After more than a decade abroad working in kitchens across the globe, a Westchester native has returned home to open his latest venture.
At 10 N. Central Ave. in Hartsdale, owner and chef Brian Sernatinger has opened the doors of Único, a 1,500-square-foot restaurant near the Four Corners intersection of Hartsdale and Central Park avenues.
“We really care about what we’re doing here and I think that’s important, and I think it comes through in the service and our food,” Sernatinger said. “We want to make people happy that’s what we’re trying to do here.”
The restaurant’s name translates to “unique” in Spanish, a word Sernatinger describes as his mission for the restaurant. Menu items are largely focused on seafood, but range from fried goat cheese to steamed mussels to purple basil pappardelle.
“I think my style of cooking takes little pieces of everything from everywhere I’ve lived and everything that I’ve tasted and kind of puts it into my own little style,” Sernatinger said.
Sernatinger has spent two decades working in kitchens in both Europe and North America. After attending the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan, he went on to work in New York City restaurants Gramercy Tavern and Craft.
From there, hoping for a change of scenery, Sernatinger moved to Spain, a country he fell in love with during a study-abroad trip. After six years in Europe, he returned to New York City, where he spent four years working as a private chef.
Soon after, Sernatinger met his future wife, Deya, and decided to relocate yet again to her home country of Mexico.
“I moved to Mexico just trying to steal her and bring her back,” he said with a laugh. “And we ended up just staying there.”
While in Mexico, the couple opened their restaurant Único in Tulum, a popular tourist town on the Caribbean coastline.
“She could never understand why I loved working in restaurants so much,” Sernatinger said of his wife. “It’s brutal, but she’s learned to love it. And I get to hear her laugh all night when I’m in the kitchen.”
After five years in Mexico, Sernatinger and his wife decided to return to New York, with hopes of opening a second Único restaurant.
“It’s nice to be closer to home to see my family more often,” he said. “Westchester is a great little area.”
The couple moved to Westchester last year and spent months searching for vacant space.
“We tried finding something in New York City. We almost closed on three places, but it was very discouraging,” he said. “It’s expensive and the way people do business there is pretty shady, so we got really discouraged.”
Frustrated, the couple decided to search a little closer to home and decided on the site in Hartsdale.
After five months of work, which included a fresh coat of paint, flooring and renovations to the bar and new kitchen equipment, the 40-seat restaurant opened in March.
There are some notable similarities between Único in Tulum and the eatery in Hartsdale, Sernatinger said. A mural of a lion’s head on a depiction of Sernatinger’s body takes up a wall in the dining room in Hartsdale, a portrait similar to one painted inside the Tulum eatery. A number of menu items are identical or similar to those served in
the Mexican eatery.
“I think my style, my food, doesn’t change, but there’s obviously different ingredients to work with here,” he said. “I think once I get my footing here and see what people want, I’m going to be changing my menu a lot.”
Sernatinger hopes to offer a tasting menu in Hartsdale, something that has proved successful at his Tulum restaurant.
“In Tulum, we have people that go there on vacation every year and they come to us every year,” he said. “We want that to happen here.”
Though the Hartsdale restaurant has monopolized much of the couple’s time in recent months, Sernatinger said he hasn’t neglected his Tulum location.
“We go back every once in a while. We’ll go back fairly soon just to check on everything,” he said. “It’s not easy.”