After hearing the praises of many visitors to Spadaro, and reading up on the background of its owners/management, I was very intrigued. My friends told me, "They're from Rome!". Dolores said, "Italy comes to New Rochelle"! I even found a letter on the web written by the city's mayor, extolling the brilliance of this new eatery.
What was I waiting for? So I went last night, with two companions, intending to sample as many offerings as possible. I should tell you from the outset that I, like Dolores, have no complaints. Perhaps a couple of small details could have been closer to perfect. But the only thing that was bad about my experience there was the haircut on the guy at the opposite table.
The chef, Antonio, hails from Montecelio in Lazio, just south of Rome. His wife, Rina, is Barese (from Bari, Puglia) and his sister, Rosa, works the dining room with her. There are no busboys and no hostess. Just a small room (holds max 40) that, aside from the unfortunate foam board ceiling, looks as though it could have been a Roman neighborhood trattoria that was picked up and transported directly to Main Street: white tablecloths, dark brown wooden chairs, rust tile floors and warm ochre walls filled with framed photographs set the scene, with lively Italian classics playing in the background and a window through the back wall that gives a partial view to the kitchen.
There are no written menus, as the daily offerings vary according to what is found at the market that day (imagine!- yes, in Westchester!). We began with the house assortment of hot and cold antipasti. Little did we know that this would turn out to be a meal unto itself! Dishes came out in well-paced succession and included: some of the most delicious plain bruschetta (crusty grilled bread rubbed with garlic and drizzled with oil and sea salt) I have ever had; a small cheese and salumi plate with pecorino, hot sausage and prosciutto; "Roman beans", which were bortolotti in a spicy tomato sauce with small bites of pork (fantastic); grilled rounds of sweet and creamy eggplant; a spicy sweet and sour relish of eggplant with onion and tomato (not quite a caponata but close, also fantastic); roasted strips of red and yellow peppers with olive oil; sauteed lemony asparagus; a bowl of mussels and clams in a tangy white wine garlic broth; a dish of assorted olives... and possibly more that I cannot recall at the moment. All wonderful.
We also asked for one of the house special "carciofi all romana". A large marinated artichoke arrived at the table for the three of us, and we just couldn't get enough of it. It was tender and juicy and sweet and meaty all at the same time, with just the right lemon-olive oil flavor. The outer petals could have been slightly more soft, but they were delicious, just the same.
We then ordered three pastas: ravioli "al cardinale", which is a pink sauce; tortellini (meat) bolognese; and the Spadaro signature pasta, fettucine "al Spadaro", which comes in an egg, mushroom, and black pepper sauce with prosciutto. The tortellini were very tasty, almost too tasty, as the bolognese was a highly-spiced, intense tomato version with a very distinct flavor that was good, but I'd had enough after eating 1/2 of the very large serving (I hardly needed a pasta dish after the antipasti, but I was determined to try everything!). The ravioli were lovely- very creamy cheese interior on round ravioli topped with a generous amount of light tomato-cream sauce. By traditional Italian standards, this dish probably had too much sauce. But it was so delicious that, had I not been on the verge of overfull, I would have gladly scooped up the remaining sauce with bread. Finally, the fettucine Spadaro, which was the best of the three: perfectly cooked egg pasta with a silky sauce, semi-dry in texture, and a parmigiano-rich, woodsy flavor. Just the right amount of black pepper highlighted all of the best flavors in this dish.
After all of this food, we just couldn't order secondi. However, we were told that assorted grilled fish and meat options were available: calamari, shrimp, swordfish, veal and pork chops, and beef.
Desserts are by Bindi, which is not my favorite, and so I was relieved to pass on them without feeling as though I was missing out :) Rina told us that she may try to incorporate homemade desserts in the future, but, for now, they really have their hands full.
They do not yet have a liquor license, so we came prepared with our own wine, which they gladly opened (there was no corkage fee on the bill, but we did not ask what their official policy on corkage is). Espresso is served short and strong, as it should be. A bottle of Panna water costs $8.
FWIW, our bill total was under $100. I can't remember the last time I ate so well for $31 per person, as we could easily have paid as much as $41 or $51 each for this meal and left very happy. To me, knowing that such a place exists here, where I can get a taste of my beloved city, my first home, is priceless. They even serve gnocchi on Thursdays, in the classic Roman tradition. Now I just have to find someone else to bring so I can get back there asap!
They are also open for lunch (and packed, from what I hear).