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A Short Trip To Italy at La Bocca Ristorante

ravioliOn a rather cold and windy day in early January, I visited La Bocca in White Plains. A warm and friendly environment enveloped me as I shed my hat, gloves and scarf. This cozy spot, serving delicious regional Italian food is owned by the gracious and talented Tony Spiritoso who hails from Calabria. When asked to describe La Bocca in a few words, he simply said, “La Bocca is a short trip to Italy.” His pastas, cheeses, oils and many other ingredients are imported from Italy. Spiritoso has years of personal experience from a country with centuries of culinary history. Alessandro Crocco oversees the dining room and is a most capable director who assures that everything runs smoothly and that the waitstaff is working efficiently. 

La Bocca seats about 14 at the friendly well stocked bar and about 60 in the dining room. A private party room accommodates about 80 guests. The dining room has a homelike cozy feeling. Brick archways are the background for the colorful Italian pottery and plates. Italian related artwork, posters and photos line the walls. Photos and memorabilia of well-known Italian actors add to the ambiance. Hand painted portraits of Marcello Mastrioanni and Roberto Benigni hang beside a portrait of Tony Spiritoso. On the back wall is a mural depicting La Bocca Della Verita,” the mouth of truth sculpture”, which is in Italy. It is said that if you lie and put your hand in its mouth, your hand will be bitten off. True or just a myth, you can be sure that when dining at La Bocca, you will enjoy a delightful meal in a warm and friendly setting where the attentive service matches the carefully prepared food. 

A basket of country bread and a bottle of organic Italian olive oil arrive, as you check out the menu. You can start your meal with classic salads or innovative ones such as beets with walnuts, arugula and robiola cheese, insalata alla Bocca with spinach, and a mixed fruit dressing or Contadina with arugula, pears, walnuts and gorgonzola. A hot antipasto, baked clams, fegatino di pollo with mushrooms and balsamic sauce are nice starters. I enjoyed a fresh seafood salad with shrimp, polpo and calamari. Fresh lemon juice and celery added flavor to this combination of ingredients resting on two cups of red lettuce. Very popular here is the sapori d’Italia a nice selection of Italian meats.

What would an Italian meal be without a pasta dish? With a homemade sauce, nothing could be better. One of my favorite sauces is a Bolognese sauce, At La Bocca ribbons of homemade pappardelle were bathed in Chef Spiritoso’s rendition of Bolognese with beef, veal and pork in just the right proportions. A sprinkling of grated cheese was offered to complete this course. Among the pasta and rice dishes, many of the pastas are dried and imported from Italy. Spiritoso indicated that you can cook them al dente for good results. Gluten free and whole wheat noodles are available upon request. I look forward to sampling cavatelli Marietta with pancetta, potatoes and tomato, linguine alla vongole with Manilla clams, garlic and oil, rigatoni alla nonna with meatballs and sausage and vegetarian lasagna. Risotto Tirolese with Arborio rice, sausage, peas and pesto is another appealing choice.seafood

Veal dishes, for me, are often a means of assessing the quality of the meat. At La Bocca, they were most accommodating in preparing veal martini for me in place of the chicken martini that appears on the menu. The scallops of veal were tender enough to cut with a fork and were encrusted with parmesan cheese and finished with butter and white wine.  The generous portion shared the plate with fresh asparagus, roasted potatoes and crowns of broccoli, resulting in a lovely entrée. Many classic chicken dishes are prepared in traditional ways such as chicken valdostano with Italian ham and provolone in a brandy mushroom sauce and pollo scarpariello with garlic, sausage, peppers and potatoes. Rack of lamb, sliced sirloin with a balsamic reduction, and a Berkshire pork chop with hot or sweet peppers, onion, cherry tomatoes and potatoes are some of the meat and poultry choices. 

A special attraction that makes La Bocca stand out among the many Italian restaurants in the area, is the wide selection of wild meats, such as rabbit, quail, venison and boar. Just inquire to find out what is available on the day of your visit. 

The fish choices are very fresh. Try the zuppa di pesce where shrimp, calamari, clams, lobster tail, mussels and squid swim in a tomato and garlic sauce over linguini. If lobster tail is your desire, try it fra diavolo or with mussels and shrimp marinara. Very popular is branzino grilled whole or filleted. I thoroughly enjoyed gamberoni gratinati. Here jumbo, tail on shrimp were crusted with nicely seasoned breadcrumbs and baked with a touch of white wine. A citrus scented lemon sat beside the shrimp and the combination was light and delicious. The shrimp were properly cooked without becoming rubbery in texture.

Desserts, if you have room, include a selection of Bindi creations such as, spumoni bomba, espresso panna cotta, and chocolate salted caramel souffle. For me a perfect finale would be fruit and imported Italian cheeses and espresso over gelato.

As noted on my recent mid-day visit, La Bocca is a popular lunch destination. An a la carte as well as a lunch special menu are offered. 
If classic Italian dishes are your wish, without getting on a plane, just take a short ride to White Plains and enjoy the friendly ambiance and traditional Italian fare at La Bocca Ristorante. Instead of a passport, bring a hearty appetite.
Meter parking as well as municipal parking is available for your convenience.

La Bocca Ristorantebolognese
8 Church Street
White Plains
914 948 3281
https://www.laboccaristorante.com/Gallery.asp

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