Anna Maria Santorelli outside her eponymous wine bar with her “righthand man”, Massimo
By Bob Marrow
Anna Maria Santorelli arrived in the United States as a 5-year- old with her family from Naples, Italy. Settling in a small Italian enclave bordered by the extensive Hassidic community in Williamsburg, Anna Maria spoke no English but, with concentrated effort, soon lost traces of an Italian accent.
That effort is something Santorelli has put into all her endeavors — starting as a child helping her talented mother in their kitchen to graduating from the New York Culinary Institute and then to award-winning positions in Gracie Mansion feeding Mayors Dinkins, Giuliani, and Bloomberg.
After serving the mayors, she opened Anna Maria’s Italian Restaurant in Larchmont where she enjoyed a successful 13-year run. The restaurant garnered rave reviews from print media critics to customers on social media.
In 2019, Santorelli decided to leave her high-pressure career as a restauranteur and spend time with her friends, family, and her beloved canine lovebug, Massimo.
However, after selling the restaurant, her plans changed. At a cocktail party, she met a realtor who suggested she could operate in a more relaxed atmosphere in downtown Rye with her own version of a wine bar, replacing The Red Pony – which had recently closed – on the corner of Purchase Street and Elm Place.
Soon after Anna Maria’s Wine Bar opened in January 2020, it became one of the most welcoming destinations in the Rye restaurant scene. Santorelli’s dynamic yet low-key personality sets the tone. The fact that she has a large following from her years in Larchmont didn’t hurt.
The wine and food selections are testaments to her years of experience running the Gracie Mansion kitchen, as well as her own restaurant.
“The menu of small dishes and selection of pizzas give customers something tasty, quick, and easy for sharing, while sipping a cocktail or a glass of wine,” says Santorelli.
In addition to a regularly updated selection of domestic and foreign wines, the menu boasts crab cake balls, several salads served with Parmigiano cheese, and a selection of meats and cheeses such as creamy Burrata wrapped with prosciutto. The highlight of the dessert menu cannoli filled with sweet ricotta and chocolate chips.
Customers enjoy lingering with old or newly acquired friends at the bar, at comfortable tables inside or out, or at the counter where they can gaze out the large windows facing Purchase Street. All this is enhanced by quiet jazz selections, tasteful lighting, and walls painted with calming colors occasionally interrupted by artwork selected by the owner.
“I look at this place as though I’m inviting people into my home,” says Santorelli. Her “home” on Purchase and Elm is a happy addition to Rye.