Comfort food in an Italian home away from home
For The Hudson Independent
As the rivertowns continue to evolve and grow, there is more delight than ever in the comfort of a traditional, family-owned restaurant of long-standing in the community.
Rini’s in Elmsford — with its familiar faces, loyal customers who are treated as family, and authentic, carefully cooked Italian food in a homelike atmosphere — has been nurturing diners for more than a decade.
To walk in Rini’s door is to relax into a world that welcomes you as an old friend – even if it’s your first visit. Owner Leo Cattarini (in photo with his mother, Antonietta) shuttles between the kitchen and each table, an affable, charming host who always seems to know what his customers want. Leo, together with his mother, Antonietta, who tends bar, is carrying on the legacy of his father, Benny Cattarini, who founded Rini’s more than 10 years ago.
The fiery founder and chef was born in Istria, Italy and loved traditional dishes, many of which are still featured on the menu. But Leo Cattarini says, “It’s fun to have a conversation between my father’s traditional dishes and new innovations the chefs and I have created.”
So, along with the father’s famous potato gnocchi, you can find the son’s sweet potato gnocchi papalina, bathed in a light cream sauce made with sautéed prosciutto, peas and onions. Osso buco, a succulent veal shank served with its natural juices over rice or a special cut veal chop Campagnola with sautéed potatoes, onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, garlic and white wine sauce, are hearty comfort foods to tuck into on a chilly winter’s night. Soup specials for cold weather include beef barley, butternut squash, lobster and shrimp bisque or a classic French onion soup for a non-Italian surprise.
Diners flock to Rini’s for the lobster and crab specials, reasonably priced and made to order. With so many diners coming in to indulge their cravings, there are nights Rini’s looks more like Maine than Westchester!
Rini’s used to be a seafood restaurant called the Westchester Trawler, and the Catttarinis have continued to highlight salmon, scrod, Chilean sea bass and swordfish. But, the accents are Italian: Monkfish Livornese, with sautéed olives, capers, onions and a light tomato sauce, Chilean Bass Pesto or Scrod Oreganate baked with herbed breadcrumbs.
Pasta specialties abound: the traditional penne Vodka with prosciutto in a creamy tomato, vodka sauce, a linguini with clams in a red or white sauce and a zuppe de pesce – linguine with lobster, clams, mussels, shrimp, calamari and scallops. But, try the “angry shrimps over capellini” served with a fiery fra diavolo sauce, and your taste buds will be happy.
Along with traditional veal entrees, you can have pork chops “Italian style” with hot, cherry peppers, garlic and wine, or a steak pizzaiola, with sautéed onion, and garlic in a white wine sauce. Whatever your dinner choice, you will have enough to take home for lunch or dinner the next day. But, it would be a shame to go home without trying Rini’s tiramisu choices, cloudlike confections.
Lunch offers a multitude of traditional cold and hot appetizers, plus soups, in addition to a variety of parmigiana wedges. Vegetarians can indulge in the grilled Portobello sandwich topped with arugula, tomatoes and onions, while steak lovers will enjoy hearty slices of the New York cut, served with sautéed onion and fries. An array of pasta specialties as well as fresh seafood, chicken, veal and chop entrees are also available at lunchtime.
Rini’s wine list is a tempting selection of chiantis, pinot noirs, Barolo’s and even the high-flying, rich Brunello or Tignanello at very reasonable prices. In addition, a variety of Italian and California whites can be paired with seafood. A well-stocked bar offers creative martinis, signature cocktails and international beers.
Rini’s cooks have been with the Cattarini family since Rini’s opened in 1997, as have many on the international wait staff, who serve their customers with a consistency and friendliness other restaurateurs might envy, a style which keeps Rini’s catering business hopping. His private rooms are often filled with repeat customers. “I want them to feel like they’re home with their family,” Cattarini said. “You can stay as long as you want. It’s that kind of place. I’ve even offered that they can take my keys and lock up.” No one has taken him up on the offer yet, though the offer still stands.
Leo Cattarini will always miss his father (in photo),
the man who created Rini’s based on traditional Italian
home-style cooking, who was loyal to his vendors and who forged and kept relationships among his staff and customers. “I want to continue what he’s been able to create” is Leo’s daily maxim. And, Benny Cattarini’s legacy is in good hands.
Linda Viertel is a resident of Tarrytown.
If You Go
12 West Main St., Elmsford
Full meal take-out available and free delivery for outside catering occasions.