More Than Antiques
A bevy of new restaurants — including Ca’Mea, featuring simple yet artfully prepared Northern Italian dishes — offers visitors another reason to visit Hudson
By Anitra Brown
Tell people that you review restaurants, and you always hear the same thing: “I wish I had that job.” No one wants to hear about the hardships — long drives for mediocre food, pretentious waiters in polyester tuxes, champagne served in red wine glasses.
I’ll admit, those experiences are receding into the past as the Hudson Valley comes into its own as a restaurant scene. Nowhere is the change more evident than in Columbia County’s Hudson. Just a decade ago, the turn-of-the-century downtown was downright shabby, and the sole bright spot, Charleston, was one of only two or three good restaurants in the entire county. Now Warren Street is a miracle-mile of shopping for antiques and home furnishings, with shops that would be perfectly at home in Soho. (In fact, some of them have moved here from Soho.) And when you tire of shopping, your toughest decision is which restaurant to choose. You can tuck into burgers and Belgian frites at Red Dot, catfish and crayfish at Jubilee, or enchiladas and chimichangas at Mexican Radio, among others.
About a year ago a new Italian restaurant called Ca’Mea (“my house”) arrived on the scene, startlingly sophisticated in its dÃ©cor, and serving simple Northern Italian fare. Chef-owner Franco Ammirati is a native of Liguria, in northwestern Italy, and draws his inspiration from that region, while co-owner Roy Felcetto oversees the front of the house.
Set on the corner of Warren and City Hall, Ca’Mea occupies what was once two storefronts. The main dining room has rich cherry floors and a gorgeous coffered mahogany ceiling that gives the room a formal feeling, even though the table settings are casual. Buttercream-colored walls are hung with large watercolors and iron wall sconces with candles. The large bar at the back does a nice job of seating single diners and offers a view onto the lovely outdoor dining patio. A second dining room has a honey-colored oak ceiling, which gives the room a lighter, quieter atmosphere.
The wine list is small at just 22 selections (10 whites, 10 reds, and two sparklers), but they’re well chosen and reasonably priced. (A bottle of Veuve Clicquot for $55!) We chose a Roero Arneis (the grape variety) from Piedmont ($31), a medium-bodied white with lovely fig and honey flavors.
The menu is also small, with just four antipasti, three salads, six pasta dishes, and five entrÃ©es, but it’s filled out with daily specials. A terrific way to start is “bresaola della valtellina” ($9.50), paper-thin slices of richly flavored mountain-cured beef laid out across the plate, drizzled with a touch of refreshing lemon vinaigrette, and presented with a handful of arugula greens and a wedge of lemon. Another good starter is a half-portion of the homemade “Gnocchi Ca’Mea” ($7), plump little dumplings made of potato flour and served in a light tomato sauce with chopped arugula. “Calamari in casseruola” ($9), a hearty starter of fresh squid in a tomato sauce with unpitted black and green olives, was less successful because the squid was a tad rubbery and the capers were added with too heavy a hand.
There are several simple dishes with handmade pasta: linguine with pesto ($14), pappardelle in porcini mushroom sauce ($15), and spinach and ricotta ravioli in fresh tomato and basil sauce ($15).
The selection of menu entrÃ©es is surprisingly short: grilled sirloin steak with arugula ($21); grilled jumbo Mediterranean shrimp ($21); sautÃ©ed chicken breast with fresh artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes ($15); and veal scallopini ($18.50), rounded out with a few specials. The final entrÃ©e is always fish, which changes daily. We tried the veal scallopini, a very nice version with a thin layer of eggplant and tomato sauce and good buffalo mozzarella on top. The portion size was reasonable, too; you could actually eat what was on your plate instead of having to take half of it home. The grilled lamb special ($21) was also good — four butterflied chops served with bright green broccoli florets and roasted potatoes. The only disappointment was an over-seasoned pasta special of cappellini with rather bland shrimp, tomatoes, and chopped arugula ($15).
For dessert, I recommend the rich wedge of chocolate mousse cake flavored with a hint of orange liqueur, as well as the excellent tiramisu. The slice of mixed berry tart with custard was served too cold — the currants on top were nearly frozen. But they really know how to make a cappuccino, deeply flavored with a creamy head of foamed milk.
The service is friendly, attentive, and competent, and was certainly swift in getting food to the table. If anything, we could have used a slightly slower pace. Overall, Ca’Mea is a welcome addition to the restaurant scene in the Hudson Valley, which is bursting with new openings and talent that makes being a reviewer fun. We don’t even mind a long drive or polyester tuxes when the food is good.
Ca’Mea is located at 333-335 Warren St. in Hudson. Dinner is served Wed.-Sat. 5-10 p.m. and Sun. 5-9 p.m. Lunch is served Wed.-Sun. 12-3 p.m. Appetizers range from $6 to $10, pasta from $14 to $16, and entrÃ©es from $15 to $21. (Specials may be higher.) Reservations are recommended. 518-822-0005.