No, I’ve never read or seen the play. But the city in which it’s set is undergoing a renaissance. Back when I was in grammar school, Yonkers was primarily known for its bitter desegregation struggles. Downtown was characterized by its gritty and industrial atmosphere, not its restaurants. But in the past few years, new bars and restaurants have slowly emerged, adding exciting dining options to this long-neglected riverfront neighborhood.
No other eatery has epitomized this renewal more than chef Peter X. Kelly’s X20, a year-old contemporary American restaurant situated on a historic pier near the heart of downtown Yonkers. Kelly is a hometown boy, raised in a nearby housing project. He is well known in the area, with three highly-esteemed restaurants in Rockland County. My parents, my sister Melissa, Jim, and I headed to X20 on Saturday night for my mother’s birthday, and experienced Yonkers in a whole new way.
The steel pier hosting the restaurant extends over the Hudson River, offering spectacular views of the Palisades and not-so-far-off Manhattan. As I walked into the spacious 2nd floor dining room with its 25-foot ceilings, I simply gasped at the incredible panorama. Next I marveled at the generous space between tables, the gracious and professional staff, and the manageable noise level that allowed my family to speak and hear each other with ease.
The ample menu of intriguing meat and seafood options obviously aims to please a variety of palettes. After much struggle I finally settled on the spaghetti chittarra for my appetizer ($14.50). A small tangle of perfectly cooked spaghetti tossed with light crabmeat, toasted breadcrumbs, and green onions exuded freshness and springtime. As a pasta lover, I easily could have eaten a full-size serving. But I needed to leave room for my second course of red-wine braised osso bucco, which was served with a barley risotto, shaved root vegetables, wild mushrooms, and a handful of fava beans ($30.00).
While my spaghetti chittarra epitomized the arrival of spring, the osso bucco was hearty, rich, and slightly too much food for me. The tender braised meat and savory risotto created a comforting combination of flavors, and if I had tried this dish on a cold and wintry day, I’m sure I would have loved it.
I ended my meal with a piece of classic red velvet cake ($8.50). And as I watched my mother blow out her candles, I thought how nice it was to come home to Yonkers and see positive changes in the city; I vowed to do it more often. Perhaps next time we return we can try Dylan, X20’s low-key sushi bar.
And, just in case you were wondering, Jim and I accidentally took a few wrong turns on the way back to Brooklyn. I guess you can say that on Saturday night we were indeed lost in Yonkers.
X20, Xaviar’s on the Hudson, 71 Water Grant Street, Yonkers, New York T: 914-965-1111