Communal Dining at Cucina in Woodstock, NY

One of the Hudson Valley’s 12 best dishes in 2012: Communal dining at Cucina in Woodstock, NY (Ulster County)

When the old farmhouse that became Cucina was being remodeled, co-owner Lois Freedman dreamed up the idea of putting a long, communal table for 24 down the middle of the main dining room, and what she calls “a miniature one for 12” in the smaller room. “It’s partly to create a visual separation,” she says, “but also because communal dining creates a festive atmosphere. You can meet new people, be in the middle of the action. Sometimes people even share food; they’ll say, ‘Here, take a piece of my pizza.’ ”

You can be in the thick of things, sharing (or not) chef Gianni Scappin’s delicious modern Italian fare: crispy thin-crust pizzas (the Caprina — with goat cheese, fig-rosemary spread, pear, arugula, and truffle oil — is a favorite) or a pasta dish (perhaps rigatoni with sausage, peas, tomatoes, and a touch of cream), or something fancier like short rib stew with polenta, grilled lamb chops, or slow-roasted salmon. Although it’s not mentioned on the menu, groups at the communal table sometimes ask for a chef’s tasting menu, and share whatever Scappin wants to make.

communal tableThe communal table at Cucina brings groups of diners together for food and conversation

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Stargazing always makes an evening memorable. What celebrities might you spot at Cucina? Freedman, a cheerfully self-confessed blabbermouth, recites a small galaxy: “David Bowie and Iman, Heather Graham, Natalie Merchant, Anne Hathaway, Natalie Portman, Frank Langella — but they usually sit at private tables. Kate Pierson from the B-52s has had the communal table; she has large groups all the time.

“Communal tables are great for single people, too,” Freedman continues, recalling an anecdote from a restaurant in her past. “I had a single woman at the communal table, and a single man came in and I thought, ‘Hmm, let me put him across from her, maybe they’ll strike up a conversation.’ It turned out they hit it off. They left together, and I got a postcard a few months later from Hawaii — they were a couple!” Has such clever matchmaking occurred at Cucina? “Not yet,” she says. “I’m still working on it.”

» Visit Cucina in Woodstock, NY
» Go to Cucina’s Web site at
» Go to the Hudson Valley Restaurants Guide

» Back to 12 Memorable Meals 2012


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