Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mastery at The Cookery

The unassuming, neighborhood vibe is palpable the moment you set foot in Chef Dave DiBari’s new Italian joint in Dobbs Ferry. The Killers, Interpol, and Peter Bjorn and John keep the mood carefree (if you can hear the music over the lively din), and DiBari (formerly of Zuppa in Yonkers, and Babbo in… c’mon it’s Babbo) regularly steps outside the kitchen to greet diners. His demeanor is humble, and behind his quiet inquiries as to if patrons are enjoying their meals is a true desire to know how he could be doing things better. DiBari’s mother, busy cranking pasta in the basement during service, can also be seen later in the evening relaxing at the bar with a tired yet content smile on her face.

The atmosphere at The Cookery is so laid-back, the concept so deceivingly straightforward (“simple, honest food,”) that it’d be easy to overlook the authenticity put forth every night—the dead giveaway are the crowds who now gather by the door Friday and Saturday evenings, hoping for a table (the restaurant is quite small and while there is a reservation system, it fills quickly). DiBari’s resume seems to have earned him credibility, as has excellent word of mouth on Foodie boards. Good looks haven’t hurt his cause, either.

[Liz Johnson has a fantastic video segment with DiBari, which includes a demonstration on making pasta (my favorite moment comes at the 2:19 mark when you hear DiBari’s mother ask, “Dave, did you put the salt in?”).]

Then there are the details: all of the pasta is homemade on the premises, with mozzarella made fresh twice daily. The table placed next to the front window was DiBari’s grandmother’s, and it’s where I sat a few weeks ago to celebrate my birthday with four close friends.

It was my second visit. Danielle and I had snuck in two weeks prior, finagled a table at the bar, and fell in love with the fresh ricotta crostino, macaroni and cheese, and bowl of radiatore with lamb Bolognese. We made birthday reservations then and there, requesting the special table upfront (you need a party of five or six in order to reserve it).

When we came back to celebrate, Danielle and I did something we rarely do. We ordered many of the same dishes, saying we simply had to have them again. A common theme is to make a meal out of the appetizers and share a bowl of pasta and skip the entrees altogether. Take a look:

Appetizers and Salad:

Crostino of fresh ricotta, truffle honey and thyme: $6
Pork alla plancha, cheesy spaetzle and tomatoes “agro dolce”: $8
Salad of mussels, calamari, peppers and lemon pressed olive oil: $10

Cauliflower ravioli, lemon brown butter, garlic and toasted bread and parmigiano: $13

Spaghetti, clams, pancetta and olio Santo: $14
Radiatore, lamb Bolognese and fresh mint: $13

Chicken “al matone,” barlotto beans, bitter greens and saba: $20

Not to be missed are: the crostino (simple, but absolutely mind-blowingly fresh and delicious), the radiatore lamb Bolognese (all of the pasta was exceptional, but this stood out), and the chicken (a wonderful grilled taste permeated the meat and even the beans). Everything else was quite good and worth trying. The mussel/calamari salad was my least favorite (the seafood was too cold for me), but was loved by my friends.

For dessert, we shared:

Valrohna chocolate bread pudding, vanilla sauce and fresh berries: $8
Pasta Fritta
Fried dough filled with nutella, banana, and cinnamon gelato: $8
And hand-delivered by Chef DiBari himself was a complimentary Birthday dessert, another bread pudding (this one not yet on the menu, although DiBari says it’s coming).
My friend recently mentioned that I’m guilty of liking too many things on my blog, which makes it difficult for readers to figure out what’s actually good. Point taken, but it’s all good here. The desserts are every bit as outstanding as the entrees. The ice cream tastes homemade itself, the berries are ripe and plump and colorful, and both bread puddings are not to be missed.

And look at those prices! In Westchester!

It seems to me that the only danger faced by The Cookery, which only opened in March of this year, is outgrowing its space too soon.

The Cookery
39 Chestnut Avenue
Dobbs Ferry, NY 10522
(914) 305-2336


  1. I think I gained weight just reading about The Cookery. I can't wait to try it.

  2. My husband and I just went there last weekend and loved it. Unfortunately by the time we were done with appetizers and entrees there was no room for dessert.

  3. This is my favorite restaurant. The food, atmosphere and quaint set up of 15 tables is what I love! Everything I have had from the short ribs to the homemade pasta was perfection. Great spot!