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Forty minutes from midtown in lower Westchester, Port Chester is many things to me: the spot of my first date at a grungy rock club with my now boyfriend and the home of Hubba’s, a greasy counter joint that has the world’s best chili cheeseburger wedges. It's never, however, been a destination for a nice dinner out. That is, until a month ago when Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich re-opened the Tarry Lodge.
More and more, Manhattan chefs and restaurateurs are expanding to surrounding New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Some of the city’s best—Dan Barber, Laurent Tourondel, Michael White and Danny Meyer—have restaurants out in the ‘burbs, or will soon. Batali and Bastianich are just the latest to move north.
Nancy Selzer, a co-owner and Tarry Lodge GM, has been with B&B for years and says that Joe, who lives in Greenwich, Connecticut, wanted to open a neighborhood restaurant for his family. The genius of it was apparent: on a recent Saturday, the space was packed, with diners clearly excited that a big name chef had brought good food to within twenty minutes of home—and with parking.
In the gut-renovated hundred-year-old space, I devoured a fantastic pizza out of the brand new wood-burning oven with speck, Taleggio, radicchio and oil-cured olives, a warm butternut squash sformato (baked pudding), and creamy Spaghetti alla Carbonara. Selzer says the pizza Margherita is one of the most popular items: “We’ve had more than one person tell us it’s better than in Italy.” Her favorites include the guanciale pizza with black truffles and a sunny-side up egg and the simple whole, grilled branzino with tomato jam. Joe adores the Eggplant alla Parmigiana.
Once open, the team realized two things: People eat early in Westchester and are ecstatic that the restaurant moved in. Says Selzer: “On the weekends we can fill the room at 4 o’clock. During the week things start to die down at 9, which is the primest of prime time in the city.” She continues: “One thing that I find interesting, and gratifying, is how much people are really rooting for us. In Manhattan, sometimes you feel like people want you to fail. There can be an arms crossed, ‘prove it’ attitude, where it feels like everyone is a cheerleader out here.”
Looking ahead, Selzer says that Joe “might have some ideas for more projects in the area.” But, for the time being, all they want is to keep the pizzas coming out of the oven.