I stopped by The Cookery yesterday to check out the progress. Dave and his partner, Michael O’Neill, say they hope to open the second week of March.They’re going to do lunch Tuesday-Friday, dinner Tuesday-Sunday and Sunday brunch.
Michael and Dave behind the bar:
The restaurant is in the old Austin’s Steakhouse on Chestnut Street. It’s just off the main drag about 3/4 down the hill heading to the river.
They haven’t changed the sign yet. You walk in the front door and enter this vestibule:
To the left is the bar:
They sanded and stained the wood, hung new pendants and installed stainless steel shelves. Because it’s called The Cookery, they wanted the restaurant to have an industrial feel.
See, exposed ducts and the like:
To the right of the vestibule entrance is the dining room:
I was never in Austin’s, but I’m told everything was a deep red.
Here’s a look from the other end:
See how the area right in front of the window is delineated with the wall from the vestibule? Right in that nook, they’re going to hang a beautiful chandelier, and under it, is the space for Dave’s grandmother’s old table:
Her name was Mary Capicotto — but Dave called her Mima. She lived in Verplank, and influenced David’s cooking from the get-go. Dave’s dad, Joe, talked with great nostaglia about eating at her house. Really, he was almost wistful when he said: “She’d go out in that garden and come in with all her tomatoes.” His favorite dish was her escarole soup with tomatoes, but he remembers many meals sitting at that table, especially Christmas Eve dinners, when Mima and the other women would prepare the Feast of the Seven Fishes.
“The women did all the work,” he said, laughing. “One course after another. Then men just sat at that table! The food was simply amazing.”
(The resemblance is striking, isn’t it?)
Joe also told me that Dave has known exactly what he wanted to do since he was 14 years old. Joe was driving Dave to his salad-prep job in the kitchen at Crystal Bay in Peekskill.
“So I said to him, ‘Any ideas what you want to do? What you want to go to school for?'” Joe told me. “And he said, ‘Dad, I want to be a chef.’ There were no if ands or buts about it.”
Ten years later, at 24, Dave was the youngest chef to ever earn an “Excellent” from the New York Times when he was cooking at Eastchester Fish Gourmet. During his years at Zuppa, he was also very well reviewed, and cooked twice at the James Beard House in Manhattan. (The last time I ate at Zuppa, it was nothing less than spectacular).
One of the dishes on the menu at The Cookery will be Easter Pie Everyday, which is an egg-ricotta dish that Dave demonstrated at our Wine & Food Festival last year. (I was hosting the demo and I gotta tell you, it was out of sight.) Dave’s also settled on a grilled pizzette with clams, spicy olive oil and fresh parsley; a white lasagna called Lasagna Marce, with beschamella, ricotta, mushrooms and ham; and a crisp Berkshire pork shank with polenta and quince. (Also for brunch, except to see his version of eggs in purgatory, which I wrote about making last weekend!)
While Dave is working on the menu, he’s also looking for what kind of delicious organic and artisanal products he’s going to be working with in the kitchen. Dane Martindale, the owner of Laid Back Lamb, stopped by with his goods while I was at The Cookery.
Dane sells raised-right heritage lamb and Berkshire pork, but also specializes in artisanal oils, vinegars, salts and peppercorns.
He brought his little kit of samples in for Dave to taste.
He had quince, mango and raspberry vinegars made in Beaujeu, France. All of these are made from the fruits, not flavored with the fruits:
They are so intensely flavored, it’s like tasting a very tangy, sharp mango. You are simply amazed when you put it in your mouth.
All right, yea, I got in on the tasting a little:
Michael’s in on it, too.
Michael also worked at Zuppa with Dave. For a little while, he was in the kitchen, but he also did everything from front of the house (bus boy, bartender, captain) to management (booking parties, helping out with the books). A lot of good experience for a front-of-the-house owner. Michael graduated from Springfield College with a business degree and also graduated from the Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan. He worked around for a while in Chicago before settling in at Zuppa.
For now, the two of them — and all of their families — are working on getting the restaurant open. Michael’s mom was sanding baseboards! Dave’s girlfriend’s mom was running out to get label makers! Dave’s Dad is doing woodwork! And next week, Dave and his mom are going to play around with Dave’s new toy:
This pasta machine from Italy. I’m going to come back to report as they develop and test the recipes. Hopefully, we’ll all sit down at Mima’s table and get a first taste of The Cookery.