CATERINA DE’ MEDICI, CULINARY INSTITUTE OF AMERICA
Hyde Park, New York
It was pouring rain when we got up to Hyde Park and very windy. Catching a glimpse of the Hudson River as we drove through the campus grounds, we hoped our dining experience would not mirror the gloominess of the day and the turbulence of the water. Dodging the rain drops, we parked our car in the massively ugly parking garage, and made a dash through an impressive courtyard to the Tuscan villa housing the restaurant, Caterina de’ Medici.
Lunch at the CIA is only served between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. That said, the restaurant was packed with people who had already finished eating when we got there for our 1 o’clock reservation. Consequently, by the time most of the other guests had left, we got to eat in a relaxed and relatively quiet space.
Offering a recession friendly prix-fixe menu of $24.95 per person for three courses we had more than enough choices for lunch. Problem was they also had vitello tonnato, thin slices of veal with the classically prepared tuna sauce with capers on the menu. Since Lynn and I both love vitello tonnato, we each got our own and paid for the extra dishes.
Consequently, our first “real” course that day started with thin homemade spinach “ribbon” pasta with ricotta and olives for me and a large bowl of garganelli pasta with a Bolognese sauce for Lynn. Next up: sea bass in a lovely vegetable broth. Both the fish and the vegetables were perfectly cooked and seasoned. I was pretty impressed.
Looking outside, it started to rain even harder. We finished our bottle of wine, a Valpolicella from the Veneto region (a bargain for under $25), and started to think about dessert. Lynn wanted cheese, I wanted chocolate. We got both. His cheese plate was a single serving of fresh parmesan; I had the classic flourless chocolate cake with hazelnut gelato.
Our server was friendly and attentive. What’s great about lunching at any of the CIA restaurants is that you get to talk to the kids. This “kid” (actually a young man who already had an M.B.A. and was looking for a career change) was eager to talk to us about the curriculum and where he was in the serving/cooking rotation. (You have to cook and serve in at least two of the three restaurants.)
We thought the portions were large considering the price, the service better than many restaurants we’ve eaten in New York City and the food? I thought the food was terrific. The dishes were beautifully composed and they came out of the kitchen at the proper temperature.
Bottom line: I can’t wait to come back and try the other two CIA restaurants.