As not only a writer here at Main Street Magazine, but also a proud deliverer of this esteemed publication, I find myself traveling the Hudson Valley each month leaving stacks of the latest issue here and there. Inevitably, while I’m poking in and out of the various towns and villages of Columbia and Dutchess County, I find myself scouting and rubber-necking each eatery that happens to catch my eye. Given the gap between myself and foodie hall-of-famers like Jonathan Gold, my laws of attraction tend to apply to how the restaurant presents itself to me as I cruise by, cardboard boxes in tow. Since last summer, there has been one establishment that has me consistently doing double-takes with its contemporary style and stalking its online menu for its latest old-world Italian fare.
Savona’s Trattoria (or Savona’s) in Red Hook, NY, is a family-run restaurant serving Italian fare and locally inspired dishes. Savona’s offers three locations throughout Dutchess and Ulster counties including one in Kingston and Poughkeepsie to go alongside the titular location in Red Hook. Like many mainstays in our area, Savona’s has found roots in the local landscape and for over 40 years, the Savona family has been proudly serving authentic Italian dishes to their neighbors in the Hudson Valley. According to their website, “The origins of these dishes date back several generations to “Villa Batte” – a small village on the Island of Sicily. These recipes were in the back pocket of original founder Emanuele Savona, when he crossed the Atlantic Ocean in search of a better life. Years later he and wife Cecilia would take their new family out of Brooklyn north in search of a better place to raise their four children. “Manny & Ceil” (as people came to know them) opened their first Italian Restaurant on Albany Ave. in the City of Kingston in 1972.”
Executive head chef Edward Harder has crafted a menu that is at once classic and contemporary to match the modern, yet not overly voguish decor. As we drift into the heart of autumn, and in what is hopefully the twilight of the pandemic, Savona’s has extended its outdoor dining to include a cozy enclosed tent and an outdoor heated patio adorned with tealights, cornstalks and pumpkins. But enough about aesthetics, what had drawn me to Savona’s during a year’s worth of passing by can only go so far — did the food meet my visual expectations?
I took the leap last Saturday while scouring the village of Red Hook, looking for the many ideal places to leave the October issue of Main Street. After a hurried morning of rooting on the kids at youth soccer and going without breakfast, my girlfriend and I were assuredly ready for a late lunch and, like many great experiences, I decided to finally turn into my roadside siren on impulse and satiate both my appetite for both Italian food as well as the Savona’s atmosphere.
I would be doing a disservice to this review if I didn’t emphasize that my maiden trip to Savona’s was a mostly seasonal experience. To start, my date and I ordered an Apple Cider Sangria and a Pumpkin Craft Beer respectively. The beer was brimmed with maltiness and packed a decent pumpkin flavor — a solid effort. The cider sangria however, was dangerously delicious. The fact that this beverage was the talk of the ride home is in now way a slight to the rest of the meal, this was the most memorable cocktail I have tried in quite some time. Not to be outdone, our next order from the “Primi” portion of the special harvest menu was the Butternut Squash Bisque. Again, despite my relative proximity to the preeminent food critic, I do consider myself something of a Bisque connoisseur, at the very least a fanatic. This particular butternut squash iteration was pleasantly sweet (thanks to the additions of cinnamon and a sprig of walnuts) without losing that certain hearty bisque impression.
After our little venture into the harvest season, my date and I decided to return to some of the more classic dishes one can find in an Italian restaurant and Savona’s returned the favor with two excellent offerings. Both the Rigatoni Bolognese and the Tuscan Chicken Marsala are ideal fixtures of the menu and perfect dishes for a chilly autumn afternoon. Savona’s signature beef and pork ragu paired well with the rigatoni and the Marsala wine sauce should be bottled and sold in bulk.
Though the old adage, looks can be deceiving, holds its merit, I’m glad the roadside lure of Savona’s didn’t fool my hungry instincts. Take it from someone who is not a food critic but possesses all the qualities necessary to be inspired by a cozy atmosphere and a great lunch — a discerning laymen if you will — Savona’s doesn’t just deliver on aesthetics, its taste exceeds expectations.
Check out Savona’s menu for yourself at savonas.com and follow them on Instagram @savonas_redhook