10 Can't Miss Dishes



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la porcini cucina rack of lamb

Rack of Lamb with Porcini Sauce

La Porcini Cucina
69 Broadway, Tivoli
845-757-1015 or www.porcinicucina.com

Some chefs become forever associated with a certain aspect of their craft. Bobby Flay: all things grilled. K Paul: the étoufée. Emeril: “Bam!” (Okay, maybe bam doesn’t count.)

In Wayne Smith’s case, it’s the porcini mushroom. Smith, who graduated from the Culinary Institute, spent 26 years as executive chef at eateries in the Catskills and surrounding areas. During that time he developed a recipe for a flavorful porcini bolognese and found that the sauce went well with several other dishes. “I built up a huge following over the years, and that sauce had a lot to do with it,” Smith says. “It became my trademark.” Naturally, when he opened a place of his own in Tivoli in 2008, he named it for his favorite mushroom.

Smith grew up in Marlboro, the son of an Italian mother and a father who’s a heady mix of German, Irish, French, and American Indian. In his Tivoli spot, Smith went with his mom’s cuisine — Old World Italian — offering perennial favorites like chicken or eggplant Parmigiano, seafood Fra Diavolo, and an array of richly sauced pastas.

His signature rack of lamb, which is usually about eight chops, comes from New Zealand. “It’s free-range grass-fed, so the flavor’s better,” he remarks. He lightly crusts the lamb with garlic and herbs, then pan-sears it, finishes it in the oven, and serves it with his trademark sauce, Parmesan mashed potatoes, and a fresh vegetable. “Everyone likes the zucchini with onions and roasted peppers,” says Smith.

Grown-ups usually prefer the mauve dining room; livelier types mingle with the Bard crowd in the friendly, casual bar, where there’s a pubby menu of burgers, wings, sandwiches, calamari, and mini-pizzas. Whether you’re in the casual side or the cozy side, you’ll find traditional Italian desserts like cannoli, tiramisù, and Italian-style cheesecake.

The restaurant business is risky at the best of times, but Smith embarked on his venture at the onset of the nation’s financial meltdown. “It’ll come around,” he says. “I’m holding my own.” Working hard, too, although he admits, “in the summer, I sometimes sneak away and fly fish.”

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