Upon entering the warmly-lit space of Market St., one can immediately sense the palpable urgency that runs like a current into every corner of the restaurant. Servers, smartly attired in stark-white V-neck t-shirts, glide effortlessly from table to table, filling water glasses and checking on meal quality, with a timeliness that can only be described as clockwork.
On a busy weekend night, seated at a banquet table near their swinging kitchen doors, you may get the opportunity to glimpse the chefs hard at work behind the line, meticulously preparing and sending out plate after plate of Gianni Scappin’s unique take on rustic Italian cuisine: steaming plates of bucatini carbonara with guanciale and cauliflower; spring pea and ricotta bruschetta laced with fresh mint; impossibly fresh flounder, perched atop truffled parsnip purée and roasted Brussels sprouts.
The bar crowd is buzzing as well, with savvy bartenders churning out classic, well-made Manhattans and Martinis, tailor-made to the customer’s preference, in addition to the restaurant’s signature Ginger Margaritas and Burnt Venetians (a snappy, refreshing mixture of Tito’s handmade vodka, Aperol, lemon, and prosecco). With an undeniably addictive combination of masterfully prepared Italian dishes and impeccable, prompt service, it is no wonder Market St. is packed every night of the week.
Opened in 2012 by Chef Gianni Scappin and Lois Freedman, Market St. is the pair’s second venture (after it’s sister restaurant Cucina in Woodstock, NY) into offering the area’s diners a chance to experience the combination of authentic Italian flavors and seasonal Hudson Valley ingredients. Hailing from Marostica, a town in northern Italy’s Veneto region, Chef Scappin pays homage to the culinary values of his home country by combining seasonal ingredients with high-quality Italian products to create honest, harmonious flavors: “As much as possible we try to use local ingredients and truly follow the farm-to-table philosophy — which is pretty much how Italy has been doing it for centuries.”
According to Chef Scappin, the Hudson Valley’s awareness of the importance of cooking with seasonal produce is evolving in a positive way. Local farms are gaining popularity, and people have better access to what the land has to offer. And you can be sure that if a local farm is growing it, Market St. is serving it. A quick glance at their menu will assure you that your food is being grown or raised locally, as they make it a point to proudly feature Hudson Valley farms such as Sky Farm, Feather Ridge Farm, Hudson Valley Cattle Company, and Heermance Farm beneath descriptions of their seasonal dishes. This conviviality between farms and restaurant reflects a respect both for where the products come from and for the ingredients themselves.
Allowing ingredients to speak on their own, and not trying to obscure their flavors with excessive technique, is a tenet of Italian cooking continued at Market St. And with a wonderful array of seasonal items to choose from, not to mention the myriad mushrooms and edible plants one can forage from early spring into late fall, the Hudson Valley seems the optimal location to explore a farm-to-table philosophy.
Chef de Cuisine at Market St. Ross Markhart describes his perspective on the local food scene as having been shaped by his transition from growing up on the west coast to discovering the Hudson Valley during culinary school: “In California, there were always great markets with wonderful produce — because anything can grow at anytime in southern California — but what was missing was a real appreciation for seasonal items. Here in the Hudson Valley, there is a great anticipation for ingredients as their respective season slowly approaches, this being especially true when coming out of the dearth of winter into the blossoming of spring.” Ramps, morels, and fiddlehead ferns are just a few locally-foraged ingredients that Market St. incorporates into its cuisine. And these particular items, which come about in early spring, are only “harbingers of the bounty that is still to come” in summer and in fall, Markhart adds enthusiastically. Classic Italian dishes, such as Market St.’s Neapolitan-style pizza or a great local pork chop, serve as canvases upon which to showcase the cherished and temporal flavors of native flora.
Chef Scappin’s Italian roots shine not only through Market St.’s unique ingredient-focused approach, but additionally through the hospitable environment that the staff manages to create. Luciano Valdivia, General Manager of Market St., posits that “in the restaurant industry, ‘hospitality’ is often given lip service, but is unfortunately rarely focused on. It’s not just about taking orders and anticipating people’s needs, but also about creating an environment where people feel welcome, like they are a part of our family.” If you are a regular diner at Market St., you have surely experienced the kind of service that Valdivia is speaking of. The restaurant makes it their business to remember and respect the preferences of every familiar face — whether you like ice on the side with your glass of Pinot Grigio, or if you prefer your salmon cooked just north of medium-rare, you can be certain that your wishes will not only be recalled by the attentive staff, but that they will most likely remember them before you have a chance to yourself. “As hosts, we strive every day to consistently deliver what the customer both wants and expects, without them always having to communicate it,” says Valdivia. Like family, the customers at Market St. are expected — and encouraged — to treat the restaurant like a home away from home: a place where they can come to relax, enjoy their favorite dish, and leave their stresses behind.
Market St.’s philosophy on food and hospitality is infectious, and is surely emblematic of the greater Hudson Valley’s motion toward a slower, more thoughtful approach on cuisine. As appreciation for local farms and their products augments, the more restaurant owners must reevaluate their relationship with, and respect for, the inherent simplicity and beauty of seasonal ingredients. This sort of genuine experience that Market St. provides its diners presumes a long lifespan for the establishment, one that Valdivia expressly anticipates: “If the children that come in today with their parents bring their own kids to Market St. in the future, I will feel like we have created something that is indeed very special.” And what Chef Scappin and his team have created is, admittedly, already extremely special. Market St. is a place where Old World values come to shine in a New World setting — and that is a philosophy that can stand the test of time.
Photographs by Keith Ferris