New plein air sidewalk dining area outside Salsa Picante Mexican Restaurant.Photo by Jananne Abel/Westmore News

 

New plein air sidewalk dining area outside Salsa Picante Mexican Restaurant.
Photo by Jananne Abel/Westmore News

In the Northeast, outdoor eating is generally associated with summer, and this year we’ve been lucky to have many pleasant days, evenings and nights that have been conducive to dining outside—Sunday through Tuesday of the past week when we suffered a heatwave notwithstanding. Those days were too hot and humid to even consider eating outdoors. When I visited Mulligan’s Bar & Grill, which overlooks the ninth hole of the golf course at Doral Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center in Rye Brook, Tuesday, a sign greeted me which said the establishment was “closed due to extreme heat.” The exception to that avoidance of outside venues was bartaco where the deck overlooking the Byram River was packed—at least on Sunday—when other outdoor spaces were empty. The good news is that forecasts predict temperatures in the coming days will be in the low to mid 80s with lower humidity, so people will be flocking to the 39 places in Port Chester and Rye Brook that offer a place to enjoy your meal in the balmy air.

From a few simple tables and chairs set up outside a restaurant on the sidewalk to fancy decks with heat lamps that allow for the extension of the outside eating season, there’s something for everyone. From April to October, restaurants with outdoor seating are definitely in demand.

In the 18 years I’ve been writing this feature, the number of sidewalk cafés, patios and decks has nearly doubled from 23 to 39 of the 131 total eateries that now exist in the two villages. The phenomenon caught on in 1997 when the Port Chester Board of Trustees encouraged sidewalk cafés through special legislation. Since then the number has gradually moved upward, ebbing and flowing each year as restaurants close and open, savvy restaurateurs decide to create an outdoor venue to drum up more interest and therefore increase business, make room for overflow crowds or just heighten visibility.

Some spaces have table service while others just allow customers to take their food and eat outside.

 

One place that offered outdoor eating last year is not doing so in 2015—The Kneaded Bread bakery and sandwich shop at 181 North Main St. Owners Jennifer and Jeffrey Kohn have had a sidewalk café as allowed by Port Chester’s local law since 2010 after waiting four years to get approval. In order for that to occur, the zoning in that area of downtown had to be changed from its outdated manufacturing designation and the local law governing sidewalk cafes had to be changed allowing a narrower right of way for pedestrians on the sidewalk where the café is located. A new law was adopted in June 2010. The Kneaded Bread has had a lovely sidewalk café with beautiful planters filled with flowers for the past five years but was denied a permit this year because for some reason they only have a temporary certificate of occupancy.

On top of that, six restaurants offering an outdoor eating experience have closed since last July, two of which have been replaced by new eateries which continue to offer dining al fresco. They are Arrosto at 25 South Regent St., Café Mirage at 531 North Main St., Spadaro Ristorante at 50 Abendroth Ave., zeppoleme at 321 North Main St., Club Sandwich at 7 Rye Ridge Plaza and Belle Fair Deli and Pizzeria at 20 Belle Fair Blvd. The latter two are in Rye Brook, the others in Port Chester.

Café Mirage will be reopening soon at the former site of T&J Villaggio Trattoria on Westchester Avenue and Club Sandwich closed at the beginning of July after many years in business. I have gotten mixed messages as to whether Patsy’s Pizzeria will eventually take the place of Spadaro’s. The New York City restaurant recently opened its first Westchester location in New Rochelle. Hopefully Port Chester will be its second.

Zeppoleme has been replaced by Piccolo Italian Gourmet while Belle Fair Deli and Pizzeria is now Belle Fair Gourmet.

 

Piccolo, which opened in March, offers 35 different panini and 20 different salads tossed with eight unique dressings in addition to soups, antipasti, bruschetta, Italian tapas, pasta and entrées plus a children’s menu. Arancini (rice balls), Caesar salad, Piccolo Bolognese, butternut squash gnocchi and Gamberi (shrimp) Pesto are some of the outstanding items I have tried.

When the weather is fine, the front doors of Piccolo can be opened up onto the sidewalk. Although nessa ristorante next door owns the lush garden and patio between the two restaurants, Piccolo has use of them Monday through Friday from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. for lunch and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for brunch. In addition, there is an outdoor table for four to the right of Piccolo which is available anytime. Piccolo is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week.

 

Michael Pizzalongo from Croton-on-Hudson and Michael Napolitano from Somers, who both have lots of experience in the food business, teamed up to establish Belle Fair Gourmet at the summit of the Belle Fair residential community next to the meeting house. They opened their new business July 9.

Napolitano “is an amazing bread maker,” said his partner, who is himself a chef. Rustic Italian bread made with flour imported from Naples is his specialty. Belle Fair Gourmet makes breakfast, lunch and dinner, offers imported Italian specialties and a lot of farm to table items such as beef, milk, goat cheese, jams and jellies. The establishment will also be making pizza, a cross between Neopolitan and American, which will be available for delivery throughout Rye Brook and Port Chester starting at the end of August.

Freshly made baked goods, infused oils and vinegars purchased with bottles that can be refilled and handcrafted Jane’s ice cream in a section of the market and café called Belle Fair Creamery are some of the new eating spot’s unique offerings.

Besides indoor seating, there are three wooden hexagonal picnic tables covered with blue Pepsi umbrellas on a nicely landscaped patio out front where you can eat the delicacies purchased inside.

Summer hours are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week.

 

A&S Fine Foods at 12B Bowman Ave. has gotten a $100 permit from the Village of Port Chester to place two tables for two and a planter filled with flowers and greens on the sidewalk, upgrading it to a restaurant of sorts since there is now a place to eat the Italian and Mediterranean delicacies purchased inside.

A&S has a huge menu of cold and hot appetizers, salads, pastas, lasagna, eggplant, fish, seafood, pork, veal, beef, chicken and vegetable preparations, all made in-house, that can be ordered, many of which are always available, in addition to a large selection of cheeses, prime meats, salami and charcuterie and a full line of Boars Head and imported provisions.

A&s is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sat., from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

 

Tiny Salsa Picante Mexican Restaurant, which opened in April 2014 at 110 Adee St., has gotten a permit from the village and created a small outdoor dining space on the sidewalk out front this year. There are three tables for two with white tablecloths surrounded by five wooden barriers painted rusty brown and topped with long boxes of greens, marigolds and yellow daisies.

Mexican born David Dolores, who lives in Port Chester and has years of experience in the restaurant business, is oftentimes your host. One of three partners, he is a friendly guy who makes you feel at home, will make recommendations and will answer any questions customers have about the menu.

Salsa Picante focuses on homestyle Mexican cooking with Dolores’s mother Martha preparing the cold salsas, hot sauces, soups, Mexican rice, black beans and lunch specials and his cousin Guillermo Gonzalez making everything else.

Besides the traditional Mexican specialties, I can recommend both the steak and shrimp alambres, similar to fajitas with melted cheese on top, as well as the chiles rellenos.

Hours are 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

 

In January, Fortina opened in the Rye Ridge Shopping Center at 136 South Ridge St. where Racanelli’s/Pizza & Brew had been for many years. It is the second version of a successful Armonk eatery created by friends Christian Petroni, Rob Kraus and John Nealon.

The front of this hip, fun and popular Italian restaurant opens up to let in the outside air and there is the capability of placing a few tables on the sidewalk for those who want to dine al fresco.

Fortina is a sophisticated Italian bistro known for its pizza and main courses cooked in wood-fired ovens. There is also pasta made on the premises, yummy meatballs, lovely burrata (Italian cheese made with mozzarella and cream) preparations and fabulous house made desserts.

Fortina is open six days for lunch and dinner (on Sunday lunch is replaced by brunch) from noon to 10 p.m. and Saturday just for dinner.

 

Bow & Rose Café opened in 2014 in the florist shop at 604 North Main St. where La Creperie Café had previously been, and they have placed a table and chairs just outside the front door. It was covered up when I visited, however, as the parking lot of the Carvel shopping center, where Bow & Rose is located, was being repaved this past week.

Maria Inez Gomez, who worked at Bank of America for 21 years, is now running both the café and flower shop herself. Born in Peru, she and her husband have lived in Port Chester for 28 years.

Besides a variety of hot and iced coffees and teas, she makes strawberry and banana juice, different types of coffee cake (I sampled a moist orange one), eggs, bacon and sausage and a savory pie similar to quiche with more healthy ingredients. “I do everything I love,” Gomez said.

 

While I didn’t spot a table outside of Starbucks Coffee Company in the Rye Ridge Shopping Center at 118 South Ridge St. in 2014 for coffee drinkers who want to sip and chat en plein air, this year there definitely is one.

 

In addition, worthy of note on the outdoor dining scene is that Cousin Frankie’s USA Grill at 112 Willett Ave. has added a Night Shift Menu from 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. seven days a week. On a nice night their patio is a pleasant place to enjoy Mexican, Colombian and American cuisine prepared by chef Alberto Guzman.

 

In addition, the outdoor eating area in front of Euro Asian Bistro at 30 Westchester Ave. has been expanded and beautified since 2014, making it a much more attractive venue. Light colored wooden planters filled with greens, lavender, deep pink and red impatiens and hanging vines now serve as barriers around it. Three new tables with benches seat up to six people in additional to four round tables and chairs for two. They are covered by rust-colored umbrellas.

 

The patio behind Mary Ann’s Mexican Restaurant at 23½ North Main St., entered either through the restaurant from North Main or from Abendroth Avenue, has also been spruced up with a large green cactus, more flower beds, new lighting and additional tables, making it a more desirable outdoor dining spot.