A new Italian eatery has opened its doors in Mount Kisco.
“It’s Old World Italian with a new vibe,” chef and co-owner Tommy Calandrucci said of his newest venture.
Stone Fire, a two-floor, 130-seat restaurant, opened in December at 251 Lexington Ave. in the village. The eatery, which Calandrucci describes as “neo-Italian,” features industrial fixtures, wood-paneled walls and a wood-fired pizza oven in the rear.
Menu items range from strip steaks and branzino to a deconstructed lasagna.
“When you see it, it looks cool and fresh, but when you taste it, it has that real flavor of old school,” Calandrucci said of the restaurant’s offerings. “We’re bringing back some of that peasant food and giving it a New World twist on it.”
While the storefront is new, opening a restaurant is a familiar feat for its owners.
“We have no investors, no partners,” said Gianni Piccolino, Stone Fire’s other co-owner. “We just do our thing.”
An Ardsley native, Piccolino opened his first restaurant, Pizza Plus in Elmsford, at just 21.
“My best friend, his father was an attorney, so as a young kid, I asked him, ‘What do your rich clients do for a living?’” Piccolino recalled. “He said, ‘They all own pizzerias.’ So, I said, ‘I’m going to open a pizzeria.’”
It was through that restaurant that Piccolino was first introduced to his future business partner, Calandrucci.
“He used to come into my pizzeria, him and his father,” Piccolino recalled. “His father would say, ‘My son’s a great chef,’ talking him up. I met him and we hit it off.”
Calandrucci, meanwhile, was a chef by trade and had worked in the back of the house for restaurants and catering companies across Westchester.
“I’ve always, ever since I was little, wanted to be in the kitchen,” he said. “I always had a passion, always enjoyed seeing people enjoy their food, so I always wanted to create something people could really enjoy.”
Soon, Calandrucci was working at Piccolino’s pizza joint, making their soups on his days off from his other places of employment. Bonding over their shared passion for food and Italian heritage, the two became fast friends.
“We finally said, ‘Oh, we should open a place together,’” Piccolino recalled.
The opportunity presented itself in Tarrytown in the form of a shuttered restaurant at the Washington Irving Boat Club at 238 Green St.
“I used to keep my boat at the marina in Tarrytown,” said Piccolino, who sold Pizza Plus in 1996. “I was just cleaning my boat one day down there, and I said (to the restaurant’s owners) ‘Hey guys, what are you doing with that restaurant there?’ because it was closed and they said, ‘Why, are you interested?’ And I said ‘Yeah.’”
“And we’ve been there 20 years.”
The two opened Sunset Cove in 1997, a waterfront restaurant that continues to serve Italian dishes and offers views of the new Mario M. Cuomo Bridge. That venture sparked what would be a longstanding partnership between Piccolino and Calandrucci.
Piccolino, who now lives in Bedford Hills, said he felt that the area near his home was missing a “high-quality pizza place that delivers.” To fill that void, he and Calandrucci opened Basilico at 293 Lexington Ave. in Mount Kisco in 2005. The two also headed a catering business in Somers and a second Basilico outpost in Danbury, though both of those have since closed their doors.
“We were very content with two places,” Piccolino said, referring to Mount Kisco’s Basilico and Sunset Cove.
That contentment didn’t last long, however. The two saw an opportunity when seafood restaurant 251 LEX, the restaurant that previously occupied Stone Fire’s building, closed last year.
“Mount Kisco has been this foodie hot spot for the last couple years,” Calandrucci said. “We’ve looked at this location for years, because our pizza shop is right over there,” gesturing to Basilico, which sits just a block from the new restaurant at 251 Lexington Ave.
“I would go out with my wife or my friends in the area, and everything is just so expensive,” Piccolino added. “And I get it, the rents are high, taxes are high. I totally understand, but we just felt there was a market for a family-friendly place to get that better-quality food.”
The two decided to move forward with their concept for the building at 251 Lexington Ave. last year and immediately went to work on its interior, giving the 130-seat eatery a facelift that included a renovation of the upstairs dining room and the addition of new fixtures.
“People are like, ‘Oh, you’re crazy. You’re going to be in competition with yourself,” Calandrucci said, referring to the duo’s nearby pizzeria.
“We definitely thought about that, but it’s been totally the opposite,” Piccolino added. “People are coming here that didn’t even know we owned (Basilico). They’re like, ‘Your food is so good, we have to try your pizzeria.’ And we have a lot of people who follow our pizzeria, so they’re coming here to try this out. They’re complementing each other.”
At Stone Fire, the co-owners say everything is made on-site, from the handmade noodles to the cordials used in their eclectic mix of cocktails.
“We do it for the quality,” Calandrucci said. “And with our quality, there’s no comparison.”