In life before a thousand TV channels, text-messaging and, dare we say, the harsh divide of politics, a host of Westchester restaurants served up hand-formed burgers, red sauce pasta and old-school pizza, minus the wood-burning oven and gourmet toppings.
Decades later, life may have changed dramatically, but these restaurants are still true to their core.
We asked readers about their favorite “old-time” restaurants and got the following responses. Thanks to all who wrote in with suggestions.
Chicken wings at The Candlelight Inn in Scarsdale. (Photo: Seth Harrison/The Journal News)
Candlelight Inn, Scarsdale: Eating here is is practically a rite of passage. If you haven’t had chicken wings at Candlelight, one wonders if you can be called a true Westchesterite. The Tracy family has run this cash-only joint since 1955 where lines often snake out the door on weekends. Yes, you can order something else — they have ribs, wraps, burgers and addictive waffle fries — but it’s the wings, oversized, tender and spicy (though you can order them milder), that make this a beloved institution. Go back in time: 519 Central Park Ave., Scarsdale, 914-472-9706, facebook.com/Candlelight-Inn
Emilio Ristorante, Harrison: Diners feel welcome the minute they step through the doors, no matter if they’re a first-timer or have been coming for years. Open since 1979, the restaurant, in a colonial home, has always been known for its gracious hospitality and Old World ways. There’s an astute attention to detail, starting with the crisp attire of the wait staff — white shirts and ties (this month everyone is wearing pink ties for breast cancer awareness month). Antipasti is brought to the table and explained, branzino and Dover sole are filetted tableside and desserts are wheeled out with flourish. The wine list is extensive, the Italian food authentic and well-prepared, and the owner, Sergio Brasesco, is all about ensuring you have a memorable meal. Go back in time: 1 Colonial Pl., Harrison, 914-835-3100, emilioristorante.com
The dining room of Francesco’s in White Plains. Photographed Oct. 3, 2019. (Photo: Jeanne Muchnick)
Francesco’s, White Plains: Many diners no doubt went to this classic mom-and-pop red sauce restaurant with their parents back in the day (it’s 48-years-old). And guess what? It hasn’t changed. Sitting in the dining room filled with its wood paneling, red leather booths and hodepodge of Italian art, it’s easy to feel like you’re 16 again. Expect lots of pastas along with classic entrees like lasagna, veal parmesean, penne alla vodka, and clams casino. Folks also rave about the pizza. Go back in time: 600 Mamaroneck Ave., White Plains, 914-946-3359
Gus’s Restaurant, Harrison: In business since 1931 and still run by the same family (albeit with a 17-year break in between when it was sold to a group of investors) Gus’s Restaurant, originally called The Franklin Park Tavern, has a reputation for its seafood and comfortable tavern vibe. It’s also known, among long-time patrons for staying true to the mission of Gus Kneuer who prided himself on serving hearty German fare.
Now run by Ernie and Audrey Kneuer, Gus’s grandson and granddaughter (the two bought it back from the investors in 2004), it features many of Gus’s favorites like meatloaf with mashed potatoes, grilled bratwurst with sauerkraut and fresh roasted turkey. And, thanks to the fish market next door, all the fish and seafood is super fresh and filetted every morning. “Everything gets turned over daily to keep the freshness of both our fish and meat products,” said Ernie Kneuer. There are plenty of American favorites like burgers, salads and sandwiches. Be sure to look for Gus’s photo which still hangs by the cash register. Go back in time: 126 Halstead Ave., Harrison, 914-835-9804, gusseafood.com
The dining room at Gus’s Franklin Park Restaurant on Halstead Avenue in Harrison, pictured Oct. 9, 2018. (Photo: Mark Vergari/The Journal News)
Muscoot Tavern, Katonah: The crooked walls and low front door are reasons to love Muscoot Tavern. Another is its friendly atmosphere and the fact that no matter what’s going on with the world, inside this roadside restaurant, things remain pretty much the same as when the restaurant first opened, sometime prior to 1925. Though it’s changed ownership many times over the years, its legacy as a local hangout remains. Try the “Zpaghetti,” zucchini noodles with fresh garlic, grape tomato, white wine and basil, or the Katonah pizza, made with roasted eggplant, zucchini, peppers caramelized onions, truffle oil, basil. Owner Bobby Epstein also likes to mix it up with some high-end specials every night like prime rib or Mako shark. Go back in time: 105 Somerstown Turnpike, Katonah, 914- 232-2800, muscoottavern.com
La Manda’s, White Plains:The no-frills decor is part of the charm — think knotty pine paneling and Formica tables — can’t help but transport you back in time. Owner Sly Musilli writes on the La Manda’s website that though they’ve done work to improve the restaurant and spruce it up over the years, they also recognize the value of keeping it as folks remember. That includes the heaping portions of pasta and robust Italian specialties of Chicken Scarparo, Pizzaiola and Zuppa Di Pesce. Plus, of course the super-thin pizza cooked in the same brick oven since 1934. Just be warned, it’s cash only, though there’s an ATM on the premises. Go back in time: 251 Tarrytown Rd., White Plains 914-684-9228, lamandas.com
A cheese pizza at La Manda’s restaurant. Old-school Greenburgh staple has been serving thin-crust pies since 1947. Photographed May 26, 2017. (Photo: Carucha L. Meuse/The Journal News)
Paradise Restaurant, Verplanck:Hungry for a trip down Memory Lane? Paradise, run by third-generation owner Joseph Margiotta, is your place. The restaurant is 70-years-old and though known for its happily carb-laden Italian food, Margiotta said he has tweaked the menu to include more healthier eating options. There is still plenty of old-time Italian favorites like spaghetti and meatballs, eggplant parm, shrimp scampi, and pizza. Giving diners what they like, said Margiotta, is key to their success. “You can come in and not spend a lot of money or you can come in and spend a lot of money,” he explained. “We wouldn’t have been able to survive four recessions if we didn’t offer something for everyone.” Go back in time: 135 Broadway Ave, Verplanck, 914-736-3334, paradiseverplanck.com
Roma Restaurant, Tuckahoe: The third generation of the Tavolilla family runs Roma, in business since 1931. Known primarily for its thin-crust brick-oven pizza and comfortable family-friendly vibe, it’s also a pasta haven with choices of spaghetti, linguini, penne, cavatelli, and gnocchi. Coming here is like visiting the Italian grandmother you never had where meatballs or sides of pasta can be added to any dish and the lasagna, stuffed shells, baked ziti and more, seem to stream out of the kitchen. Go back in time: 29 Columbus Ave., Tuckahoe, 914-961-3175, romarestaurant1931.com
Sam’s of Gedney Way, White Plains: The history of Sam’s is written in depth on its website, detailing how Sam Eisenstein, the 23-year-old son of a Russian immigrant “with a $300 stake and a barrel of faith,” opened his newsstand and soda fountain in 1932 on what then was a dirt lane in White Plains. Back then, a hamburger with coffee was 15 cents and you could get a 25 cent lunch with pie. In 1968 the restaurant relocated to its current spot on Gedney Way evolving from a luncheonette speakeasy to a saloon to a white-tablecloth restaurant. Now run by Peter and Karen Herrero, natives of White Plains, the two have updated it complete with organic food selections, a gluten-free menu and a loyal staff, many of whom have been with them for years. Go back and time: 50 Gedney Way, White Plains, 914-949-0978, samsofgedneyway.com
The Blazer Burger at the Blazer Pub is topped with bacon, cheese and carmelized onions. (Photo: Carmen Troesser)
Squire’s of Briarcliff, Briarcliff Manor: This classic burger joint, in business since 1967, is known primarily for its 9-ounce juicy patties, hand-pressed with high-quality meat. Generous portions make it another reason to come, along with the retro ambiance. Like any good tavern, it also serves wraps, salads, steak, chicken and seafood, but the menu also includes gluten-free rolls to accommodate different dietary needs. Just know: it’s American Express or cash only (there’s an ATM inside). Go back in time: 94 N. State Rd, Briarcliff Manor, 914-762-3376, squiresofbriarcliff.com
The Blazer Pub, North Salem: You go for the burgers: hand-formed and meaty, but soon, the nostalgic ambiance with its vintage arcade games, jukebox loaded with Springsteen and scalloped paper placemats win you over. It’s like stepping back into the 1970s complete with a well-worn bar which looksstraight out of the TV show, “Cheers.” Mostly though you’ll love the wallet-friendly prices (a burger is $7.75). The pub is also known for its tomato soup and “award-winning” chili. Worth nothing: the restaurant is the only one in Westchester to be featured in “Hamburger America,” a state-by-state guide to 200 of the country’s best burger joints. Go back in time: 440 NY-22, North Salem, 914-277-4424, theblazerpub.com