Where to Eat in the Hudson Valley
Foodies of all types have discovered the Valley and its wide variety of top-flight restaurants. One chef even predicts we’ll soon be vying with California’s Napa Valley as a dining destination. Find out what all the buzz is about with these profiles of local eateries
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Viva Italia: The caffe’s prosciutto sandwich with fresh mozzarella and homemade pesto
Italian Style in Newburgh
When Brooklyn transplants Edwine Seymour and Barbara Ballarini were looking for a place to open an Italian caffe, a narrow storefront on Newburgh’s Liberty Street seemed just right. Many people may not have thought so. Washington’s Headquarters (across the street) is an attraction in the slowly reviving historic district, but the neighborhood is a little rough around the edges; and the building itself, a food market 50-odd years ago, was a mess. “It was completely burned out, destroyed,” Ballarini remembers. “But we fell in love. We thought, ‘We can make new life for this place.’ ”
Seymour (who’s originally from Haiti) and Ballarini (who’s Italian) spent months renovating the space, transforming it into what everyone agrees is a delightful little slice of Italy. Opening the caffe was doubly adventurous, considering neither of them had any restaurant experience. Seymour was a photographer and Ballarini a journalist when they met and married, but friends who’d enjoyed the couple’s cooking encouraged them in the venture. “We love to eat and we love to cook. We decided to run off and put ourselves in the business,” Ballarini says. They opened in March 2005, with Seymour adopting the role of pastry chef and Ballarini preparing the savories.
The simple, traditional menu offers a variety of panini and sandwiches (the porchetta, with roast pork, roasted sweet red pepper, honey mustard, and provolone, is a standout for only $8). There are salads, a pasta of the day, and a daily soup in winter. Egg dishes like frittatas and baked eggs are popular. “We serve a sunny-side egg dish with Italian ham and alfalfa sprouts that I invented,” Ballarini says. “It’s so good, I surprised myself.” Weekend brunchers rave about the crepes, pancakes, and waffles. Ballarini imports cheeses and cured meats like bresaola, sopressata, and capicola from her motherland. “In summer, we supplement with local, organic produce — there are lots of farmers around here,” she says. Muffins, croissants, biscotti, tarts, tiramisu and all kinds of tantalizing, fresh-baked goodies lie in wait in the display case.
Even though it’s off the beaten track, the caffe is usually buzzing. The mood is relaxed enough that kids romp on the pillow-strewn couch by the front window. “Or they sit at the bar like big people and drink hot chocolate,” Ballarini says. “Sometimes we have a row of six or seven of them sitting there.” Ines, the couple’s eight-year-old daughter, is often a charming presence.
It takes an iron will to pass up the pastries, but some customers stop in just for coffee, or a glass of wine or beer. “We make lots of drinks with Champagne, too,” says Ballarini. “Fragolino with fresh strawberry juice, Bellinis, mimosas. We also have a hot wine with spices and herbs — it’s really aromatic and good, especially when it’s cold outside.”