Westchester’s first food hall

Exit 4 food hall is a feat for owner Isi Albanese. Not only is it a new concept for the area, but the sleek new eatery is a complete transformation of his previous restaurant, Bellizzi.

About a year ago, I reported on Albanese’s plan to turn his 20-year-old family-friendly Italian restaurant in Mount Kisco into a space with something for everyone – stations with different types of food, shared high tops, a bar and lounge seating. I loved the idea, but looking around the brightly-colored pizza place with arcade games and an ocean-themed children’s party room, I just couldn’t picture it.

Despite my (and maybe others’) doubts, Albanese made it happen. In early February, Exit 4 opened, and I visited recently to see and taste for myself. Aside from an Italian station, there is no trace of Belizzi left.

When you think food hall, do not think food court. Exit 4 has quality food and is inspired by communal eateries like Mario Batali’s Eataly in New York. Albanese said he designed it himself with the help of Hudson Valley Graphic Design, a Croton-on-Hudson design and marketing agency.

In the main area between food stations – with menus written on chalkboards – are communal tables and benches made from recycled wood salvaged from storm damage. There is also seating at the bar near the entrance and in a more intimate lounge in the back of the space. Exit 4 can seat about 80 and will offer outdoor seating in the spring as well as catering and delivery services.

I spent the evening sampling some of the standout dishes from a few of the stations. Among my favorites was a lobster roll from Rawsome Seafood Bar. Made without heavy fillers, the fresh lobster – dressed sparingly but perfectly with lemon – popped against the simple white bread. The station also offers oysters, shrimp and seafood small plates made with locally sourced products and homemade chowders.

We had decadent homemade pasta from Piacci Pasta Bar. The whole wheat creste with goat cheese, prosciutto and kale was a savory, creamy treat. It was hard to choose, since every dish on the menu looked and tasted like a chef specialty.

I was happy to see barbecue station Rotiss-A-Q, since BBQ is hard to come by in Westchester. And I’m also happy to report that the pulled pork was some of the best I’ve had, and you can get it in a sandwich or heaping in a bowl with toppings. After trying the macaroni and cheese, my verdict is to save the carbs for corn bread or another station.

Paninis, Sandwiches and Wraps gave us ahi bánh mì – tuna in a Vietnamese-style bun, “bánh mì” being the Vietnamese term for “bread,” a holdover from the French Colonial period. I’ve had bánh mì that featured carrots, cucumbers, radishes, cilantro and spicy mayo in a roll, but the sticky and tangy buns just made the dish more fun. Chef Myong also offers salads and fresh juice with an Asian twist at Dirty Roots, another food station.

A friendly and knowledgeable bartender from X4 on Tap, the bar, let us sample some craft beers, a dessert stout and cold-brewed coffee with nitrogen. The bar also offers wine and late-night small plates.

Although I normally shy away from sushi, a platter of the chef’s special from Inno Sushi by James, served in triangles with the sticky rice on the outside, made me think I’m a sushi person. I got more of the flavors in one bite, without the strong seaweed flavor. There’s also a classic sushi bar and sushi to go, which I didn’t try yet.

Surprisingly, my least favorite dishes were the specialty Brussel sprouts and fig pizzas from Fuoco Wood-Fired Pizza. While they were tasty and I could tell there was a lot of thought put into the dishes, they just didn’t stand up to other specialty pizzas I’ve had in the area. Yet there is a comprehensive menu, and you can even build your own pizza. I’d return and try the Margherita.

Exit 4 is located at 153 E. Main St. in Mount Kisco. For more, visit exit4foodhall.com. And look for more of my adventures in eating in WAG’s March “Celebrating Design” issue.

– Danielle Brody

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