For the owners of the newest restaurant on Mamaroneck Avenue, starting a new venture in this economy was more than a leap of faith: it was an overwhelming desire to be in charge of their own destiny. And so, with a dash of realism and a taste for adventure, they opened Roasted Peppers two days before Thanksgiving – and prayed for the best.
And some of the best food on Westchester's newest restaurant row may well be what they are delivering. The fare is casual American, with a decidedly Latin flair. It's delicious, creative and reasonably priced.
Chefs Juan and Roberto Lepe and part owner Darrell Belcher previously worked together at Sam's of Gedney Wayin White Plains, where Belcher served as the chief chef. They have more than 50 years of experience among them but, as Juan Lepe said during the afternoon lull earlier this week, "when you work for someone else, you realize you'll never get anywhere. So one day we just said, 'enough is enough,' and decided to open our own place."
They searched for locations in White Plains, Scarsdale and other nearby towns before luck brought them to Mamaroneck, where the space previously occupied by Starbucks was available. After an attractive facelift (even the bricks on the outside wall are cleaned up!) they were ready for business.
But the opening was not without a hitch. The first menu planned by the Lepe brothers was Mexican, drawing on their roots in Jalisco. But two months before they were ready to open, Herradura appeared a few doors down. So they scrapped the first menu and developed a new one. The change is decidedly welcome.
One recent cold winter night, I went to Roasted Peppers with a group for a late dinner. Forewarned that the place had not yet obtained a liquor license, we brought our own wine, which we sipped as we tasted the complementary roasted pepper humus, served with thinly sliced and lightly toasted bread, and reviewed the menu.
Juan and Roberto are inventive chefs, combining unusual flavors not for the sake of being different, but to please the palate. The menu is not extensive, but there's something to appeal to everyone. Familiar items get an unusual twist, such as sundried tomato pesto with turkey burgers, or red onion jam on a short ribs sandwich.
We began with guacamole, made fresh at the table and served with corn tortillas and plaintain chips. It was delicious, with large chunks of perfectly ripe avocado, seasoned to perfection.
On hearing the specials of the evening, three members of our party immediately settled on the cioppino, a fish stew, served over angel hair pasta. Chock-full-of-scallops, shrimp, calamari and fish. There were no leftovers – and no offers to share – from anyone at the table.
The red snapper tacos were beautifully presented, with just enough roasted jalapeño drizzle for spice. The roasted organic chicken had everyone at the table who is not yet worrying about eating healthy vying for the beautifully browned crisp skin, and there was enough left over for lunch the next day. Our sixth diner found the scallops, which were seared in a cherry balsamic glaze, so perfectly prepared he asked for the chef to come out from the kitchen.
For desert we shared the spiced rice pudding – served warm with a light bourbon sauce – and the brownies and coconut ice cream. (The cakes were billed as jalapeño brownies, but no one could taste a trace of the hot pepper).
A few nights later we were back at the restaurant, trying their signature appetizer – generously stuffed roasted peppers, one filled with a spiced ground beef mixture, the other with a goat cheese mixture – and the salmon, served with what my husband dubbed "really good mashed potatoes." The only disappointment was the salad, curiously named a Caesar, but lacking any of the usual garlic or anchovy flavor.
Roasted Peppers is pleasantly lit with tables far enough apart for you to be able to hear your companion's conversation – but not your neighbors. Prices are reasonable -- appetizers range from $5 to $12; dinner entrees from $16 to $24; and brunch dishes from $12-$17 .
Roasted Peppers, 320 Mamaroneck Ave. Open Monday-Saturday for lunch, 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m.; dinner is Monday – Thursday, 4-10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, 4-11 p.m.; Sunday brunch, 11 a.m. -3 p.m., and Sunday dinner, 3-9 p.m. Tel: 914-341-1140, 914-341-1141; Fax: 914-341-1139. Menus online at www.roastedpeppersny.com.