[Note from Liz: Here is Jessie Cacciola, a new guest blogger. Welcome her to Small Bites!]
You might notice something new on the way to Rye Playland: open doors at On the Way Café. New owners Chef Joseph Mortelliti (Aurora) and his uncle, George Degenhardt, have turned the once cozy, yellow-and-pine-fringed pit stop into a bright European-style hangout, complete with white marble and smooth, full-bodied espresso brewed on order.
“We’re getting away from the luncheonette feel,” said Mortelliti. “We wanted to give Rye a more upscale meeting place.” Eyeing the clean lines of the low-hanging lamps over the bar and the frosted water carafes on the café tables, it’s clear that both colleagues and families will soon relax into regular visits.
A must try is their pancake. As you sink your fork in for a bite, you’ll notice the generous pancake-to-fork height ratio, reminding you of what a pancake should be—not merely an airy, floppy disk but a dense cake (cooked in a pan), bellowing at the sides. Order the blueberry version, with deep dark purple goodness that can only come from fresh fruit.
But besides the perfectly executed, centuries-old family classics that you’ll likely come back to weekend after weekend (see also: maple brown sugar steel-cut oatmeal, $5; organic egg white frittata with herbed goat cheese, $10), there are many new creations up this well-seasoned chef’s sleeves that deserve discovery.
Take the pizza dough wraps for example, which encase a chicken salad with grilled onions or seasonal vegetables with sun-dried tomatoes (both options dressed in basil aioli)—or have it set aside, as one customer has requested, to simply pinch and pluck at like a pita. Or the crab cake, which, with its roasted red pepper aioli and mix of paprika and mustard spices, has caused one guest to claim it better than any she’s had in Maryland.
Since most ingredients are sourced locally (organic eggs via Feather Ridge Farm in Elizaville, NY; goat cheese from Coach Farm in Pine Plains, NY), menu items are subject to inflect seasonality—expect hearty soups with local root vegetables come fall.
This newly reopened space has changed hands many times; it’s seen many brunches, many hungry, after-practice hockey players and beachgoers; the kitchen has moved from the bar to the back. But today, it stands refreshed with a refined, yet every bit still comforting taste, with all the old memories intact; these owners may be new but they’re local, and have made sure of that.
Like an old European city, it won’t forget its roots. Whether you stop by for a quick ice coffee and a homemade scone, or come in for a meal fit for a commuter (see: citrus-spiked calamari) or a very hungry child (chicken fingers), you’ll leave not unsated but with a lingering taste for more.
— Jessie Cacciola
The 411 is coming soon. Til then: On the Way Café, 34 Ridgeland Terrace, Rye. 914-921-2233 onthewaycaferye.com. Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 7am-3pm; Sunday 7am-2pm (Closed Monday)