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Opinion: Riverhead Culinary School Cafe a Local Treat

High-end service, delicious eats make this a great spot for local foodies.

Word is getting around about the café at the Culinary Institute of Riverhead, as well as the spectacular baked goods that are offered. The occasion cakes are unique to this part of Long Island and deserve special mention. The café operates Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Special sales on their baked goods are offered Monday, Wednesday and Friday after 1 p.m. This is a reason to have lunch out during the week. Just watching the students doing their thing should be present enough, but the dished-up flavors of their tasty concoctions are not to be missed.

The last week of April was midterm week for the students of the Culinary Institute, which is part of Suffolk County Community College system. The faculty understood the advantage of the Riverhead location and seized the opportunity to make this school stand apart from the competition. Their facilities are outstanding. Dinner on the April 25 and the luncheon on the April 26 were most certainly milestone accomplishments for the students, but even more so for the school. Director Richard Freilich should have been beaming with pleasure as the young hopefuls took their positions around the dining room. One pair assigned to each table of six watched their charges with eagle eyes poised to answer even the slightest request. Jonathon Matrone is a transfer student from upstate and believes that this venue is his future. Anton David dreams of owning his own soul food Restaurant. Both very tall and slender young men were perched along side our table and exemplified the art of fine service.

Serving from the left and removing from the right, refilling water glasses before being asked, replacing silverware to their proper position after each course without being intrusive: were noted by this diner. There were pairs of servers who needed to be schooled on engaging in private conversation, which certainly diminished their performance. Nancy Murro was both the professor and the maitre d’. She was on hand to correct, maintain and note how students would grade at each level of performance.

As to the food: it was special.

The menu read:

LUNCH MENU

April 26, 2011

Appetizer

Herbed Ricotta Parmesan Tortellini in Brodo - Served in a rich chicken broth

Entrée

Chicken Milanese

Saffron Risotto

Garlic Scented Broccoli Rabe

Fresh Baked Foccacia Bread

Dessert

Chocolate Almond Caprese Cake

Coffee

The soup was delicious but could have been hotter. The tortellini was a bit “al dente," but quite tasty. The focaccia was light and flavorful (warmed would have been nicer). Perhaps, there could have been some seasoned olive oil served. The chicken was perfect: light and crispy, as well as juicy. The saffron risotto was served at perfect consistency, temperature, and taste. One dining companion remarked that the broccoli rabe was the best he had eaten. Last but definitely not least, the almond cake was the rave of those who indulged.

An afternoon repast such as this for $15 should have been standing room only. Having noted these two special events, it is important to say that these dining experiences are few and far between. The Institute has a gala fund raising event planned for May 6. Steak and wine or beer pairing is the theme and the charge is $75 per person. Silent and Chinese Auctions and raffle gifts are planned. Please telephone 548-3701, for reservations. The best advice for the future is to sign up and request to be placed on their web site list. Their e-mail address is Genevieve Rippe <rippeg@sunysuffolk.edu>.

This crop of young culinary hopefuls will end their semester with a very special luncheon at the Plaza Café in Southampton. Somehow, one knows that they will be a very observant and critical group to serve.

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