With the closing of Le Cote Basque, then Country and the steady decline in food quality of the Four Seasons Grill Room, despite still maintaining an enchanting ambiance, we are finding a refined dining experience considerably more difficult to obtain. It struck us as quite a statement that it would require a trip to Scardsdale for us to be reminded of what dining could be, and once upon a time certainly used to be in New York. We won’t bother to say what’s already been said about the preponderance of steak houses and an uncomfortable race towards more and more casual dining. What we discovered in Scarsdale is what we had thought all along which is, casual dining ought not sacrifice elegance, quality, attentiveness and ambiance.
Four of us chose a casual Sunday to ride the train to Scarsdale and explore Savona, an Italian restaurant with a sister location in Gulph Mills, PA. After exiting, we walked through quaint, cobbled winding streets filled with small boutiques and quickly landed in front of Savona. From the moment we stepped inside, the feeling was that of warmth. Warmth from the hostess who greeted us, warmth in the lighting and soft murmurs of dining guests and warmth of our table, situated comfortably towards the front yet with enough distance from other tables that with the goings on at ours, we would never notice anything around us. We were immediately comfortable with the acoustics, the attentive staff and the accessible menu.
We had trout, a fish on the grill item with an optional side of tapenade. The trout came with the skin still on, crisped perfectly and seasoned, and the fish itself flaky, light yet flavorful. (we do not recall the last time we dined out and had fish that was not bland and dry) The tapenade was outstanding, to be savored in small toppings on each bite, adding just the right amount of tart to the butteriness of the fish. Two of us had this dish and we each carried the same expression from the first bite to the last – satisfaction. The kind where you chew everything a bit longer, making sure to savor the rich flavors of each bite. Keeping conversation light so as not to distract from using all senses, sight, smell and taste to fully experience the richness of the meal, your entire body captive to its joys.
By now, we understood that at Savona, attention was being paid to every detail. Flavors hit all the right notes, had the right amount of impact and were paired with the right amount of compliment to each other. We trusted them to not disappoint us with a dessert we rarely order as it is rarer yet that either the texture or the flavors avoids a misstep. Panna Cotta. Savona did theirs in hazelnut, the texture was not flimsy, not custardy and sugary. It was a bit firmer, more to our preference, the hazelnut subtle, not overwhelming in sweetness. It was perfect.
Savona understands what casual means. It simply means we do not want judgment or obnoxiousness in being served. It does not mean less elegance, not being able to hear yourself speak, not having a knowledgeable waitstaff, not having a seasonal menu of well-prepared, detail-oriented, flavorful food. Casual means no reduction in excellence. If it requires us to take Metro North to have what we want respected and understood, we will accept it.