Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Frodo's Restaurant

Dining in the Burbs has unquestionably improved over the past few years. Gone are the days when eating in Westchester meant grey meat and potatoes, sub-gummy Chinese, greasy diners, family style Italian or unthinkable Japanese. Now, we don’t want to jinx our good fortune, but it is interesting to look at what’s driving the rise in culinary possibilities.

Well, there are many suspect factors: an influx of immigrant food entrepreneurs bringing culinary traditions to the county’s kitchens and a maturing of the movement for organic, local and seasonal ingredients chief among them. Chef Daniel Petrilli of Frodo’s restaurant in Pleasantville has another explanation. Petrilli sees new restaurants in Westchester serving a higher level of cuisine in response to diners’ heightened desire to be close to home while experiencing the pleasures once found only on forays into the City; a desire to remain close born of the events on and following September 11, 2001. It’s a keen insight from a close observer of the Westchester food scene. Our appreciation of home has strengthened but our drive to experience the good things in life has been undiminished.

With more Burbanites seeking well prepared food in a local setting, Petrilli and his staff at Frodo’s deliver the goods. Frodo’s serves new American cuisine with an emphasis on deeply flavored sauces and eye pleasing presentations. The restaurant is a curious blend of a comfortable neighborhood joint with affordable prices but with a menu that aspires to greater heights and a name and aspects of its decor that suggest the fantastical.

Frodo’s has the laid back feel of a local place with a reliable clientele; a place to come for a meal after work among regular folks. The door is left open and the staff is attentive while remaining entirely casual and unaffected. It’s a friendly place. A small restaurant that houses bigger ambitions. One would never expect this storefront space to offer dishes with the level of artistic presentation and sophistication in pairing of ingredients that chef Petrilli offers at Frodo’s.

One recent dish offered as both an appetizer and entrée was a ravioli filled with asparagus and apples. The light tender pasta arrived under a slightly sweet warm yellow sauce of apples that worked well with the mild vegetable flavor of the asparagus filling. The dish was heightened by the richness of the nutty warm butter surrounding the doughy pockets. A duck breast was served in a generous offering of thick rare slices of meat over a bed of red and purple wine infused cabbage. Browned pan fried cubed potatoes were scattered across a rich brown sauce tasting deeply of smokey pancetta. In each dish chef Petrilli uses color as intentionally as he does flavors. He has a natural and artful approach to each.

You may have noticed from the restaurant’s name that Frodo’s is quite curiously named. Interestingly, when Petrilli set out to open a restaurant of his own after many years working in three star Manhattan venues and at Strega’s, he sought to make a bold beginning with a grand restaurant he planned to call Rivendale after the elaborate castle of the fairy king in Lord of the Rings. When the initial space and plans were scaled back a bit, Petrilli aptly named his new venue after the small but beloved hobbit character from the J.R.R. Tolkien series. Why? Simple, Petrilli loves the Lord of the Rings. He’s also included some touched in the décor (such as the stone paneled walls and mountainscape images on the wall) that recall the fantasy series. That’s the kind of idiosyncratic and passionate sensibility that comes through at Frodo’s.
Frodo’s is one of a kind. It’s serious about good food but it doesn’t take itself too seriously – a casual neighborhood place that happens to have a fine chef with big dreams as its owner. Chef Petrilli has a contagious warmth and big ambitions but with a common touch that brings it all back home.

Frodo’s Restaurant
472 Bedford RoadPleasantville, N.Y. 10570
Phone: (914) 747-4646Fax: (914) 747-4660

No comments: