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Dinner at Tarry Lodge

  •  Cuisine: Italian
  •  Atmosphere:  bi-level space, dramatic interiors, lively
  • Attire:  smart-casual
  • Ideal for:  children welcomed, foodies, famous chef/owner, group dining, notable wine list
  •  Must try: Pizza; Figs with Ricotta Salata
  •  Price: All pizzas under $16; Figs with Ricotta Salata, $7
  •  Reservations: Via phone or www.opentable.com
  • Phone: (914) 939-3111
  • Website:  www.tarrylodge.com
  • Location: 18 Mill StreetPort Chester, NY 10573

*All of my photos from this meal can be viewed on Flickr

What’s the space like?
Housed within a bi-level 100-year-old building in upstate New York, the Tarry Lodge’s interior space perfectly captures the charm of a bygone era: white crown and base moldings hugging terracotta-colored walls, glossy black staircase banisters, marble bar tops, exposed cupboards stocked with glasses and wine bottles, etc.   Various dining rooms/nooks occupy each floor, allowing parties of all sizes to intimately enjoy their experience.   
How was the service?
Slow and not uniform; friendly yet aloof   
What did you drink?
I enjoyed a “Tarry Temple,” which is one of the restaurant’s homemade virgin cocktails. This was basically a play on the popular “Shirley Temple,” made with Sprite and Rose’s Grenadine; only at Tarry Lodge, the grenadine is made in-house. 
How was the food?
Ever since my friend Allie began culinary school this fall, we rarely get to see one another.  Between class and her daily commute from Connecticut, the days of making last-minute dinner plans are long gone.  “Any interest in joining me at Mario Batali’s Tarry Lodge?  It’s on the NY/CT border.  I was thinking we could go this Saturday…I can pick you up from the train.  Come on, it’ll be an adventure!” Allie convincingly wrote in an email.  And being the sucker that I am for exploring new geography and dining destinations, I agreed.  I should also mention my naivety in relation to distance and travel-time…Port Chester is nearly an hour away from NYC’s Grand Central Station!  Read more to find out if my travels were worth the trip…   
  • Figs with Ricotta Salata: Allie and I decided to split this verdura (salad) as an appetizer.  A deep soup bowl arrived filled with quartered fresh figs, bite-sized cubes of ricotta salata (similar in taste to mozzarella, only firmer and saltier) and chopped haricot verts (green beans).  The ingredients were seasoned with freshly ground black pepper and lightly tossed in a dressing that resembled a poppy-seed or honey-mustard variety, only without the accompanying spice dominance (mustard tends to overpower).  The sweet, sun-ripened figs and salty ricotta salata created a thunder storm of contrasting, yet complimentary, flavors.  Prior to taking my first bite, I wasn’t sure what kind of role the green beans would play in the salad.  Afterward, it hit me: texturally, they gave each mouthful a much-needed crunch.
  • Pizza with meatballs and jalapenos: A manager approached our table as Allie and I were scheming about what to order.  I presented a question: “Batali is known for both his pizza and his pasta, so which of these truly shines on the menu?  I’m stumped.  If you think the pizza is better than Otto’s, that may sway my decision.”  She looked at me with “Are you insane?” raised-eyebrows and boasted that Tarry Lodge had not only stolen Babbo’s pasta chef, but that their homemade pizza was much better than Otto’s pre-made version.  Sold!  Allie and I each ordered pies as entrees.  While she opted for the “Sausage with Stracchino and Roasted Shiitakes,” I chose the “Meatballs, Jalapenos, Tomato and Fontina,” sans fontina (blech, not a fan).  The manager was right; this pie was much better than anything I’ve had at Otto.  The crust was thicker, fluffier, and more pillowy; the crushed tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese was abundant, yet not overpowering; the sliced jalapeno added a surprisingly pleasant kick, and the homemade meatballs were velvety and full of flavor.  I had to make a concerted effort NOT to clean my plate.   
What’s pricing like?
Here’s a snapshot of my bill:
  • Figs with Ricotta Salata: $7 (then divided in half)
  • Pizza with meatballs and jalapenos: $13
Will you return to Tarry Lodge?
If I’m in the vicinity (and by “vicinity” I mean 10-minutes, not one-hour, away), I would definitely return to Tarry Lodge; not only because it’s Port Chester’s best dining option, but also because I genuinely enjoyed my meal.  However, I do have two complaints:
  • Freshly-baked focaccia bread: we received a plate topped with two slices of homemade focaccia accompanied by a dish filled with a fragrant olive oil and cured olives.  So what was the problem?  While other tables were getting bread-refills, our plates remained empty.  I know, I could have said something or asked for more, but in the name of genuinely wanting to be hungry for my entrée, I kept quiet.
  • Dessert: when we were handed the dessert menus, I asked our server if the gelato that accompanied so many of the sweet selections was homemade.  I was shocked to learn that Tarry Lodge served Ciao Bella gelato instead of their own (like Otto and Babbo).  I don’t have a problem with CB, but I do think that it’s incredibly unfair of Batali not to share his outrageously delicious homemade gelato with the folks of Port Chester, NY


P.S. For menus and addresses: http://www.menupages.com/
P.S.S. Mass transit directions: http://www.hopstop.com/?city=newyork

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