If you grew up in Westchester, chances are you either ate at a Pizza & Brew, or hated your stupid hippie parents for refusing to let you eat at a Pizza & Brew. Head to the Scarsdale location today, and you'll find your old post-soccer-game haunt's been transformed into Racanelli's New York Italian -- a more upscale family-style restaurant headed up by a trio of Racanelli scions and the former managing partner of Gramercy Tavern
Even if you're not currently salivating with nostalgia, it's worth the trip. Here's how to take it (Scarsdale natives bear with us for a minute):
Head to Grand Central. Prime yourself for your Italian banquet with some opera. It's a feast for the ears
This is America, so buy a tall boy for the train
This is also America, so put your tall boy in a paper bag
Hop on the White Plains line. Scarsdale's the first stop, and where you'll find giant meatballs that'll un-break your heart. Emotionally, anyway
Catch a five-minute ride to the restaurant, ideally with Jan de Man, a singer/guitarist who narrowly missed out on getting selected as the vocalist for Jan "Theme from Miami Vice" Hammer's band. No bullshit.
Outside of New York City, 99% of all the good food is in a strip mall
This is Martino Racanelli. He started Pizza & Brew in 1971. It was Martino's idea to re-imagine this location; he passed away a few years ago, but his sons decided to press on with the project
This was pulled right out of the old Pizza & Brew phone booth
If you need a plumber from the late 1970s, you're in luck
The sons: John, Marty, and Alex. In the '90s, John spent four pretty amazing years in Vegas, first for New York New York's doomed Motown Cafe (everybody was trying to be the next Planet Hollywood back then), then for Kenny Wynn -- Steve's brother -- during the building of the Bellagio. He was actually in charge of the Dale Chihuly installation and has some pretty awesome stories, like the one where late in the construction phase Steve told Kenny to go ahead and build Vegas' first luxury super-suites in a parking lot; Kenny told Steve words to the effect of "We don't have the money"; Steve told Kenny "Just build it, we'll come up with the money"; and lo and behold, during the hotel's opening week, a Chinese whale came in and blew all the money. The lesson: go ahead and buy the apartment next to yours, things will work out
There's a serious cocktail program going down here, mostly classics tweaked with Italian elements
But they also pride themselves on the basics
A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, the wines were categorized "New York" and "Those Who Wish They Were".
This is Tony. He's been working for the Racanelli's for 40 years
This pizza oven's been working here 40 years, too. The serial number reads #350 -- they ended up selling a few hundred thousand of this model before retiring it
"Can I interest you in a Tuscan Pear with house-made limoncello?
That dude was too convincing. Now nobody gets to try anybody else's drink
Grilled pecorino sausage. "We're thinking about changing the shape...
The octopus is also grilled
And the hand-stretched pies are totally in your face
Look out Italian wines, here come Italian beers
Some shapes you just don't want to change
Just a little of what you get in the Martino & Sons Sunday sauce: meatballs, beef braciola, Italian sausage, braised short ribs, rigatoni, and garlic bread
The guy behind the cocktails is Nick Mautone. Before joining Gramercy Tavern in '95, he trained the staff at Gotham, and with his sisters owned an Upper West Side deep dish shop called American Pie (no relation). The drinks: a pair of Basilicos, with basil infused vodka, herbsaint, dry vermouth, and dry tomatoes
The cheesecake comes from John's mother's mother and, according to Nick, has "a billion eggs in it". This ought to do you in -- at least for the night -- but if you're not ready to put a fork in it, there is a Friday's on the corner...