This summer at 321 N. Main St. in Port Chester, a small brightly lit neighborhood place called zeppoleme opened. At first, I thought, an entire restaurant dedicated to fattening fried dough balls? It sounded too much like a food fad, similar to this summer’s Cronut or the current obsession in our area with cupcakes. But this fall, my curiosity got the best of me and one weekday afternoon, with a carful of starving teenagers, I decided to check it out.
Boy, was I wrong.
The namesake modern zeppole with buttercream and pumpkin dipping sauces.
Marc Tessitore and Robert Squeri, partners in the venture, take food and marketing very seriously. Marc, one of the owners of nessa, next door to zeppoleme, has been wooing customers with his food for the past eight years. And Robert, one of nessa’s first and most beloved customers has many years of experience in branding and marketing, not to mention he loves good food. Together, they have created a warm and welcoming environment that serves a select menu where everything is absolutely delicious, not least of which is their namesake, the zeppola.
“When you have a limited menu there is no reason that everything on it shouldn’t be delicious. We do a few things and we do them really well,” said Tessitore.
Why fried dough?
“Marc served zeppole at nessa to rave reviews, so we started to do some research. Fried dough in some shape or form is served across a multitude of cultures spanning centuries. We knew we were on to something,” said Squeri.
The zeppoleme offerings are broken down into savory and sweet. The sweet zeppole come either classic Italian festival-style, or modern, an airier version created by the folding in of ricotta into the dough. Both come with your choice of dipping sauces that range from vanilla crème to Nutella, lemon glaze to buttercream. And each holiday season they will offer a special sauce, currently it’s pumpkin. The savory zeppole are modern that have seasonal vegetables and meats mixed into the dough like bacon, chive and provolone or an all-veggie version.
There is a nice selection of panini’s (I’ve been told the grilled cheese is to die for). I tasted the short ribs and broccoli rabe, which could easily have been the best sandwich I’ve eaten in a very long time. The salads on the menu are the perfect accompaniment to the zeppole and panini and there is a seasonal soup to round out the menu.
The beverages also deserve mention as they serve Stumptown coffee and wine on tap, which is wine stored in stainless steel kegs protecting it from oxidation. They are open daily, from very early in the morning to late at night and offer take out and catering as well. I can just see the happy smiling faces on the first kid who serves these at their birthday party—the dipping sauces even come in fun kid-friendly squeeze bottles.
If you can’t beat ‘em, you might as well lick the powdered sugar off your fingers and enjoy ‘em!