Dinner at Tarry Lodge

On Saturday night Jim and I hopped in the car and headed out to Port Chester for dinner. What made us break our usual weekend pattern and leave Brooklyn for Port Chester? Well, a few months ago Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich—of Babbo, Esca, and Del Posto fame, to name a few of their many restaurants—brought their formidable talents to the suburbs and opened a casual Italian eatery called Tarry Lodge. We were celebrating my birthday, and knowing what a fan I am of Mario Batali’s cuisine, Jim had surprised me with the reservation.

We arrived at 6 pm for our 6:30 reservation. Tarry Lodge has been around for over 100 years in various incarnations, at one point even operating as a speakeasy. Each room of the massive, sub-divided space was already packed from wall to wall and from one end of the beautifully restored bar to the other. Although we were early, we were quickly seated in a warmly decorated room near the kitchen on the second floor.

appetizers

We made our selections from the traditional offerings of antipasti, pizza, pasta, and secondi, and noted signature Batali ingredients such as fennel pollen, chiles, and guanciale on the menu. To our disconcerted surprise, the appetizers arrived about three minutes after we placed our order. I turned first towards the marinated calamari, always one of my favorite dishes ($8). Mixed with small, pearl-shaped pasta, capers, tomatoes, and garlic, the squid exuded a refreshing lightness of flavor and texture. Soft chunks of fennel soaked in blood oranges were accompanied by briny olives and pomegranate seeds that popped with each bite ($5). Although obviously pre-made, both of these Mediterranean-infused dishes had me reaching for more. I looked for our waitress, as I wanted to ask her about the pasta used in the calamari salad. “Excuse me…” I began, as she rushed passed the table. A few minutes later she walked by again. “Excuse me…”

linguine

Jim and I both decided to go with pasta for our main course. I settled on the linguine with clams, chiles, and pancetta ($17). To be fair, our waitress had warned me that the dish would be salty, but I was overwhelmed with its saltiness from the first bite. A brown broth mixed with the pasta was obviously contributing to the effect. As my waitress drew near, I loudly said, “Excuse me, I was wondering about this broth…” I almost felt the wind on my face as she breezed by without a second look.

Jim enjoyed his black fettuccine with lobster and chiles ($24), and a quick taste confirmed that it was a more gentle and luxurious pasta than mine. As I neared the end of my bowl, I suddenly realized that our artichokes with mint had never made it to the table ($7). Somehow we got our waitress’s attention and the artichokes arrived a few minutes later. From the first choke we could tell that they had been hurriedly thrown on the stove and then onto our table; they had absolutely no flavor whatsoever.

artichokes1

By the time we ordered dessert—a decent if unremarkable chocolate cake with pistachio ice cream ($8)—it was obvious to both Jim and me that we were being rushed out of the restaurant. This was more than confirmed when our waitress took our check and ran to process it, not noticing that she had flung our credit card across the room in her haste. I scrambled after it and asked someone else to return it to our waitress. As expected, she was long gone.

I’m sure you can tell that at Tarry Lodge I was let down by both my meal and the service. I felt that the food was prepared in the simplest manner possible for maximum efficiency. Every effort seemed directed towards getting me out the door quickly so that the tables could turn over. Perhaps my expectations were too high: In this interview Joseph Bastianich states that Tarry Lodge is meant to be a spot for casual, trattoria-style dining in Westchester. If that’s indeed the goal, then the restaurant is fine and solid. But there are plenty of other Italian restaurants in Westchester filling a similar purpose. To me it seems like a lost opportunity that could have brought a special destination Italian restaurant—perhaps on the level of Blue Hill at Stone Barns—to the area. In any case, I expected more from one of my favorite chefs. I’ve never written a negative restaurant review on this blog before, and I’m sorry to do so now. I didn’t come close to sampling half the dishes on the menu, and I don’t think I ever will. I’ll return to Babbo one day, but for now, Tarry Lodge is off my list.

Tarry Lodge, 18 Mill Street, Port Chester, New York. T: 914-939-3111. Reservations are recommended but not required. 

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8 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Clare said,

    Ugh, sorry your birthday meal was a bust! One of my favourite things about Babbo is that they get the service so right and you don’t feel rushed at all…sounds like the floor staff at the TL could benefit from a field trip to the city.

  2. 2

    G said,

    Thanks for the review. I’m passing through Westchester for a day or twp on the Berlin-NY-Orlando-Berlin trip next month and I am looking for a restaurant that’s family friendly for a night. I see this one will not qualify.

  3. 3

    John Smoth said,

    Mario is the biggest overrated so called”chef” in the city. Most people that go to his places would not know a good meal if it jumped off the plate and bite them in the nose!!!. All they know is that they went to Mario B’s restaurant..Big Deal Wake UP !!!! People …You are being ripped off big time from this scam and his pr machine that makes all the right phone calls to the right people, so that he gets a great write up all the time…Plus, he need a good bath and a haircut..UGH!!! he is sooo dirty looking, that I would never eat in any of his places…overrated!!!… go easy bros…..

  4. 4

    Christina said,

    Clare–I’m with you about Babbo. Jim and I ate there 4 or 5 years ago. I still remember how wonderful the service was, how we didn’t feel rushed at all. We had a wonderful meal that I still think about to this day. I also had a great experience at Esca. My entire office went there one year for lunch during restaurant week and we were treated beautifully. I’m not sure what happened at Tarry Lodge, but unfortunately it was not a pleasing experience.

    JSmoth–I respect Mario Batali’s skills very much, and I think he’s a wonderful chef. While I may not have been pleased at Tarry Lodge, I have no doubts about Mario. I have a very high regard for Mario and his food, even if I wasn’t thrilled with Tarry Lodge.

  5. 5

    Esther said,

    Thanks for the save! Tarry Lodge was on our to try list for lunch last weekend –
    We wound up at Tomatillo in Dobbs Ferry instead (because of its connection to Stone Barns). There are lots of great restaurants we’ll try in Port Chester instead.
    So love your blog. Keep up the great work!
    Es

  6. 6

    Christina said,

    Thanks, Esther! I’m glad you enjoy the blog. Yes, as you can tell, I didn’t enjoy Tarry Lodge. But thanks for the tip on Tomatillo! It sounds great. Jim and I will have to try it. He loves Mexican food!

  7. 7

    Adam said,

    As a local who lives over here in Port Chester and goes to Tarry Lodge often, we’ve learned that you cannot go wrong with their pizza & wine. While the menu is interesting (very Batali-esque) you do get a sense of some items being prepared very quickly, almost too quickly. I had the black fettuccine with lobster and chiles as well and it was very tasty – although I am still curious what the heck squid ink consists of. The pricing is Westchester rather than NYC which is good. Their wine menu is superb.

    If you get a chance, check out Batali’s Casa Mano and sit at the counter where the chefs work (if you are into that). You will be in for a real treat.

    • 8

      Christina said,

      Thanks for the fair and honest comments, Adam. I wouldn’t mind trying the pizza, and maybe one day I will give Tarry Lodge a second chance, just for that reason. Maybe a pizza lunch would be a better experience.

      I actually went to Casa Mono many years ago. I remember enjoying myself, but I should absolutely go back soon.

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment!


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