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The Italian-American experience

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White pizza with pancetta, onion, capers, and arugula at Benedettos. PHOTO BY MATT DETURCK
  • White pizza with pancetta, onion, capers, and arugula at Benedettos. PHOTO BY MATT DETURCK

Anyone with even just a casual familiarity with modern chefdom would be impressed with Charles Saccardi's resumé, which includes helping Thomas Keller open Yountville, California's Bouchon and prepping for Mrs. Child herself on the Boston-based PBS series "In Julia's Kitchen with Master Chefs." And after stints at local spots like Tastings and Jojo, the well-traveled industry veteran is now in charge of the open kitchen at Benedettos, the latest venture from the ONE Restaurant & Lounge team of owner Tim Tompkins and executive chef Jay Cohen, and the newest addition to Alexander Street's Restaurant Row.

Benedettos, to help you get your bearings, is in the two-story brick building that most famously once housed Lloyd's; now it's home to a beautifully remodeled eatery made of warm woods, a few fantastic red chandeliers, and garnished with art that reflects the Italian-inspired menu.

"It's the food I grew up with," says Chef Saccardi, a Long Island native who evokes his coastal roots with appetizers like Rhode Island lobster chowder ($8) and an andouille-and-peppadew-laced take on the classic baked stuffed clams ($8.50), as well as specialty plates like shrimp linguini ($19), with mint-basil pesto and heirloom cherry tomatoes. And at the other end of the protein spectrum, Benedettos brings back the old-school prime rib dinner, available in 16 oz. large ($32), 12 oz. small ($25), and panini sizes ($14) Wednesday through Saturday 5-8 p.m.

Mint-basil pesto linguini with shrimp at Benedettos. PHOTO BY MATT DETURCK
  • Mint-basil pesto linguini with shrimp at Benedettos. PHOTO BY MATT DETURCK

Note the bread that arrives at the table not long after you do; it's crafted in-house (and accompanied by a positively drinkable mixture of salty parmesan, bright-green olive oil, and a few deeply caramelized cloves of garlic), as is the flavorful dough for Benedettos' pizzas, in varieties like a traditional margherita ($10) and a white pie with pancetta, red onion, capers, and arugula ($11). Chef Saccardi plans to expand upon his pizza and seafood selections in the future, as well as the pasta offerings, though it will be tough to top that luscious Bolognese ($18), which tosses orecchiette with velvety braised short ribs and comes with a quartet of condiments for gilding purposes. The Italy-heavy wine list includes an attractive option for a three-glass carafe ($15), and the top-shelf signature cocktails, like the Sazerac-ish Alleycat ($10), are at once familiar and distinctive.

Benedettos is located at 289 Alexander St. It is open Tuesday-Thursday 4:30 p.m.-midnight; Friday-Saturday 4:30 p.m.-2 a.m. Full menu served 5-10 p.m., lounge menu until midnight. Food prices range from $6 to $24. For more information, call 454-5000 or visit benedettosrochester.com.

On the road

Looking to scram out of town for a bit before summer ends, maybe hit a winery or just monkey around in the Finger Lakes? Here are a few food-centric destinations...

The sauerkraut factories may be gone, but the Town of Phelps still holds its annual World Famous Sauerkraut Festival, which, in addition to parades, rides, music, and fireworks, features uniquely Phelpsian activities like a sauerkraut-eating contest, cabbage bowling, and the ceremonial cutting of the sauerkraut cake. It all goes down Thursday-Sunday, August 2-5. Head over to phelpsny.com for a schedule of events.

Hoist your pinky and take tea on the mansion veranda at Canandaigua's stately SonnenbergGardens as part of their Thursday Teas, happening each week in August. Victorian maids and butlers in period costume will serve finger sandwiches, scones, sweets, icy shrubs, and, of course, hot tea. Tickets are $20, $8 for ages 4-12. Call 394-4922 or visit sonnenberg.org for reservations.

Fox Run Vineyards in Penn Yan hosts its 20th Annual Glorious Garlic Festival Saturday, August 4, and Sunday, August 5, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., with lectures, cooking demos, music, and dozens of artisans selling their wares throughout the grounds. Perhaps best of all, the festival's a la carte menu has been created by Chef Tony Gullace, owner of Max at Eastman Place and Max Chophouse. Admission is free; visit foxrunvineyards.com for more details.

So you've done the wine-tour thing; maybe it's time for a cheese tour? The Finger Lakes Cheese Trail is throwing its summer open house 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday, August 25, with more than a dozen producers of farmstead cheese scheduled to welcome the public into their creameries for walk-throughs and tastings. For more information, click over to flcheesetrail.com.

Casa Larga's "Worldly Approach To Wine" series continues at 6 p.m. Monday, August 27, as guest speaker Holly Howell guides attendees through a seminar and accompanying multi-course dinner by Chef Cassidy Broman in which the so-called rules of pairing white wine and red wine with certain foods will be put to the test. Tickets are $55; call 223-4210 or visit casalarga.com.

Openings

"BBQ with a Spanish flair" is how Charlotte's new Steel River BBQ Bar & Grill (421 River St., 360-2311, steelriverbarandgrill.com) describes its offerings, a claim bolstered by items like St. Louis-cut ribs and half-chickens sharing menu space with pulled-pork empanadas and a Cuban roast-pork platter.

It shouldn't come as any surprise that Burger Stop (3872 Lyell Road, 730-8816, burgerstopny.com) serves a variety of burgers. But it has also got chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, salads, subs, Greek grub, Mexican chow, and lots of other vittles. What's more, Burger Stop is open 10:30 a.m.-2 a.m. every day, and until 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

Chow Hound is a food and restaurant news column. Do you have a tip? Send it to food@rochester-citynews.com.

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