Welcome to our list of favorite dining destinations in New York's Hudson Valley and Adirondack regions. We visit restaurants, wineries, barbecues, and a smattering of off the beaten path culinary destinations like maple sugar shacks and fromageries. My friends and I have been dining out together weekly for over twenty years. The locations we write about are our favorite destinations. We are not claiming they are the best, just our favorites. The posts are not "reviews" in the classic sense. - we offer only our picks, not pans. We will leave the criticism to others. We are a happy blog. We much prefer a good bistro to "haute cuisine", especially if they also have a nice bar. We prefer a crock of cassoulet and a bottle of Beaujolais to just about anything else. If you enjoy simple home style rustic cooking with a decent (but not too expensive) bottle of wine, then pull up a chair and join us.

This Month's "Well Said!"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

Ferran Andria

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Il Barilotto Enoteca, Fishkill, NY

Il Barilotto Enoteca
1113 Main Street
Fishkill, NY 12524

Map & Directions
Lunch & Dinner: Monday ~ Saturday
Closed Sunday

Years ago, when Eduardo and Lucia Lauria, the owners of Aroma Osteria in Wappingers Falls, told me about their plans for a second restaurant in nearby Fishkill, I remember thinking at the time that it would be a mistake. The locations were too close, and a new venue would cannibalize traffic from Aroma. (The original conversations turned into a comedy skit. Eddie had toyed with the idea of opening a small plate "tapas bar" in Fishkill.  Word got around that he was considering opening a "topless bar".  You can imagine the phone calls.  That idea was abandoned.) My skepticism  was reinforced when menu ideas for a now planned Italian restaurant were discussed, as some of the staple  dishes - bistecca gorgonzola, a roast chicken, a daily risotto, seemed to mimic Aroma's menu. Fast forward to 2012, your's truly was proven totally wrong, Aroma is still bustling, and Il Barilotto is one of the most popular restaurants in the valley.  For good reason.

There are a number of reasons for the restaurants' success, but the one I will start with is that Il Barilotto is really nothing like Aroma.  Both draw their inspiration from the Laurias' focus on the highest quality farm fresh ingredients and traditional Italian cooking, but where Aroma is dedicated to replicating the rustic classics of Eddie's mother's kitchen, Barilotto takes a more modern approach to many of the dishes. Eddie's brother-in-law and CIA alum, Wayne Homsi, runs the kitchen here.
The flavor of the bar and the dining room, managed by long time partner Scott Rosenberg, take a similar tack. The design has the look and feel of a trendy Soho bistro.  Il Barilotto Enoteca may translate as The Wine Barrel, but the bar screams for a martini, or better yet, a negroni (straight up). Save the wine for dinner, where you will get to choose from the restaurant's noteworthy wine collection of over one hundred Italian selections. The exposed brick wall dining rooms have a more modern flair; the crowd always seems a little younger, the volume a little higher. It is the MTV alternative to Aroma's Saturday afternoon opera. (I, myself prefer the opera, but that does not make Barilotto any less appealing.)
The dinner menu is usually complemented with a selection of daily specials, but a few of the regular menu dishes are standouts. One of these is the duck breast, pan seared pink, plated with a reduction of grappa and dried cherries, and served with a vanilla scented puree of sweet potatoes. A nouveau twist on a traditional dish.  There are always a half dozen or more pasta selections, including gluten free offerings.  I confess that I almost always order the same one - a papparedella ($20) pasta (very wide fettuccine) tossed with the best duck ragu made in these parts, savory, rich, intensely aromatic and magically tender while still maintaining some texture.  Wonderful stuff.  Add a nice bottle of Barbera and it doesn't get any better.
One their best dishes is elegantly simple (and a dish that so many restaurants seem to avoid completely, or screw it up and dry it out) - roast chicken. I have had this dish dozens of times and it is always perfectly prepared. The kitchen here keeps this presentation very simple and traditional.  A breast of chicken - from Murray's Farms in Pennsylvania - is roasted with herbs, flavored with a pan mushroom sauce and plated with whipped potatoes spiked with fontina (an Alpine cow's milk) cheese.  Add a few asparagus spears and voila - perfection, for $24.  
If you're not getting the chicken, start with the duck confit appetizer ($13), (almost) fall off the bone tender, crisped nicely before plating on a bed of frisee with a tart cherry vinaigrette. Any of the house made sausage (cooked or cured) dishes are also standouts.  You could share the sausage app with the table (it's too much for one person - a grilled luganega salsiccia ($11), a traditional Italian mild ring sausage, made with lean pork and fennel. If I'm very lucky this dish on occasion will also show up as a lunch special.
Barilotto seems to have developed its own fan club to complement the regulars that I see each week at Aroma. I'd be curious to hear how you feel about the restaurant, and in particular how you would define the differences between the two restaurants. Please send me an email, or leave a comment if you want to join the discussion.          

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