Larry had been watching the progress all summer, and every time he bumped into Graziano, would ask him how it was going and when did he expect to open. Soon.. was the response. As June crept into July, then August and September, we watched, waited, and made sure to duly update our friends on the renovation. As every restaurateur knows, a lot of work goes into opening a café. The monumental task of turning an old brick building that had earlier housed a hair salon and most recently a ground floor office space, into a up-to-date food establishment takes a lot of planning, and tons of elbow grease.
It’s now been two weeks since the Downtown Café re-opened at the top of Broadway (near Spring Street). The neighborhood has been in a buzz since the soft opening. The dinner hours on the last two Fridays and Saturdays were packed with old friends and neighbors who came to eat. And everyone who ate there agrees, Graziano has got his ‘A’ game back.
It’s a simple homey place, a long wooden counter and center aisle separates the tiny open kitchen from the sturdy wood tables and chairs next to the wall. A mix of retro vinyl bar stools and plain wooden stools sit at the counter. When the weather permits, some of the wooden tables are moved outside for sidewalk dining.
It’s our opinion (shared by quite a few aficionados) that the counter is the best place to sit. Larry & I walk in with our bottle of wine (he’s still working on a wine license), hop on a pair of bar stools and wait for the Hello’s and Hi’s to stop so we can look over the Specials or ask Graziano what’s in the fridge. It’s like going to Nanna’s house for family dinner. You never know what he’s cooked up but if there isn’t anything on the menu that appeals, you know Graziano can make you something.
On earlier Fridays and Saturdays we ordered Italian Style Baked Chicken and Roasted Pork Loin straight off the menu. We noticed the Pate with Crostini has been a big hit at the neighboring tables. Hhmm, may have to try that one next.
We noticed the Beef Stew was a Special but we had already ordered. So we went back the next morning to get it for Breakfast. It’s true, stew always taste better the day after it’s made. This week I ordered the Grilled Pork Chop from the menu and Graziano made Larry a Grilled Salmon with Lemon and Artichoke. We have shared side orders of Grilled Skinny Asparagus, Homemade Pappardelle with Tomato Sauce, Double Mashed Potatoes, and Heirloom Tomato Salad.
This morning, I went to help Graziano make rice balls and meatballs for the Italian Festival. When Graziano pulled out this humongous(!!!) tub of cooked flavored rice, I thought we were planning to make a million rice balls. Turns out all that rice only made a few hundred 3” balls. These were definitely the biggest rice balls I’ve ever seen, actually the only rice balls I’ve ever made. My family is Chinese and my sisters will never believe I helped to make rice balls.. almost as strange as throwing rice at weddings!
BC Gee. owner of the Rondout Inn