Restaurants specializing in Southern cuisine are as hard to find throughout the county as a bowl of quality oatmeal or a basket of pure puppies. Michael Ferrara, owner of wood-fired pizza specialist Wood & Fire at 59 Marble Avenue in Pleasantville, hopes to change that with a 90-seat Southern table. Along with business partners Gerry Petraglia (Valhalla), Frank Carenza (Yorktown), Mike DiCostanzo (Yonkers) and George Laoutaris (Yonkers), Ferrara opened the 2,400 square foot restaurant that serves updated southern cuisine in March.
“I have mainly lived in Florida for 10 years and this cuisine is popular and well prepared there,” says Ferrara. “I think people are looking for him in Westchester.”
Chef Pasquale Abbatiello, who runs the kitchen at Wood & Fire, was tasked with creating the menu for Southern offerings. For inspiration, he traveled to South Carolina in the fall of 2017 for a food tour of the best the state had to offer.
The resulting menu includes peeled and eaten shrimp, cheddar cookies, kale and chili Caesar salad, a trio of grit bowls (e.g. ham, poached eggs, hot honey), smoked ribs, a farmhouse fish stew, and that seemingly incongruous Southern Classic, chicken and waffles. Four varieties of macaroni and cheese are also offered. “A good version really comes down to two simple factors,” says Ferrara. “High quality ingredients and excellent technique. We use a blend of four cheeses ranging from premium American cheeses to French cheeses which are slowly melted in a Mornay sauce, then topped with toasted breadcrumbs and fresh green onions.
There is a custom Asador grill for corn, chicken, rib eye, and wood-fired catfish. Cornbread (from a long-standing Ferrara family recipe), cookies and desserts (pecan pie, Mississippi mud milkshake, peach cobbler) are homemade; the produce comes from the Pleasantville Farmers Market and the meats are organic from P&D Meats Butcher in Hunts Point in the Bronx.
The highlight of the beverage program is the library of 175 bourbons (with a target of 300) above the bar, accessible by sliding ladder.
“I like the synergy of having two restaurants on the same block,” says Ferrara. “In three years there may be second acts by Southern and Wood & Fire elsewhere. “