Story and photos by Barbara and Manos Angelakis
108 Abendroth Ave.,
Port Chester, NY 10573
Whirling pizza dough flung high, alongside an authentic Neapolitan brick pizza oven brings a bit of Naples to Port Chester, New York.
Years of negotiations with the Esposito family of Naples, Italy that has owned and operated the world-famous original pizza palace (sic) Brandi since its inception in 1780, was finally successful. They agreed to share their name and renowned 240 year old recipes with an enterprising restaurant group from upstate New York. An initial location was found and built to reflect a warm inviting atmosphere featuring soft grey chairs and banquets; wood floor and tables; barn-side wood trim; a clever dropped ceiling and white subway-tile walls. Pass the al fresco dining patio and enter into a large split room with the right side dedicated to dining and the left side committed to a well stocked bar ending at the Brandi brick wood or natural gas fired oven where Flavio, an AVPN Certified Pizzaiolo direct from Milano, holds sway.
Although bringing authentic Neapolitan pizza across the sea was the concept, Brandi also offers an outstanding Italian kitchen headed by Marcello Florio. Marcello and Carlo Mariani, two of the owners, met in Port Chester and found that they had both gained their culinary training at the same Villa Santa Maria culinary school back in Ravello, Italy. This match made in heaven offers not only heavenly pizza but also “farm to table” modern 21st century gourmet Italian food.
In May there was a soft opening and the food is so authentic and delicious that it quickly drew crowds just by word of mouth. The dinning room and patio seat up to 200 people including an overflow or party room, which leads into a pizzeria with another Brandi brick wood/gas fired oven, with entrance on North Main Street that is scheduled to open in September.
We began our lunch with flat bread, still warm from Flavio’s oven, seasoned with extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and herbs, and wine – a red Sangiovese glass from the Maremma Maritima and a white, very aromatic Sauvignon Blanc, both selections available by the glass from the wine list.
Carlos delivered to our table one of Chef Marcello beautifully presented specialties of the house --- red and yellow heirloom beets with avocado cream and whipped goat cheese. The dish was fresh and flavorful and set up the palate for what was to come.
And that was a Margarita pizza, an 11” round to share or to savor alone. The “alleged” back story of the famous pie was that it was named after the much beloved Queen Margherita. In 1868 at the age of 17, Margherita of Savoy (from Torino) married her first cousin and future King of Italy, Umberto (from Naples). Knowing virtually nothing about her new land but anxious to learn, she had heard there was a savory pie called pizza and asked that one be brought to her. The chef Raffaele Esposito, husband of Maria Giovanna Brandi, overwhelmed by this monumental responsibility, was reluctant to present the Queen with just common pizza. So, as the story goes, he created a pie to welcome the new Queen using the colors of the Savoy flag – red (sauce), with splashes of white (mozzarella), and topped with green (fresh basil leaves). It was an instant success and still one of the most frequently ordered pizzas. Since first meeting this pie in Naples, it has become my favorite as well.
And what would an Italian meal be without meatballs? Chef Marcello’s Polpette were served over polenta and topped with his delicious tomato sauce and herbed ricotta cheese.
The simple but spectacular main course was filet of Striped Bass covered with garlicky lemon breadcrumbs, slivers of crisp fried leaks, and shitake mushrooms sitting on a bed of grilled asparagus. This dish was so good it should go down in the annals of culinary delights.
We ended with an in-house made Tiramisu.
The restaurant in located in the center of Port Chester, opposite the Lowe’s Movie Theaters, just as you turn into Abendroth Avenue (number 108). There is a large free parking lot directly across the street from the restaurant. If you use a Garmin GPS, please note that the location the GPS indicates is incorrect; the Trattoria entrance on Abendroth is about three blocks behind where the GPS indicates
The Trattoria opens at 5 pm during the week and on Sunday it is open 12 noon to 9 pm.
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