Before Madison Kitchen officially opened its doors last Wednesday, a lucky few (like me!) were invited to the soft opening which gave chef Nick Di Bona the opportunity to showcase some of his menu items. If you haven’t checked out Madison Kitchen yet, here are some enticing dishes that will have you reaching for the phone to make reservations.
A few appetizers:
Followed by these stunning entrees:
Nick can certainly check off having a stellar menu from his opening week to do list. But there’s still a million more things to learn about opening a restaurant. I asked a few of our area’s seasoned chefs to offer some words of encouragement to this new chef/owner.
Peter Kelly (chef/owner of Xaviars Restaurant Group, including X2O in Yonkers, Xaviars and Freelance Cafe in Piermont, and Restaurant X in Congers):
“Building your restaurant and seeing your guests’ faces is the fun part. I can still remember the first comments from my guests. The most important lesson is to create a special place that makes people happy. You are inviting people into your restaurant, and they want to know that someone cares. Make your passion and personality resonate in every dish and touch each guest in your dining room. If everything you do is guided by that premise, you will achieve your goals and be successful.”
Jonathan Pratt (chef/owner of Peter Pratt’s Inn in Yorktown Heights):
“I grew up in the restaurant business. Started when I was six plucking beans. Nick started with me when he was 16. He ‘grew up’ in the restaurant business also. I’m proud of him and wish him all the best.”
Hannah Hopkins (original chef/owner of Dish in Mahopac; now executive chef at Mambo Italiano in Steamboat Springs, Colorado):
“Best of luck as you enter the most awesome/challenging/rewarding time in your life. I think one of the most important challenges while being a restaurateur is to create systems that work for you and your employees. Without systems you only have chaos. Step back and watch! Learn to love to teach! Instill pride! Be a hard ass! Be a mentor! Once you have everyone in place, you will be able to step back and admire all the hard work that is put in night after night. It is the most rewarding feeling!”
Ramiro Jimenez (chef/owner of Ramiro’s 954 in Mahopac):
“Welcome to the area and congratulations in your new adventure. Great chefs are welcome everywhere. Keep the fire and flavors going!”
Arlen Gargagliano (chef/owner of the newly opened Mambo 64 in Tuckahoe):
“Opening a restaurant has been both rewarding—and hugely humbling! It’s a most exciting adventure, with full and fascinating days that often seem to blur together. As another friend and restaurateur said to me, ‘Go with your gut!’ Trust your instincts, look forward always, and look how far you’ve come!”
Jeffrey Kaufman (executive chef at The Hudson House of Nyack):
“Keep an open mind and never stop learning. You can learn something from everybody from dish washers all the way up. Never compromise; set your standards and stick to them.”
Eileen Zidi (previous owner of Dish in Mahopac):
“If you find what you love and do it, you will always have success. Nick, your love and passion for food has been a constant from the time you were a rugrat busboy at Peter Pratt’s Inn. I know you are truly doing what you love … just remember to breathe—three deep breaths.”
Manny Lozano (executive chef at Bistro Rollin in Pelham):
“Invest, invest, and invest some more! Invest in your staff, invest in your equipment, and invest in the things that directly impact your product, and the consistency in which it’s produced. Don’t skimp, because you end up paying in the long run … sometimes threefold.
With respect to staffing, I always say ‘an interview is a conversation, and a conversation is talk, but it is the walk I’m most interested in’. If you trail potential employees a couple of times before you hire, you’ll get to see the ‘walk’. ”
Vincent Barcelona (corporate executive chef for Fort Pond Bay Company—Harvest on Hudson in Hastings, Half Moon in Dobbs Ferry and Harvest on Fort Pond and East by Northeast in Montauk:
“Being a chef has to be in your blood. It’s not a job; it’s a lifestyle. Expect to live it and breathe it from this day forward. You not only get to work with your passion but, at times, your worst enemy. Every moving part in your restaurant has to be what you expect and on point. So, even when one of your line cooks doesn’t show, service still goes on and plates have to go out perfectly. You only get one chance to make a first impression. Remember, we are in the people business first; and in the end, it’s your food that connects you to your guests.”
When I stopped into the kitchen at the soft opening, I could see that Nick was ecstatic to be back in his element. In fact, his last comment to me about Madison Kitchen says it all: “It’s everything I wanted.”