to speak loudly to be heard. The annoying woman laughing like a hyena in the corner didn’t help. Someone take the wine away from her.)
Noise aside, Tarry Lodge is my kind of restaurant. It’s elegant without being pretentious; the service is attentive but unobtrusive; the food is refreshingly uncomplicated and rustic, prepared with high-quality ingredients and obvious TLC; you can eat there without breaking the bank.
I’ve bought into the hype.
18 Mill St.
Port Chester, NY