The Cookery

39 Chestnut Street
Dobbs Ferry, New York

5 Second Summary
Price Range- Dinner entrees $12-16
Ambiance- Neighborhood, cozy, casual
Cuisine- Italian comfort food
Hits- Great appetizers, clever cocktails, polpette, reasonable prices, fresh flavors
Misses- Since The Cookery is relatively new, the menu is still subject to change.  Appetizers were exceptional; entrees were very good but not great.

My best friend, Caroline, was visiting for the weekend.  As girlhood friends who grew up in Yonkers and fans of local gem Zuppa, we made a last-minute decision to try Chef David DiBari’s new venture, The Cookery, in Dobbs Ferry.

Now, I’m pretty sure I remember this space as JP’s -a local watering hole with some pub food- from my early 20s.  The space has since taken on a more refined look without sacrificing its comfortable, local quality.

Upon sitting, we were promptly treated to a tall, tin basket of fresh bread slices in a crinkly, faux-newspaper lining and some ho-hum olive oil. IMG00350

Caroline had a lovely pomegranate and cilantro cocktail.  Mine was an incredibly fresh watermelon and Absolut pepper number.  When I saw one of the waiters carrying a whole watermelon up from the basement, I joked with the waiter.  “Wow! You’re bringing that whole watermelon up just for me? That’s a lot of pressure.”

Watermelon & Absolut Peppar (front) ~ Pomegranate & Cilantro (back)

Watermelon & Absolut Peppar (front) ~ Pomegranate & Cilantro (back)

We shared two appetizers.  The polpette, meatballs, were topped with fresh pomodoro (chunky, sweet tomato sauce) and dusted with a thick layer of parmigiano.  They were utterly soft but cohesive.  The fine art of meatball-making dictates a firm but soft product that is neither rubbery nor -on the opposite end of the spectrum- falls apart when cut with a fork.  I understand that these meatballs are a legacy recipe from the chef’s grandmother, so it’s easy to see how they’d be spectacular.  I would venture so far as to say that they are better than my own Italian grandmother’s meatballs (although if you tell her I said so, I shall vehemently deny it.)

IMG00352We also shared fresh-made (daily) mozzarella with olio novella and a splash of fresh balsamic with grilled tuscan bread.  My readers know that I’m quite the fusspot about mozzarella, and I’m happy to share that I thoroughly enjoyed this cheese.  It was just firm enough, but just soft enough with delicious milky flavor.  I found myself wishing for a little more balsamic because the sweet, thick vinegar used was so enjoyable.  Enthralled by the mozzarella, customarily the star of the plate, Caroline and I nearly missed the grilled tuscan bread.  We -rather unfortunately- overlooked at as mere garnish until, after sufficient cocktails and conversation, one of us (okay, it was me) absently broke off a piece of the bread while waiting for the busboys to remove the plate.  Holy cow! How did we miss that?!? The smoky char on the bread made this simple, rustic dish as much as the quality of the mozzarella.  To think— we almost missed it! I realized I’d gone about the appetizer all wrong and wished we’d had a recommendation from the waitstaff on how to eat the dish.  If you go, I’d suggest putting a forkful of mozzarella onto a broken-off crust of bread.  The sweet of the balsamic, the milky cheese, the char and bite of the bread… heavenly.

After some pleasant jokes about being engaged women in a restaurant filled with young, attractive waiters (if you’re a single, 20-something, I’d seriously consider putting a meal at The Cookery on your to-do list!), our entrees arrived. Caroline’s homemade pasta with spicy provolone, lentils, and guanciale (salty, cured, unsmoked Italian bacon made from cheek meat, hence the name, which comes from the Italian word for “cheek”) was cheesy.  “It’s pasta,” she commented.  Other friends have really enjoyed The Cookery’s pasta dishes, but this one -although the very essence of comfort food- felt unremarkable.


My entree was an organic, honey-smoked chicken breast, corn fregola (a round pasta with great bite that originated in Sardinia and is similar to large cous-cous), and swiss chard.  The chicken was flavorful and served au jus, with smoke the predominant flavor, honey second underneath the smoke.  The fregola was mixed with corn kernels.  The swiss chard was lovely… something I usually prepare in chicken stock myself since the flavors marry so nicely.  I was pretty full and didn’t make it all the way through the chicken.  Generally speaking, the dish was hearty and utterly comforting… a bit on the sweet side as a whole.


For dessert, we shared chocolate budino with vanilla gelato.  Budini, one of Chef DiBari’s signature items from his duration at Zuppa and one of my absolute favorites, is an incredible treat.   Now, budino technically translates into “pudding” or “bread pudding,” but budino is sooooo NOT just “pudding.”  Think more of the sticky, oozy British “puddings.”  They’re creamy, rich, and velvety on the tongue.  They can have distinct form, and -unlike Jell-O pudding from a box- they do not necessarily rely on their container for shape.  To demonstrate how good it was, I have no photo.  I dove into that budino like a bear pawing fresh, stream salmon.  I was so excited, I forgot to take a picture.  It was the last forkful when I realized the error of my ways, but -always one to turn a negative into a positive- I hope that offers you a true-life testament to the deliciousness of the dish.

Overall, I get the impression that The Cookery is feeling out its new space, and I have no doubt that the menu will get better and better.  It has a great local feel and a local-ingredients philosophy.  My first visit was promising, and I look forward to revisiting again in a few months to see what’s new on the menu.

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