Where Setting Is Spacious for Italian Fare
Terra Rustica has its arty touches. Each table top presents a painted gem. It seems as though a class from the Art Students' League was unleashed there. As a result, seating takes time as diners linger, surveying this table or that, wondering whether to eat in the shadow of Il Duomo or in the shade of Giverny.
excerpts from the article written by M.H. Reed for The New York Times "Dining Out" section
Although the cooking proved uneven, in an area of limited opportunities,Terra Rustica'smenu and hours are a big plus. Open all day, it caters to all appetites, serving most dishes in large or small portions. Salads were something more than a couple of tough green leaves doused with vinaigrette. Fresh endive, watercress, romaine, frisee, radicchio, arugula or fennel were in liberal use. Other ingredients added distinction. Sweet sliced pears balanced the saltiness of Gorgonzola and Parmesan, this last molded into a basket for watercress salad sprinkled with roasted corn and walnuts. In another zesty combination, vinaigrette flavored with sun-dried tomatoes enhanced mixed greens topped with husky goat cheese and a julienne of grilled portobello caps.
A confetti of peppers, fennel, onion and capers provided a festive dash to salmon (carpaccio); and a pairing of warm and cool made a success of sauteed soft-shell crabs over frisee. Only unadorned beets and greens needed spark.
Steamed clams and mussels took nicely to fresh tomato broth, deliciously spoonable and soppable. But antipasto of grilled vegetables -- eggplant, zucchini, peppers, mushrooms -- proved uninspired.
Pasta dishes had little character. On two tries the creamy mushroom sauce of tagliatelle Villa Jovis with moist shrimp was too thick, promised grappa undetectable. Good cannellini proved the high point in a dish of cavatelli with fusty mussels and flat-tasting sauce.
Of the entrees, the most splendid was braised lamb shank, usually a winter dish, but as prepared here, magnificent enough to be savored anytime. The meat was firm enough to adhere to the bone, yet so tender that it could be cut with a fork. Butternut squash sauce, a brilliant addition, served as the sweet base for thick, vegetable-rich topping.
With a glaze hinting of ginger, grilled salmon was light but satisfying. Also grilled, jumbo shrimp came slathered with pesto, the juices captured in couscous -- the big, plump variety, which also accompanied whole, clear-tasting branzino. Trout stuffed with spinach and crab meat sounded engaging but proved bland.
Chicken dishes were overdone: Cornish hen, chicken with rosemary and pounded breast with herbs, this last overly salty as well. At $30, tough, stringy sirloin should have been a stunner.
For dessert, skip Nonna's ordinary biscotti and flourless chocolate cake, an ice ball of peach sorbet and gloppy tiramisu for smooth mango or peach panna cotta, hazelnut gelato or ice cream in espresso (affogato).
From a broad price range, a three-course dinner averages $35 without drinks tax and tip. Terra Rustica is between Routes 9A and 100.
550 North State Road,
Briarcliff Manor, NY
ATMOSPHERE -- Large, casual dining areas have painted table tops and walls bordered with wine bottles. Roomy bar has an adjoining lounge with upholstered easy chairs and fireplace. Small deck for outdoor dining. Young, adept and extremely pleasant wait staff.
RECOMMENDED DISHES -- Steamed clams and mussels, pear and Gorgonzola watercress salad, mixed greens with goat cheese, salmon carpaccio, lamb shank, grilled salmon with cannellini, branzino, grilled shrimp with pesto, peach or mango panna cotta, hazelnut gelato, ice cream smothered (affogato) with espresso.
PRICES -- Lunch, main dishes, $7.50 to $15. Dinner, main dishes, $13 to $33. Brunch, main dishes, $8 to $15.
CREDIT CARDS -- Major cards accepted.
HOURS -- Lunch, Mondays through Saturdays, noon to 4 P.M. Dinner, Mondays through Thursdays, 4 to 10 P.M.; Fridays and Saturdays, 4 to 11 P.M.; Sundays, 4 to 9:30 P.M. Brunch, Sundays, noon to 4 P.M.
RESERVATIONS -- Recommended on weekends.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS -- From back parking area.
THE RATINGS Excellent, Very Good, Good, Satisfactory, Poor.
Ratings reflect the reviewer's reaction primarily to food, with ambience and service taken into consideration. Menu listings and prices are subject to change.