Once you’ve walked through the doors of Sapori, the popular Italian eatery at 324 Central Ave. in White Plains, it doesn’t take long to realize that it’s a local favorite.
The dinner crowd begins to enter before the sun sets. Patrons call out to the owners and servers by name. Requests along the lines of “We’ll take our usual seat” are frequently overheard. It’s obvious that most of the patrons are regulars and it doesn’t take long to understand why.
Now heading into its fifth year, the restaurant, whose moniker translates to “flavors” in Italian, offers diners a chance to enjoy the tastes of northern Italy without the requirement of a passport.
On a recent visit, we’re greeted at the door by Eddie Vucetaj, one of the restaurateurs behind Sapori. Eddie says that the restaurant focuses on local produce and herbs, something that he feels brings authenticity to the eatery. Recipes are simple and fresh, he says, giving the spotlight to flavors that make up Italian cooking.
We take our seat at the edge of the front dining area, where oversized windows give a view of pedestrians passing along Central Avenue and allow the waning daylight to shine through.
If you venture through the rest of the restaurant, you’ll find a number of different dining alcoves, each with its own aesthetic. One offers seats near a stone fireplace, another sleek white walls and minimal decor. A brick-lined area features red leather booths and views of an impressive wine collection. There’s also a bar with seating for around a dozen diners and a small patio for outdoor seating.
We start our evening with an order of baked clams topped with oregano and seasoned bread crumbs. We find the accompanying clam sauce so delectable that it is soon drizzled over both our appetizer and the focaccia we were served with our glasses of Malbec. An order of beef carpaccio sees thinly sliced filet mignon served below a smattering of arugula, mushrooms and shaved Parmesan, all topped with a truffle vinaigrette.
It is difficult to pass up a range of soups and salads, from minestrone to a Sapori salad with shaved Parmesan and balsamic-lemon vinaigrette, but we decide to skip straight to the entrées.
An array of homemade pastas include rigatoni with a traditional Italian meat sauce, linguine with baby clams and ravioli with a basil sauce. I select bucatini, in which thick noodles are cooked al dente and smothered with a rich red sauce accented with onions, tomatoes, chili pepper and Parmesan. But the real stars of this show are the slivers of pancetta scattered throughout the sauce, offering pleasant surprises of a subtle, smoky flavor.
Another showstopper is the rack of lamb, in which a generous portion of oven-roasted cuts of meat sits above a sweet wine reduction sauce. Cooked medium rare, the exterior of each lamb chop is crisp and well-seasoned, while the interior remains juicy.
For dessert, we enjoy a light and fluffy cheesecake garnished with chopped strawberries. Though I am usually more partial to a creamier, denser cheesecake in the French or New York style, the airier Italian version, made with Ricotta, does not disappoint. An apple pastry brings together warm fruit wrapped in a flaky strudel that is accompanied by a dollop of vanilla ice cream.
It just so happens that my trip to Sapori coincides with the planning of my own trip to Europe, one that will include stops in Milan, the Italian Alps and my ancestors’ homeland along the Switzerland-Italy border. Though I’ve yet to embark on my journey through the Boot, it is certainly a treat to give my taste buds a preview of what is yet to come.
For more, visit saporiofwhiteplains.com.