Something Mario Batali talked about several years ago stuck with me: Italian food made with ingredients from upstate New York was its own marvelous creature and different from Italian food in Europe. This is well apparent at Rhinebeck, NY’s Gigi’s Trattoria: I’m very glad to have been hosted to be able to experience it!
Though in a posh part of the state — Chelsea Clinton was married across the street — with lots of good restaurants nearby, Gigi’s is wildly popular. In warmer weather, there’s outside seating. Many of the recipes are from owner/cookbook author/dietitian Laura Pensiero’s “Hudson Valley Mediterranean”.
Inside, the lighting is warm and the atmosphere is family-friendly. There’s large-scale local art on the walls and the furniture is of a rustic, wooden style. Accompanying bread service comes a peppery olive oil with bite.
They serve a number of well-conceived specialty cocktails. The Hudson Valley pear martini has house infused local pear vodka, Orgeat syrup, lime juice, organic pear nectar and fresh nutmeg. You can really smell the aromatic nutmeg in the drink, which went down easily.
Many items can be ordered as a multi-side meal, an appetizer or smaller course. A terrific appetizer available that night was the crispy cod fritters with baby arugula and bread & butter onions. The interior of the cod was creamy, with crunch on the outside. The onions and arugula provided texture contrast.
I saw other diners ordering salads that were huge!
I next tried the Bigoli Col’Anitra: housemade bigoli pasta (spelt and duram) tossed with braised Hudson Valley duck, Wiltbank Farm shitake and oyster mushrooms and Parmesan. This was a rustic, perfect for colder weather dish. The pasta had a nice, al dente texture, garnished with garden fresh basil and parsley.
The special risotto of the day was with Hudson Valley Foie Gras, Tallegio and apples. I love foie gras and while it’s produced near — not in — the Hudson Valley, it’s still considered a regional product. Normally, I’m like the one person in the world who doesn’t dig the sophisticated flavor of Tallegio, but in a cooked dish, it’s pretty tasty. The cheese added its own “meaty” flavor and the apples added just the right, light sweet touch — which is a nuance that complements the foie gras. The risotto itself was rich and herby, with a generous piece of perfectly seared foie gras.
For an entree’, I ordered the Bistecca: Grilled 14 oz rib-eye steak, rosemary, olive oil, sea salt, Tuscan fries and Gigi Salsa Verde. The steak was garnished with lots of whole sage leaves and rosemary, beautifully aromatic. The meat itself was perfectly cooked to order and absolutely a steakhouse quality steak. It had nice char and was well-marbled, thick and juicy. The salsa verde was an intense green aioli that added even more richness to the dish.
For dessert, I tried both the very, very rich tiramisu with a good Kahlua kick and the Cioccolata calda: Rich Vahlrona hot chocolate with whipped Ronnybrook Farm cream and Gigi Biscotti. It’s like a spicy drinking chocolate, also very rich. You might want to get at it with a spoon rather than a straw!