Before there was Mint, there was the Downtown Café, whose owner and chef, Graziano Tecchio, earned a following for his culinary talents (as well as a high rating from Zagat). The closing of the Downtown Café three years ago was lamented by Graziano’s legion of neighborhood fans. His sister, Alessandro, who owns Dolce Café, brought the corner space back to life last summer as the wine bar Mint. But now Graziano is back, reopening Mint two weeks ago as a full-scale restaurant specializing in fresh, homemade northern Italian food with low prices (the bar remains, and quality wines will continue to be served).
Open Wednesday through Sunday from 4 to 10 pm, Mint offers a full menu of Italian classics, specializing in homemade pasta. They include pappardelle, a wide ribbon pasta served with fresh tomato and basil; agnolotti, a large ravioli pasta made with spinach and stuffed with goat cheese or vegetables; and malsatti, a spinach dumpling. Entrees, including a salad and garlic bread, are priced from $7 to $16—incredibly reasonable, considering everything is fresh and made on the spot.
A sampling of some of the other entrees includes risotto sautéed with scallops, steak, trout, red snapper and rabbit. Downtown Café was also famous for desserts, and Graziano isn’t letting anyone down this time around: right now he’s serving tiramisu and a chocolate truffle, which are $6. Graziano said he was inspired to reopen his own place after working as a chef at various restaurants in a 60-mile radius, many of which were disappointing. Although he has lived in the U.S. since he was 20 years old, he’s solidly grounded in the traditional cuisine of his native Venice, where he was born and raised, beginning to cook in restaurants at age 13.
Keeping his prices low “takes more work”—for example, an extra day in the kitchen to make the pasta himself, Graziano explained. He’s also sourcing his ingredients from local farms, which means more running around. But the extra effort is essential to establishing his first priority, which is quality–the best way to attract a following, he said. “They’re coming, slowly,” he said of his first two weeks in business. “The incentive of having cheaper prices on the menu is they invite people in. If they get a pleasant surprise, it’s great”—and as he builds his clientele, invariably prices will get higher. So head to Mint now to sample the products of a talented chef at some very affordable prices. -–Lynn Woods
Mint is located at 1 West Strand, Kingston, NY
Tel. 845.338.2006 Facebook