Just 12 miles north of New York City — and a stone’s throw from the New Jersey state line — is the Rockland County hamlet of Tappan. Less than three square miles in area, this tiny burgh is a hotbed of Colonial history. Major John André — the British officer who conspired with Benedict Arnold to take over West Point — was captured and executed here. The village’s historic district boasts no less than 15 significant landmarks.
And there is no shortage of restaurants in and around Tappan — one of the newest being the Commissary, which opened in 2010. Chef/owner Daniel Foti is a CIA grad who cut his culinary teeth at onetime Manhattan eateries Sign of the Dove and Arizona 206. In 2004 Foti moved north and opened the Baker’s Wife in Tappan, a popular bakery/takeout shop that served pizza, soups, and sandwiches.
Cozy charm: Commissary’s intimate dining room features white tableclothes and a variety of artwork
With just 11 tables, the Commissary is an intimate but not cramped space. The tangerine and maroon walls are full of paintings, mirrors, and other decorative touches. Mismatched plates and white tableclothes adorn the tables. A sound system plays a varied mix, from ’60s rock to cool jazz.
“I hate to use the word ‘continental,’ ” says Foti when asked to characterize his menu. “We try to shop seasonally, and prepare dishes using Mediterranean, Italian, and French techniques. I guess you’d call it New American cuisine.” The menu changes monthly, and features a healthy mix of meat and seafood appetizers and entreés.
During a recent visit, my companion and I started our meal with a radicchio and arugula salad and duck pâté, respectively. Bartlett pear and smoky Gorgonzola crumbles gave the salad some zing, which was nicely offset by a fresh-tasting viniagrette. Served on warm bread, the savory pâté got a balancing sweetness from the accompanying balsamic reduction. Both appetizers included pickled red onion, a crunchy, sweet-and-sour addition that brought together the other elements on each plate.
Chef Daniel Foti
Carnivores both, we sampled the stuffed chicken breast and the prime rib (a special that night). Stuffed with goat cheese and sage, then wrapped with proscuitto, the chicken was served on the bone, which helped keep the meat moist. The prime rib — a huge slice that I was unable to finish — was not too rare and sparingly seasoned, which allowed the taste of the beef to command center stage. Polenta (which could have used a bit more spice) and blanched green beans with carrots and red peppers came as sides.
Desserts are house-made (the caramelized coconut pudding is a favorite). We opted for flourless chocolate cake and apple crisp. The use of Belgian chocolate gave the cake a velvety sweetness, but the crisp had a crumbly topping that we pronounced “just right.”
Although small, the restaurant’s wine list has some interesting (and quite reasonable) offerings — including a Riff Pinot Grigio that we enjoyed so much, we made a pilgrimage to our local wine merchant to buy a bottle.
Historians — as well as those in the area for a little retail therapy (the Paramus Park Mall is a few miles away) — should find Commissary a welcome place for straightforward American fare.
» Visit the Commissary in Tappan, NY
» Visit the Commissary’s Web site at www.commissary65.com
» Visit Hudson Valley Dining Guide for more local restaurants
» Visit Food & Drink Guide for more local dining services