A return to his roots

A mural inside Único represents chef and owner Brian Sernatinger.

When you walk through the doors of Único, a popular new eatery at 10 N. Central Ave. in Hartsdale, one of the first things that is likely to catch your eye is a painted mural that takes up an entire wall of the restaurant’s interior.

The portrait is of a lion’s head perched atop the body of a slender man, one who is enjoying a glass of red wine and wearing a wedding ring.

“This is actually my body. This is me,” said Brian Sernatinger, the owner and chef at Único, though he quickly added, “It was my wife’s idea. She thought we should do a lion, because I’m a Leo.”

The mural is similar to another portrait painted by the same artist thousands of miles away in the other restaurant owned by Sernatinger and his wife, Deya. That restaurant, also named Único, is in Tulum, a popular tourist town on the Caribbean coastline of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. The artist made her way to Hartsdale and created the mural prior to the restaurant’s opening.

“In Tulum, it’s a full wall. Lots of people come in and take pictures with it, so we wanted to do it here, too,” he said.

A Westchester native, Sernatinger opened the doors of Hartsdale’s Único, a 1,500-square-foot restaurant near the Four Corners intersection of Hartsdale and Central Park avenues, after more than a decade abroad working in kitchens across the globe.

Sernatinger prepares a dish.

“We really care about what we’re doing here and I think that’s important, and I think it comes through in the service and our food,” Sernatinger said. “We want to make people happy that’s what we’re trying to do here.”

The restaurant’s name translates to “unique” in Spanish, a word Sernatinger describes as his mission for the restaurant, where menu items are largely focused on seafood, but range from fried goat cheese to steamed mussels to purple basil pappardelle.

“I think my style of cooking takes little pieces of everything from everywhere I’ve lived and everything that I’ve tasted and kind of puts it into my own little style,” Sernatinger said.

Sernatinger attended the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan before going on to work in New York City restaurants Gramercy Tavern and Craft. From there, hoping for a change of scenery, he moved to Spain, a country he fell in love with during a study-abroad trip in college. After six years in Spain, he returned to New York, where another love affair dictated his next travel plans.

Sernatinger met Deya while in New York, though his future wife soon returned to her home country of Mexico.

“I moved to Mexico just trying to steal her and bring her back,” he said with a laugh. “And we ended up just staying there.”

While in Mexico, the couple opened the first Único restaurant in Tulum.

“She could never understand why I loved working in restaurants so much,” Sernatinger said of his wife. “It’s brutal, but she’s learned to love it. And I get to hear her laugh all night when I’m in the kitchen.”

After five years in Mexico, Sernatinger and his wife decided to return to New York, with hopes of opening a second Único restaurant.

“It’s nice to be closer to home to see my family more often,” he said. “Westchester is a great little area.”

The couple moved to Westchester last year and spent months searching for vacant space.

“We tried finding something in New York City. We almost closed on three places, but it was very discouraging,” he said. “It’s expensive and the way people do business there is pretty shady, so we got really discouraged.”

Frustrated, the couple decided to search a little closer to home and decided on the site in Hartsdale.

After five months of work, which included a fresh coat of paint, flooring and renovations to the bar and new kitchen equipment, the 40-seat restaurant opened in March.

Sernatinger hopes to offer a tasting menu in Hartsdale, something that has proved successful at his Tulum restaurant.

“In Tulum, we have people that go there on vacation every year and they come to us every year,” he said. “We want that to happen here.”

For more, visit unicony.com.

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