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Tutta Bella Trattoria Where Everything Is Beautiful

tuttabelladessertWriting about restaurants has me visiting dining spots of many varieties. There are so many choices that I must be very selective in deciding which ones to return to just for pure pleasure and not just for work. Among my go to places is Tutta Bella Trattoria. Its name is appropriate translating to everything is beautiful. Located on White Plains Road in Scarsdale, it is easy to find with its many glittering lights woven into its shrubs. Valet parking is a fine convenience. The spacious restaurant is nicely decorated with oversized photographs depicting scenes of Italy. The white linen clad tables add an elegance to the rooms. Since Tutta Bella is very popular, it does get quite noisy during prime hours. Owner Sergio Gashi assured me that one of their next projects is improvement of the acoustics.

Tutta Bella arrived in Scarsdale in 1996. Owner Sergio Gashi worked at Lattanzi in Manhattan's theater district for many years. Two years ago Leo Shala, also with experience at Lattanzi, joined Gashi as his partner. Along with Chef Mike Gallo and Chef Alberto Luigi, they run a carefully thought out and welcoming restaurant. The wait staff, many who have been there since its inception, are very accommodating. When you make a special request, the answer is often "OK, no problem."

tuttabellaseafoodChef Mike Gallo studied at the French Culinary Institute. "Growing up in an Italian household, food was very important. As a young child, I wish I had paid more attention to my grandmother's cooking. I love the craziness of the kitchen and Chef Alberto Luigi and I work together to keep the kitchen very organized. If I were a guest at TuttaBella, I might start with mozzarella and tomatoes followed by a bone in rib eye steak and of course a napoleon for dessert." Leo Shala remarked about the cleanliness of the restaurant: "Our kitchen is carefully cleaned from top to bottom every day." He said, "A restaurant is like a work of art and ours has many fine guests."

According to Sergio Gashi, "our success depends upon quality and fair prices. Everything must be excellent from the bread at the table to the dessert. It is important that attention is paid to every part of the meal, from start to finish. In our kitchen everything is freshly made. Consistency is important. The chefs here do a great job, so I leave them to their work."

tuttabellafishThe menu at Tutta Bella offers an extensive selection of Italian classics as well as innovative seasonal creations. Through the years, I have enjoyed insalata di frutti di mare, spedino alla romana, hot antipasti and clams oreganata as starters. Memorable salads are endive and radicchio with walnuts, gorgonzola, oil, balsamic dressing and red and golden beet salad with garden tomatoes and goat cheese. The house made pastas in almost 1 dozen varieties are excellent. In the past we savored gnocchi alla sorrentina, cavatelli with broccoli rabe and sausage and fettuccine with salmon and asparagus in a cognac sauce. Entrees of chicken scarpariello, veal martini, shrimp scampi, cioppino and a variety of grilled steaks, chops, and lobster are among the top quality dishes I have enjoyed.

tuttabellameatMost recently, rather than being presented with the menu, Gashi invited Chef Mike Gallo, and partner Leo Shala to join us for an outstanding tasting of many specials. Sergio, the consummate host remembered some of my likes and dislikes and planned the menu accordingly. A beautifully garnished platter of fresh from the sea bluepoint oysters, jumbo shrimp and lump crabmeat with tangy cocktail sauce was offered. The freshness of the seafood was an indication of the quality of the ingredients used at Tutta Bella. A lovely combination of grilled zucchini and grilled octopus with a balsamic glaze was presented next. It was very good indeed. Perfectly sliced smoked salmon was wrapped around buffalo mozzarella to form a rich and delicious pinwheel. It was paired with baby mesclun. Our final appetizer was a plate of sweet and tender scallops, pan seared and placed atop a mango horseradish puree. Topped with mache and cucumbers it was a delightful dish. A basket of Tutta Bella's signature flatbread and breadsticks and delicious crusty bread accompanied our dishes. Our entrees were very special, as well. Halibut, as fresh as possible was crusted with sliced potatoes and set over sautéed spinach and heirloom grape tomatoes. This mild flavored fish was enhanced by its preparation. Colorado lamb chops and zucchini "noodles" was another dish of fine quality. Homemade cheese ravioli were topped with thick meaty shitake mushrooms and sweet sausage. Just as I thought it couldn't get any better, a bone in porterhouse steak arrived. It is clear that the meat suppliers at Tutta Bella are top of the line. The juicy steak, cooked black and blue was melt in your mouth delicious, worthy of a top notch steak house. Although the dishes I tasted at this recent visit are not on the regular menu they may appear as specials. Since the ingredients are generally in the kitchen special requests may be honored. We completed our tasting with a variety of house made desserts. Young pastry chef Granit Shala, son of Leo Shala, prepared these sweet wonders from tiramisu, to tartuffo to cheesecake and their famous napoleon encrusted with almonds. To add another layer of sweetness to our meal I loved my specially prepared cloudlike grand marnier soufflé.

After this glorious tasting, I truly felt like royalty. Yes, at Tutta Bella from atmosphere, service and quality, everything is beautiful. Try it soon.

At lunch Monday through Friday a 3 course meal is offered. It is also a perfect party venue. There is a private dining room upstairs with an outdoor patio, a wine cellar and parts of the main dining room leads to a patio.

Tutta Bella Trattoria
745 White Plains Road
914 725 0566

Pan Seared Scallops (4 appetizers)

12 large scallops
2 ripe mangos
1 Tbsp. horseradish
Salt and pepper to taste
4 cups micro greens or mixed greens
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling and to brush the skillet

Peel the mangos and cut the flesh into small cubes. Blend into a puree with the horseradish in a blender. Dry the scallops on paper towels and season with salt and pepper. In a non stick pan brushed with oil brown scallops on both sides. Set aside. Divide puree among 4 plates top each with three scallops. Top with greens and drizzle with olive oil. Enjoy.

SHS Alum Offers Original Series of Illustrations on Instagram

Goose Bumps.jpgSHS Alum (2011) and graphic designer Michelle Kurzner has debuted her series of clever illustrations on her Instagram feed The Palette Cleanse. Each update is a visual representation of a literal idiom, expression of speech or common phrase. A lifelong doodler who bloomed into a talented artist and visual innovator, Kurzner is gathering hundreds of followers who get a chuckle from her beautifully crafted line drawings.

Check out her work below and sign up to see more on Instagram at thepalettecleanse.

How did you get the idea for the series?
I've been drawing, doodling and sketching forever, but the idea for The Palette Cleanse kind of came to me when Janis Joplin's "Piece of My Heart" started playing at my office, Makeable. Instead of the actual lyrics, I heard, "take another little pizza my heart." I drew a quick sketch in my notebook and posted it on my personal Instagram account because I thought it was funny. (photo attached)

How would you describe what you're doing?Family Heirlooms.jpg
The whole idea of the posts is to rethink common words, phrases and sayings to visualize them in a more literal way. Once I do that, the play on words can make for some pretty funny material. The full experience and wit really comes together once the viewer reads the captions. Simultaneously, each post is part of a color series of 6, which is represented as a color code at the bottom of each post. Every 6 posts is one color series.

Have you gotten good feedback and comments? Can you share any?
I have! A lot from friends and family, but it's cool when new followers who I don't know comment and like posts. My followers also come up with some great ideas for future posts.

How did you learn to draw illustrations?
I've always been a doodler. For most of high school I took an awesome art class in Hartsdale that inspired me to go to art school at Syracuse University.

ThinkingOutsidetheBox.jpgDid you get any inspiration/training at Scarsdale High School? Any teachers that helped?
Absolutely! I took art class every year in school, it was the best part of the day. Mrs. Gordon and Mrs. Colleary were my teachers. They were wonderful advisors for me as I found my style and refined my skills.

What do you do for your day job?
I work at Makeable, a digital innovation agency in TriBeCa as a user experience and visual designer. Makeable is filled with the most creative people I've ever met, so they definitely push and inspire me to challenge my creative and strategic thinking every day.

How can people follow you? And are you selling the illustrations as artwork?
You can follow me on Instagram and Facebook @thepalettecleanse. I definitely plan to start selling digital work as printed material. If you're interested, reach out to me at michellekurzner@gmail.com.I Cannoli Do So Much



micheleHeart Warming.jpgCultured.jpg

An Exciting, Creative Menu At Park 143 Bistro and Fish In Bronxville

143 Park Bistro 2Bronxville is an area that boasts many beautiful homes. It is also the home of many delightful restaurants. On one of their charming streets, lined with brick-faced retail shops and colorful well manicured planters, directly across from the train station, is one of my favorite dining spots, Park 143 Bistro & Fish. It opened several years ago as Park 143 Bistro and within a few years, owner Wayne Chessler added "And Fish" to its name. The unique menu now offers a fabulous selection of innovative fish and seafood dishes, served in a sophisticated yet comfortable setting.

The atmosphere at Park 143 Bistro & Fish is warm and inviting with a New York City modern vibe. Seating about 70, the busy bar with its striking red upholstered stools greets you. Lit with pendant lighting it's a friendly place for interesting cocktails. Beyond the bar, zebra patterned covered banquettes line the walls. Black tabletops are adorned with fresh flowers of interesting varieties. Silver framed mirrors add to the setting. Not to be missed is the artwork of Manhattan artist Nick Stavrides. His childhood summers in Montauk inspired his marine series of paintings that adorn the walls. They are for sale. A few comfortable tables are offered outside, weather permitting.

Owner, the enthusiastic Wayne Chessler, is a familiar face in the culinary field. Through the years, he has managed The Assembly Steak House in Manhattan, Underhills Crossing in Bronxville and Harrys of Hartsdale. "I love coming to work and I never get bored. Each week, I visit restaurants around the city to keep up with current trends. Simplicity and freshness are very important. The formal high end dining spots of the past are waning in number and more casual dining options are becoming popular. Park 143 Bistro & Fish is unique among bistros because of its modern, warm and casual ambiance. We use top quality ingredients, make everything to order, and we keep up with current trends that our clients desire. I'm so proud of our food and there is nothing more exciting than being host on a busy night. I would love to host a dinner at Park 143 Bistro and Fish and invite 5 chefs, both young and old, and watch their reactions as they take their first bites."

scallopsThe kitchen is headed by Chef Andrew Hopkins. His creativity is evident in his musical talent, on the guitar, as well as in the preparation of the interesting menu choices. He worked his way up in the culinary field from dishwasher to chef. After graduating from Johnson and Wales, he honed his skills in Chappaqua, The Hamptons, Argentina and Brazil. "For me, heading the kitchen is an extension of my artistic expression. I love the pressure of the kitchen. And I am inspired by the ingredients. "

burgerOn the day of my visit, Hopkins was deciding what type of sauce to prepare to enhance the freshly arrived sea scallops.
I just loved the menu. So many interesting choices. Our opening acts were selections from the "In the Pot" section. A large silver pot arrived, filled with mussels, perfectly cooked, just until the shells opened and revealed their tender contents. We loved the parm mussels in a nicely spiced sauce of parmesan, cream, lemon, scallions, toasted garlic and crispy shallots. We removed the cover and used it for our discarded shells. A small ladle and a seafood fork allowed us to savor these morsels, as well as the flavorful broth. A nicely grilled crouton absorbed the fine broth. Another pot arrived, this one filled with mussels in an aromatic broth of ginger, garlic, sake, chilies, soy and butter. The Asian flavors were enticing. Mexican mussels, drunken mussels with tequila and little neck clams, classically prepared were other In the Pot options.

shrimpFrom the numerous starters, we enjoyed Park Shrimp, in an individual cast iron skillet. The rubber-covered handle was a thoughtful touch since it prevented us from burning our hands on the sizzling pan. Olive oil, sherry, garlic and red pepper strips mixed with the shrimp for a lovely taste and presentation. Fried oysters should not be missed. With their mild semolina crust, the flavor of the bluepoint oysters shone through. Tarragon remoulade and chipotle aioli shared the plate. Next a most unusual dish of many textures, our crispy octopus arrived. The rings of octopus sat on a bed of potato puree. Salsa verde, strips of sweet peppers, and slices of tomatillo, completed the plate, an explosion of color, taste and texture. The octopus was carefully cooked to retain its tenderness.

Three varieties of taco are a must here. We chose the fish tacos. The 6 inch tortillas sit on a paper lined plate. Ours was generously topped with beer battered mahi mahi, Asian slaw and chipotle aioli. Your fish can be grilled instead of fried. In the future, we will try the jerk chicken and bbq pork tacos.

salmonYet to be tried are chopped kale salad, the very popular shrimp and grits, crab cake and truffle mac 'n cheese. There is a burger bash section with offerings of a butcher burger, veggie burger, and a seafood burger with many varieties of fish in it, to name but a few possibilities.

It is hard to believe that we are just arriving at the entrees, which range from pasta primavera, gnocchi, seafood pasta, New York Strip Steak, a hearty short rib, and veal schnitzel with homemade potato pancakes and apple sauce. We tried the grilled wild Atlantic salmon, cooked rare, as requested, sitting aside a mound of wild and brown rice pilaf and a julienne of steamed vegetables. A fragrant citrus, dill butter completed this simply elegant dish.

Complete your meal with a classic carrot cake, a homemade brownie sundae, an innovative Nutella lasagna or a trio of ice cream or sorbets. My dessert of choice here is the seasonal mixed berries with freshly whipped cream.

If you choose to enjoy lunch or brunch at Park 143, the choices are varied from rustic frittata, huevos rancheros, lobster roll, and seafood salad, to name just a few choices. Monday through Friday lunch options include bbq pulled pork sandwich, fish and chips, seafood burger, fish tacos and Cobb salad and much more. There is also a happy hour menu of small bites available Monday through Friday from 4:30- 6:30. They can satisfy appetites for every meal.

A carefully thought out exciting and creative menu awaits you at Park 143 Bistro & Fish. It brings a New York City vibe to Westchester.

Park 143 Bistro & Fish
143 Parkway Road
914 337 5100

Aromatic Sake Steamed Mussels (serves 2)

2-3 pounds PEI Mussels
3 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 cup sake wine
1 Tbsp. tamari or light soy sauce
3 spring onions or scallions, finely sliced
1 red chilie finely sliced, or more if you wish
¼ bunch fresh Italian parsley, more if desired, chopped
Olive or preferred oil for sautéing

Clean and debeard the mussels. Tap any open mussels and discard any that do not close up. Place mussels in a bowl filled with ice until ready to use. In a large pan, over medium to low heat, soften the garlic in a bit of oil. Stir in the grated ginger and then add the sake. Simmer for 3 minutes. Add tamari and toss in the onions or scallions and chilies. Add the mussels and steam them for 3 to 5 minutes until they open. Take the pan off the heat and scatter with the chopped parsley. Serve in bowls and garnish with more parsley if desired. Some enjoy adding a bit of sweet butter to the sauce before serving which will give a creamy texture to the dish.

Final Weeks to Donate Books to the Annual Scarsdale Library Book Sale

booksTime is winding down to donate books and DVDs to The Friends of the Scarsdale Library Annual Book Sale. Donations will be accepted through Friday, August 25, and should be left just inside the gray door to the side of the library entrance at 54 Olmsted Road, at Post Road.

This is the last chance for a couple of years to clean out unwanted books as the book sale will go on a hiatus during the library's planned renovation.

The annual book sale, which attracts thousands of buyers from throughout Westchester, kicks off Friday, September 8, with a Members Preview Night. The book sale opens to the public Saturday, September 9, and runs until Sunday, September 17. The full schedule is listed on The Friends webpage at scarsdalelibrary.org

Books should be in saleable condition. Damaged, moldy or dog-chewed books will not be accepted; nor will textbooks, encyclopedias, magazines or VCR tapes.

Volunteers are still needed to help sort books and organize materials until the sale and to assist during the sale. For information about volunteering or questions about donations, contact Kathy Steves, Book Sale Manager, at steves10583@gmail.com.

Date Night: Come From Away on Broadway and Dinner at Striphouse: Too Good to Miss

comefromawayWe live so close to Broadway and world class theater, that some of us forget to take advantage of the shows and restaurants that are just a short train rider away. Here's a play - and a restaurant - that are too good to miss:

I had the opportunity to see Come From Away , a Tony Award winning new musical and dine beforehand at Striphouse, a top-rated steakhouse.

Come From Away http://comefromaway.com is not a musical about 9/11. Written by Irene Sankoff and David Hein (who also wrote the music and lyrics), Come From Away is a heartwarming masterpiece about the human heart and soul triumphing over a horrifying event. The 16-member ensemble cast stars no one in particular which in and of itself is unusual for a Broadway musical; each cast member also plays more than one character. Directed by Christopher Ashley who won the Tony Award for best direction of a musical, Come From Away has taken non-traditional risks and has earned its place on the Schoenfeld Theater stage for what will likely be a long-term engagement.

The show is not impressive for the set nor costumes nor stars with name recognition. It's impressive for its theme and its execution of that theme. So it was hard to understand why the audience began giving a standing ovation at the beginning of the show. My husband and I ran through Times Square with our dinner leftovers and made it just in time to realize that the show had a delayed start. (Note to self: no matter how good they tasted 30 minutes ago, brussels sprouts in your leftover bag do not smell good to your seat mates.) As it turned out, the hardy standing ovation was for Broadway regulars Hillary and Bill Clinton who were in the audience. We joined in, of course, and reveled in the fact that it was a great night to be at the theater.

On September 11, 2001, when terrorists attacked America, 38 planes were forced to land in Gander, New Foundland, a town of 7,000 people. The passengers and crews essentially doubled the population of Gander overnight ("38 Planes.") The townsfolk rose to the occasion with endearing Canadian accents and personalities and welcomed the thousands of international passengers and crew members who were stranded in their small town for five days. They sing "blankets and bedding" as they put their daily lives aside to get toilet paper, diapers and tampons from local stores donating their entire inventories to those who had "come from away."

It's a feel-good story with feel-good music and most of the audience had a smile on their face for the entire show. Passengers fall in love, break up, become friends with each other, experience minor conflict and develop friendships with the locals. And the locals feed, clothe and house all of them. Wouldn't we all like to think we'd do the same thing- give of ourselves relentlessly and unconditionally without a second thought? The New Foundlanders in Gander and nearby towns did this with no idea of the possibility that, well, one day their story could be made into a successful, entertaining and important Broadway Musical.

My favorite song was "Me and the Sky" sung by Jenn Colella as Beverley, the first female American Airlines Captain who was grounded with her passengers and crew in Gander on 9/11. If there was an ensemble star of Come From Away, it was Ms. Colella and it was this song that brought the audience applause to life more than any other 

The standing ovation at the end of Come From Away was surely for the show and not for the Clintons as Hillary managed to sneak out undetected underneath the audience's applause; Bill Clinton, on the other hand, shook hands and let people take photos with him as he exited the theater. And he clapped for the cast and crew as he did.

And those aromatic leftovers? I can't think of another steakhouseseafood in Manhattan (or Vegas for that matter) that does steak AND seafood the way Striphouse does http://www.striphouse.com. A crowd pleaser from the second you walk through the entrance into the siren red elegant but not stuffy interior, I've never encountered a waiter who so poetically described menu specials. To start, we were talked into the half seafood plateau which came out looking so fresh I felt like we'd feel the restaurant docking any second. We indulged in a lobster claw, tuna tartare, calamari, oysters, clams, mussels, and super jumbo sized shrimp. Next, we had the NY Strip cooked to perfection as well as the Kobe/Wagyu steak special. The NY Strip was crisp and seasoned on the outside and somehow perfectly tender in the middle. The Kobe/Wagyu special was served sliced with our waiter-recommended sides. We ordered brussels sprouts roasted with Asian pears and black truffle creamed spinach which I have been craving ever since. A Wine Spectator award winner, Striphouse has a generous wine list including reserve wines (from their cellar) served by the glass. House cocktails were absolutely delectable, particularly the Hibiscus Julep and the Manhattan which came in a fun brass cup. We couldn't resist dessert when it was sold to us as one of the most famous chocolate cakes in America; the 24-layer chocolate cake. (And we counted- it's definitely 23 layers and there was probably a 24th layer in there somewhere.) It is worthy of its accolades and is served impressively non-collapsed and weighing what felt like a good five pounds. Worth every calorie consumed.

chocolatecakeCome From Away: Gerald Schoenfeld Theare, 236 W. 45th Street, New York, NY. Tickets available online  at the box office or by phone at telecharge 212-239-6200

Striphouse Midtown: 15 W. 44th Street, New York, NY. Open for lunch and dinner weekdays, dinner weekends. 212-336-5454