Main Street Business


By Published On: January 31st, 2024

{pretty to think so} – a fine farm-to-table restaurant in Rhinebeck, NY, may seem like a new venture, but there’s a lot of history behind the eatery, which opened in May 2023.

The restaurant’s inception was an act of “pure serendipity.” Like a good book, the {pretty to think so} story began unfolding years ago when a chef, mixologist, and entrepreneur gathered on a Staatsburgh farm to create The Dutchess – a “secret” hotel and restaurant.

“The Dutchess was an interesting project. The three of us were living in different parts of the world just months before we were all brought together on this farm,” said Eric Mushel, general manager of {pretty to think so}. After building a legendary experience, they sold the business to Six Senses Spa Resorts, an IHG subsidiary in autumn of 2021.

Why so many secrets? The retreat, which celebrated exclusivity, never advertised, didn’t don any signage, and lacked a social media presence. The A-listers who were privy enough to experience this luxe escape only learned of this country hideaway the old-fashioned way – through word-of-mouth.

Mushel, along with chef Mark Margiotta and mixologist Madeline Dillon teamed up with London-based Rameet Chawla to build The Dutchess. When it changed hands, this trio found that their culinary and beverage-related talents were still in demand.

The dream team

Several months after leaving The Dutchess, Margiotta, Mushel, and Dillon were busy scouting out a professional catering kitchen space for Stem + Revel, which was established in 2022.

Specializing in upscale events and weddings, the catering and event company launched via a partnership with Paulette Cole, the founder of ABC Carpet & Home, a luxury home retail destination in New York City. Cole is also the visionary behind the launch of Taghkanic House, a modern seven-bedroom accommodation tucked away on a 100+ acre property just beyond Hudson. It was built by architect Thomas Phifer of New York City. 

The concept of {pretty to think so} emerged when this trio began discussions with several strategic investors in the hospitality and entertainment industries, along with lead investor Rachel Rouse, principal of Rouse + Co. Real Estate firm in Rhinebeck.

They set their sights on unveiling a food and beverage business for the team to operate, but they envisioned a multi-year restaurant development project. “We wanted something that would be ours in the near term,” said Mushel.

A literary beginning

Located in The Starr Institute Building, which was constructed in 1862 by philanthropist Mary Miller, the historic property was named after New York Congressman William Starr Miller. For more than 100 years, it housed a library that aimed to empower the community both intellectually and morally.

Before {pretty to think so} made its debut, the building was home to Liberty Public House. In another serendipitous event, that business was owned by Mushel’s friend Sergia Rebraca. Over a decade before Mushel channeled his vision into the space, he spent a lot of time on the premises with Rebraca. “The opportunity to give the space new life was exciting,” said Mushel.

What’s in a name?

A “Lost Generation” of artists from yesteryear served as inspiration for the {pretty to think so} moniker. During the 1920s and 30s, writers such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway moved to Europe in search of a more artistically engaging lifestyle.

“’Pretty to think so’ is part of the last line of Hemingway’s first novel, The Sun Also Rises. The statement recognizes that beauty and happiness can exist in a world where they often don’t win the day. We wanted to offer a place where people could at least pretend they just might,” said Mushel.

To honor that sentiment, the trio aspired to create an unparalleled dining experience – one that would delight the palate while narrating a story about the Hudson Valley land and the people who nurture it. “I wanted the food to be elevated but approachable; quaint but evoke curiosity,” said chef Margiotta.

A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, Margiotta honed his skills while serving as an apprentice at his grandparents’ Hudson Valley restaurant. Beyond having a hand in establishing Poughkeepsie’s Brasserie 292, Margiotta also worked at Manhattan’s esteemed Eleven Madison Park before landing at the helm of The Dutchess’ restaurant and farm.

An entrepreneur, Mushel enjoyed foundational and leadership roles in London’s technology and financial sectors before spearheading operations at The Dutchess, Before crafting the cocktail program at The Dutchess, Dillon was a member of the team at Washington D.C.’s Rare Steakhouse.

Turning the pages…

After working inside the space for nearly a year with the windows boarded up, the trio started to run low on investment capital and needed to open. “It went from a project of passion to a bustling restaurant. The project had a distinct shift from something that was intimately and privately ours, to suddenly belonging to everyone,” said Mushel.

After a soft opening April 20, 2023, the team found a photo from the first time they collectively visited the space. It was taken exactly one year prior to the day they officially ran a restaurant dinner service there. Another serendipitous event.

The fare

The restaurant’s food philosophy is rooted in a deep appreciation for the land, its farmers, and the ingredients they cultivate. “I love calling the Hudson Valley my home. The natural terroir of the area is very special and so is the seasonality of what we’re able to grow. I’m trying to raise as much of our own produce as I can and supplement from local growers. This is a true farm-to-table experience,” said Margiotta.

Driven by the changing of the seasons, the local bounty guides Margiotta’s dishes. The dishes flaunt the natural flavors and textures inherent in the ingredients. The team prioritizes sustainable farming practices and proudly supports local farmers who share their commitment to ethical and responsible agriculture.

A master at crafting duck dishes, one of Margiotta’s standouts is duck confit and dry-aged duck breast. His scallop crudo and seared scallop are also among the specials that nabbed rave reviews. One critic commented that it was the “best thing” he’s eaten all year.

The only exception to hyper local ingredient sourcing is the high-quality raw bar elements that {pretty to think so} offers as caviar service and seafood towers. “I felt we were taking a risk offering dishes with caviar and truffle, but it seems we found a niche in the Hudson Valley as many people are traveling from a distance to experience these elements on our menu,” says Chef Margiotta

Margiotta and his team take pride in curating a menu that caters to various dietary needs such as dairy and gluten restrictions. Another customer favorite is the homemade gluten-free bread. “It’s interesting how people have fallen in love with it, as there is nothing sophisticated or glamorous about it; it’s just damn good,” said Margiotta.


There’s always a seat at the {pretty to think so} bar. The restaurant’s fashionable bar welcomes guests for a cocktail-only experience or a full multi-course meal. The house accepts reservations for its lineup of 12 bar seats, as well as its tables for more intimate dining. Its interior captivates with a sleek green tiled bar that has accents of gold. On its glass shelves are the ingredients one would expect – lots of liquor bottles and elegant glasses for sipping.

A seasonal beverage menu features fresh ingredients. A collaboration between Dillon and Keshonn Hatcher, it celebrates the history of cocktail culture and leans into classic French and French Quarter mixology.

Utilizing classic spirits and liqueurs, house-made creations such as goat cheese-washed gin and strawberry-infused pink vermouth, and ingredients such as 24 carat gold leaf, each drink is as suffused with narrative as it is infused with rich flavor.

Its signature cocktail is The M – a dirty martini washed with goat cheese. Served in a vintage style martini glass, it includes an olive stuffed with goat cheese. The menu also features non-alcoholic and low-ABV options.

“My concept came from thinking about the Bohemians in Paris in the late 19th century, the idea of finding beauty in unexpected places and surrendering to it, and this intersection of nature and sin, temptation and discovery, imbibing and revelry, and nourishment taken directly from the earth,” explained Dillon.

A Parisian-style bar experience from a bygone era wouldn’t be complete without absinthe. The service impresses with blown-glass fountains and house-made sugar cubes.

The beverage team also curated a unique wine list, with support from Angela Kahn for Bonhomie Wine Imports in New Jersey. It offers French, Italian, Portuguese, and American labels, which include bottles from women-owned vineyards.


Designer Bradford Louryk can be credited for the {pretty to think so} brand identity and for leading the interior design efforts via a collaboration with Dillon and Mushel. Local artist Tomasz Low, who doubles as an architect and contractor, led the build process and provided additional design and custom fabrication.

Low and Mushel devoted six months to the construction of the dining space, while Margiotta rebuilt the kitchen. They received a lot of help from Mushel’s father, Robert Mushel and Margiotta’s mother, Terry Sheehan. “It was an unforgettable experience to build our first restaurant with our own hands and our own sweat and blood,” said Mushel.

The team believes that one of the reasons the space is so special is because they didn’t take influence from anyone or any place. “We’re a perfectly balanced team. We brought confidence and swagger to the project from five years of working together.”

Last notes

Even after the launch of {pretty to think so}, Stem + Revel remains a large part of the team’s livelihood. The catering business specializes in setting up remote kitchens in picture-perfect locales much like they did at The Dutchess. Margiotta cooks over a wood fire and they offer a bespoke bar menu. For these projects, the team often works with wedding planner, Monica Relyea.

While {pretty to think so} marks Margiotta and Mushel’s first restaurant, the team is working to expand into a hospitality group. It looks like there will certainly be more chapters to read. •

To learn more about {pretty to think so} you can call them at (845) 516-4556. Visit them in person at 6417 Montgomery St. in Rhinebeck, NY, or online at