Table Hopping with Morris Gut: Local Kitchens are Blossoming

I have had delicious culinary encounters so far this spring, and I’d like to share a few with you…

Northern Italian at Torcello Ristorante Italiano: The Eggplant Rollatini and Rigatoni Bolognese are terrific. Marking their first anniversary, Imer Rraci and his veteran team reimagined the former La Riserva, a lovely setting for the Italian classics. Named after an island off the coast of Venice, Chef Avni turns out such winning dishes such as colorful Mozzarella Caprice, Veal Chop Parmigiana, classic Rack of Lamb, and delicious Pollo Torcello, topped with applewood bacon and melted fresh mozzarella in a light bourbon mushroom sauce. Rraci spent years working for the former Giambelli in Manhattan and at Valbella in Old Greenwich, CT. Open 7 days for dinner starting at 3:30 p.m. Bar/cocktails. Happy hours: Wed. – Fri. 4 p.m. to 6 pm. Outdoor patio. Free parking. Torcello, 2382 Boston Post Road, Larchmont. 914-833-1118 

Irish American with Pizzazz at Jack’s Bar & Restaurant: Their Buttermilk Chicken Sandwich is a winner. Owner Shane Clifford and his staff have been drawing a fine crowd. Jack’s offers an enhanced Irish/American tavern menu. Generous specialties coming out of Chef Brendan Donohoe’s kitchen include decadent Short Rib Mac N’ Cheese, Lamb Lollipops, Burrata Pizza out of their woodfired oven, Guinness braised Short Ribs, and a variety of Burgers. Check out their decadent Grilled Cheese Menu. The staff could not be more friendly. Open daily. Weekend brunch. TVs. Municipal parking; free evenings. Jack’s Bar, 219 Main St., Eastchester. 914-652-7650 

Comforting Polenta with Shrimp at Trattoria Vivolo: Chef/owner Dean Vivolo’s new spring menu includes a wonderful Paglia e Fieno con Funghi. The Linguine Vongole is not to be missed, and, oh, those seafood combos! Sit at the counter, tuck into a booth, or take a table in the rear greenhouse and enjoy the surprising contemporary and traditional flavors emanating from his kitchen: tasty thin-crusted pizza; fresh old-fashioned Meatballs and Sausage; Crostino di Polenta with shrimp or mushrooms; Lasagna Bolognese al Forno; Osso Buco, tender braised veal shank; or traditional Baccala. Great staff. Good wine list. Sparkling lights. Outdoor patio. Closed Mondays. Free parking. Trattoria Vivolo, 301 Halstead Ave., Harrison. 914-835-6199

Southern Comfort at Freebird Kitchen and Bar: The Pimento Cheeseburger is a favorite. We devoured Fried Calamari, Oysters, meaty Pork Ribs, Cobb Salad, spicy Chicken Wings, crispy Brussels Sprouts, Shrimp & Grits, and Braised Short Ribs. The cooking here is very satisfying, all done with a friendly Southern theme. Portions are ample and shareable. The lighting and those artsy birds hanging from the ceiling in the dining room give it a magical atmosphere. There is a seasonal rooftop. Friday & Sunday Night Jam sessions. Sprawling bar. Craft beers. Now open for lunch. Happy hours: Tues.-Thurs. 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.; Fri. 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Weekend Brunch. Closed Mondays. Freebird, 161 Mamaroneck Ave., White Plains. 914-607-2476 

Soup Dumplings at Mister Chen: Mister Chen in Mamaroneck and Scarsdale serves a modernized Chinese menu espousing their most popular traditional regional dishes. While it is located in a cluster of Asian-Fusion eateries, it is carving out a place all its own thanks to owner Paul Chen and his mom, who is head chef. I was excited about the dumpling station where you can watch the cooks prepare a variety of Chinese dumplings from scratch. Soup dumplings have always been a pet passion of mine, and one evening I was so smitten that I ordered two rounds, six to an order, served in their steam boxes. Take a careful bite and suck up that delicious warm broth, then savor the delicious pork or crab filling. If you are a novice, the staff will show you how. I have also enjoyed their Pork Belly Sandwich, General Tso’s Chicken, and Jumbo Prawns with garlic sauce. Mister Chen, 265 Mamaroneck Ave., Mamaroneck. 914-777-1212 

Wings Fly at Tuck’d Away Bar and Grill: Owner Michael Cuozzo operates a convivial restaurant and bar a short walk from the Tuckahoe Metro North Station. He has built a loyal following for his kitchen, especially his chicken wings. You can debate about the best chicken wings in Westchester, but no one has it over Tuck’d. Every Wednesday, unlimited Wings & Beer are served from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. for $30 per person. There is a bustling Happy Hour Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. featuring half-off selected cocktails and menu items. Tuck’d Away Bar and Grill, 90 Yonkers Ave., Tuckahoe. Open daily. 914-222-9162.  

(Morris Gut is a restaurant marketing consultant and former restaurant trade magazine editor. He has been tracking and writing about the food and dining scene in greater Westchester for 30 years. He may be reached at 914-235-6591. E-mail: