I realized this a quarter of the way into dinner at Tarry Lodge, where I was celebrating a birthday with family on Wednesday night. That was when I recognized the sommelier in the blue dress, a friend of mine from a few restaurants back whom I knew had moved "upstate," though I couldn't remember where she'd landed.
I thought that eating dinner in Port Chester would mean no random encounters with industry peeps, but, sigh, that's increasingly impossible. You bet your lucky stars I got a free dessert.
Tarry Lodge has the warm, wainscotted feel of a Vineyard restaurant (I thought of a placed called Atria in Edgartown, where I once dined two tables away from a tall and loud Denis Leary). It didn't have the airy turn-and-burn quality unique to all other Batali-Bastianich enterprises. That was fine by me. It was nice to dine on tablecloths for a change--Babbo has them, but most of the others do not--and to sit in a warm, cream-colored room. My passion fruit bellini upstaged the birthday girl's pear version. Shrimp with melon and mint were halved and grilled jumbos, served with ample slices of cantaloupe and honeydew, alongside pickled onions. A "chopped salad" was, more accurately, a play on antipasto, included chiffonades of the requisite players: salami, mortadella, provolone, roasted red peppers, artichokes, onions. Roasted fennel and strawberries provided a toothsome contrast to all that soft meat and cheese, crunchy blackened chunks of anisey fennel up against season starter straws. As Rachael Ray would say, Yum-O.
The pizza course included one white (vongole, with in-shell littleneck clams and plenty of garlic) and one red (hot Italian sausage and black olives). Both were unevenly shaped and black in parts. The pizzas were better and more pliable than the Otto variety. Our pastas--stinging nettle tagliatelle with braised lamb, linguine carbonara, spaghetti with Manila clams and pancetta--couldn't have been closer to perfect. The nettle pasta was greenish with a deep herbal flavor. The carbonara came with an egg yolk on top, the perfect binder for a perfectly hedonistic dish. Spaghetti was undercooked in the right way and touched with a little pancetta, but not too much.
For dessert, we settled for simple, strawberries with mascarpone and aged balsamic. You can imagine how basic--and satisfying--it was. A panettone bread pudding also arrived, alongside a rum-raisin gelato. Not a bad way to end the night.
Maybe it was unwise to follow great pizza with pizza, but I owed my coach a dinner out due to his effective (and free) services leading up to my marathon, so we went to Company, or Co., as everyone's been calling it. People have been lauding the pies since the place opened a few months ago. I'm not sure I agree.
A chicken liver toast was way too mealy. There was so much liver on the bread that I got totally grossed out and stopped eating it halfway through. My radicchio salad was sufficiently bitter and well-dressed with a good balsamic, but the raw shitake mushrooms that adorned it seemed to serve no real purpose.
As for the pie, I ordered the veal meatball. It came with crushed tomatoes, olives, and parmesan cheese. But because of the balls' heft, the pie was weighed down in the middle, losing the crispy crunch I craved. The pizza bianco--dough doused with olive oil, sea salt, and rosemary, provided to us by a server to eat while we waited for our table--fared better in the crispness department. Maybe it was just my pie with the toppings I had. If I went back, I'd order the acclaimed Popeye, or maybe even a simple Margherita.
Tarry Lodge: 1, Company: 0. Sorry, Mr. Lahey. Batali wins this round.
18 Mill Street
Port Chester, NY 10573
230 9th Avenue
New York, NY 10001