Best New Restaurants in the Hudson Valley 2011: Italian Cuisine at A Tavola Restaurant, New Paltz, NY
Dine on Italian cuisine at best new restaurant, A Tavola Restaurant, in New Paltz, NY
The traditional bolognese sauce served with pappardelle (front) simmers for seven hours; goat cheese tortelli (rear) is sweetened with corn, roasted mushrooms, and local blueberries
Photographs by Jennifer May
On April 15th last year, Nathan and Bonnie Snow threw open the doors of A Tavola, their new Italian restaurant in New Paltz, and immediately had everyone ooh-ing and aah-ing about the creative, rustic cuisine. One early rave came from an online reviewer who wrote that she headed there with her newly minted husband after they’d eloped. Her opinion: “Surprisingly amazing.” But you don’t have to be caught up in a heady romantic haze to find the Snow’s cooking surprising and amazing.
Nathan Snow served as chef de cuisine at Sfoglia, Manhattan’s highly rated Northern Italian eatery, and Bonnie was his sous chef before taking over the top spot herself. When they decided to move out of the city last year, the Hudson Valley was a natural choice. “I’ve been sky-diving up here for the last 10 years — that’s how I came to know the area,” says Bonnie. “And we’d been getting produce from up here for so long, it seemed the place to be.”
A Tavola translates to “at the table,” a phrase similar to “come and get it,” used to summon family and friends to eat. The Snows wanted to reflect that homey feeling in the surroundings, so they gave the two-story space (formerly Beso) a buffing up with paint in warm tones of cream, chocolate, and burgundy. A big wine rack and mismatched farm tables from Craigslist, antiques shops, “or found on the side of the road” (says Bonnie) add to the relaxed feel.
The menu is divided in the Italian style: antipasti, primi (which can be ordered in half or full sizes) and secondi. Many of the trattoria’s sophisticated diners go for all three courses to experience the full effect. The fare is seasonal, and might include appetizers like poached octopus with chickpeas and roasted peppers, or roasted cauliflower with hen of the woods mushrooms topped with a poached egg and shavings of piave cheese — a kind of high-class cauliflower-cheese. Rabbit ragu and mac n’ truffle are highlights on the primi list, while entrées like chicken under a brick with charred escarole show what a skilled chef can do with simple ingredients. A carefully chosen Italian wine list is reasonably priced at $35 to $65.
Similar to a chocolate cheesecake, the tortino di cioccolato e ricotta has a pine nut crust
Produce is from local sources, but the Snows took that idea one step further. “We wanted to use cranberry beans, and nobody up here had them, so Phillies Bridge Farm in Gardiner grew them for us. That was kind of cool,” Bonnie says. “We serve them with the fish of the day. Most people don’t know what they are, but they love them when they try them.”
Bonnie has taken on the duties of pastry chef (“we make everything from scratch, so one of us had to,” she jokes), turning out biscotti, crepes, gelati, and sorbets as well as the popular lemon-honey semifreddo (ladyfingers with chestnut honey and whipped cream). Making delectable desserts is quite a departure for a woman who was once a NASDAQ trader. “That feels like a million years ago,” she says with a laugh.
The bottom line: Appetizers: $9 to $16; full-size pastas, primi, and entrées: $23 to $27
Crowd pleasers: “The braised short ribs with parsnip purée are selling like crazy,” Bonnie reports
Diners’ verdict: “Ridiculously delicious” food and “gracious owners.” “Wow”