At a Tuesday night work session, members of the New Castle Town Board heard two restaurant proposals for leasing the Chappaqua train station, each backed by people with culinary experience and ties to the area.
The first proposal, in several ways, presents familiarity: it is an expansion of Mount Kisco's Via Vanti! Italian restaurant, which uses the village's train station to the north. Dubbed "Via Vanti! Chappaqua," the project is the idea of owner Carla Gambescia, who has lived in Chappaqua since 1999.
The second is called Burdock Natural Café, which is a partnership made up of Stetson Hundgen - his mother, Beth, owns Whispering Pines of Chappaqua, and he has a business called Brooklyn Outfitters - and Arnold Rufino, who has worked at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills since its inception in 2004.
New Castle is seeking to lease out all of the historic train station, which would be a revenue source, and put out a request for proposals last year. According to the New Castle Historical Society, the station was built in 1902 on land donated by Horace Greeley's daughter, Gabriele Greeley Clendenin. Currently, a side room on the southern part of the build is used by Café La Track, which serves goods for morning commuters.
Prior to Tuesday's meeting, the only other proposal that was seriously considered by the town board was one from former Flying Pig chef Leslie Sutter, who dropped it last August due to the timeline of the town's ongoing repair work for the property. Town Supervisor Susan Carpenter, talking with Patch at the time, cited the town being unable to install a natural gas line due to cost, and said that an external refrigeration system would be precluded because of the building's landmark status.
Below is an overview of the plans:
Via Vanti! Chappaqua
While the name and Italian cuisine theme will be similar to the Mount Kisco location, Gambescia said that they will not be the same.
“It would be more of a cousin,” she said about the Chappaqua branch.
Gambescia envisions the establishment of a central local gathering place, similar to what one might find in Italy. Hoping to fill the void, she said that Chappaqua is “a place that has an incredible sense of community but it doesn't have a specific place of community, and we would really like to be that place of community.”
Gambescia also noted that she will work with how the station space, which is smaller than the Mount Kisco station, is configured. For example, she is not requesting the installation of a natural gas line or external refrigeration. The items mentioned were causes of concern last year during failed talks between the town and Sutter to lease the space for the proposed restaurant of hers, New Castle Supervisor Susan Carpenter told Patch at the time.
Gambescia plans to service morning commuters - she's promising freshly baked goods and gourmet coffee - and offer lunch, dinner and weekend brunch foods. The Chappaqua location will also have several items unique to it, including a mozzarella bar, wine samplings of three ounces and five ounces, and braised meatballs. Entre items offered in Mount Kisco, such as roasted chicken, will not be offered due to the set up of the kitchen, which will have electric-based cooking instead of gas.
Additionally, wine classes are planned at the site. James Yacyshyn, who would be general manager of the Chappaqua space, also said that there would be variations on wine cocktails and wine-infused drinks.
“It'll be interesting," he said.
Via Vanti! Chappaqua will also offer an online ordering option for commuters, who would be able to make orders while returning home on trains and then pick them up at the space now used by Café La Track.
Gambescia plans to preserve the interior, including the old ticket booth and benches. The former booth will become a service bar, the spot where folks would go to get coffee and morning items. As a result, a water service extension is being sought for the space. There would be a total of 82 seats for the tables, both inside and outside under the front canopy. Gambescia was given concerns from Carpenter about whether the seating exceeds code in relation to bathroom availability, and from Councilman John Buckley about the tightness of the canopy space; she is open to changing the total seating count.
Gambescia is also requesting signage for the front entrance, track side and north side.
Burdock Natural Café
Burdock is a place intended to promote healthy eating, particularly with vegetables, and with an interest in sustainable farming.
A summary of the plan reads: "Walking into Burdock will be a warming and welcoming experience, with books and newspapers to read, art on the walls, and new and interesting food products that promote health and well-being - while complimented by the authentic flavor that comes with the historic Chappaqua train station."
Seeking to give of preview of what's to offer, the team had samples ready for town officials to try out. While the food did not result in a "yes" from the board, officials who ate appeared to be smitten with the taste.
“It was delicious. I had everything," said Town Administrator Penny Paderewski.
Like Via Vanti, Burdock is intended for food that works within the space restrictions, as it will not pursue pursue a gas line, either.
“The key word, I think, that would best describe the menu is 'simple.,'" said co-partner Arnold Rufino.
Burdock will have two menus, one for the morning and another for the afternoon. The former will include coffee, tea, fruit smoothies, hot cereal, and fresh-squeezed fruit and vegetable; the later will have soups, a similar drinks assortment, sandwiches, wraps, breads, some sushi, and wine and beer.
The existing Café La Track space will be used for food preparation, while the old booth will become used for food storage, although Rufino hopes that it can be re-purposed in the future.
For the most part there will not be cooking, with the exception of soup, Hundgen explained.
Seating would be open to the public, and there ewould be some of it under the station's covered side wings but not under the front canopy. Carpenter asked about whether having seated under a wing that's near handicapped parking would be an issue; Rufino kept an open mind, in his reply, about the matter, and explained that the intent would not be to interfere with existing traffic.
Given that there is a family connection between Stetson and Beth Hundgen, Whispering Pines will sell items such as flowers on site, and have plants outside as decorations.
While the work session was busy and there were many details provided, the town board does not have a date for when it will make a decision on which plan to pick, officials said.