The Hudson Valley isn't just home to some of the top entertainers in show business. It also provides plenty of dining options to the stars.
It can happen at any given moment at any Hudson Valley restaurant: An actor, rock star or politician could show up, sign a headshot and/or pose for a picture (or not), and be on his or her way. Rosie O'Donnell has reportedly stopped by Casa del Sol in Nyack; Robin Williams once dined at the Eastchester Odyssey Diner; Bill Murray has had more than one meal at X2O in Yonkers; and Robert De Niro's been spotted at DePuy Canal House in High Falls.
But northern Westchester County might be the hub of all regional celebrity activity, both in terms of residency and fan sightings. Many stars call the affluent area home, and even famous folks sometimes stop by a local restaurant to dine in or order something to go. Because of the region's star-power density, we'll focus on three very different eateries that attract much of this A-list attention on a regular basis: Mount Kisco restaurants Little Kabab Station and Marcella's Pizzeria, and the Iron Horse Grill in Pleasantville.
Among the stars to dine at Little Kabab Station are actors Michael Douglas, Chevy Chase, Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds; lifestyle guru Martha Stewart; WNBC news anchor Chuck Scarborough; former Yankees outfielder Bernie Williams; and former commander-in-chief turned regular customer Bill Clinton (31 E. Main St., Mount Kisco; 914-242-7000; www.littlekababstation.com).
Since owner Bonnie Swain opened this Indian restaurant in February of 2011, the tiny but mighty eatery in the heart of Mount Kisco's business district has hosted about a dozen diners at a time... but there's such demand that sometimes the line snakes out the door. And every now and then, someone famous is waiting on that line for their order, just like everyone else -- even if he used to be the president of the United States.
Swain said Bill Clinton stopped by at the end of September on one of the busiest days the restaurant experienced since it opened. Dozens of people were waiting on orders while the kitchen raced to finish them. And there was Clinton, waiting by the counter with everyone else until his order arrived about a half-hour later, Swain said.
"A customer offered him his table, but he [declined]," she added.
The prestige of serving the rich and famous has its place, but if the food isn't up to snuff or the service is lacking, chances are you won't find returning customers among the entertainment elite. Two less-famous customers -- Katonah resident Katie Scott and Chappaqua resident Paula Kurth -- say they visit Little Kabab Station on a regular basis for its food and service.
"I love the way it's decorated," added Kurth, who works for an architect and says she's been a customer since the day Little Kabab Station opened. "It's just charming, it's fun. Bonnie always treats me like I'm a celebrity."
Still, Scott wouldn't mind running into a celebrity while she's on site. "It's still Mount Kisco," she said. "It's not like Rodeo Drive, where you'll see a celebrity every week, but maybe one day."
A five-minute stroll from Little Kabab Station along Route 117 is Marcella's Pizzeria, an authentic Italian joint whose thin-slice pies have been dished out to plenty of celebrities through the years, including Billy Baldwin, Sean Connery and Tom Cruise (236 E. Main St., Mount Kisco; 914-241-1324; www.marcellaspizza.com). More recently, it was the scene of a July date for country star Taylor Swift and her Bedford boyfriend, Conor Kennedy.
Frank Marcello, whose family has owned the place for more than 30 years, says there hasn't been a big difference in pizza profits since the country star's August appearance, but there has been "more of a buzz" about the place in the weeks that followed.
"A lot of mothers have been coming in with little kids who are around 12, 14 or 15 years old, who want to know where she was sitting," said Marcello, who went on to imitate what those children have been saying: "Oh my God! Oh my God! Taylor Swift was sitting here!"
As for the dish fit for a (country) queen, Swift reportedly ordered an ultra-thin-crust pizza. "And she said it was good," Marcello added.
Marcello says the restaurant's authentic Italian recipes -- ranging from Eggplant Parmigiana to stuffed shells -- are served in a "homey, comfortable" atmosphere, making the place as inviting as it is for commoners as it is for the Hollywood elite.
But he wouldn't mind it if his wish-list of celebrity customers came in the door, including De Niro, Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, and Madonna -- whom he calls "the best."
About seven miles south of Marcella's is the Iron Horse Grill, where the 60-seat, maroon-and-mahogany dining room is close not only to celebrity homes, but also to the Jacob Burns Film Center, where stars appear to promote movies and participate in panel discussions on a regular basis (20 Wheeler Ave., Pleasantville; 914-741-0717; www.ironhorsegrill.com). Movie directors Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard and Kevin Smith are just some the stars to have had a seat at this upscale New American eatery, housed in what was once Pleasantville's train station building.
Iron Horse Grill co-owner Philip McGrath opened the venue 14 years ago this month with his wife, Catherine Correale, and both have seen a steady stream of celebrities along the way. Often, celebrities are seated in Iron Horse Grill's backroom to allow for privacy, but McGrath says most of the other customers tend to respect their personal space regardless.
"One thing we don't do here is that we don't allow our staff to interact on a personal basis with any of these stars," said McGrath, who said he took the same approach when serving top talent at The Carlyle Hotel in New York City. "So, when the [celebrities] come in, we treat them as we would any other customer. We don't take pictures of them. We don't advertise that they come here ... What you have to do is have that modicum of respect for who they are -- they're customers -- and also let them know that you're there to take care of them."
McGrath said he's even feigned ignorance when customers ask if they've seen who they think they've seen. According to McGrath, a customer once approached him after former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy had eaten there, and said, "You didn't tell me the coach was here!" McGrath said he responded with, "Which coach?"
He admits, however, that he doesn't recognize every arts critic or an up-and-coming movie director who happens to stop by his restaurant.
"Sometimes we get people who come in, and sometimes you don't know who they are until after they leave," he said. "Somebody in the room will say, 'Oh, that's so-and-so,' because I'm not familiar with somebody who's maybe an artist or a singer or a dancer.
"But I knew Paul Simon when he came in. And I knew Neil Young."