New Rochelle’s Hidden Gem

December 8, 2016

Fall is here, and the smell of pumpkin spice lattes fills the air. We can also smell something even more delicious wafting through the streets of New Rochelle: the aroma of seasonal dishes coming from the Culinary Institute of New York’s Dining Lab. Chef Costantino and Chef Vignapiano have created a menu that allows the culinary students to expand their palates and experience what it is like to work in a busy kitchen. The dishes they will be serving such as their crispy flatbread with wild mushrooms, truffle oil, creamy manchego cheese, and fried sage, just scream tasty. We had the pleasure of watching how all of the dishes on the new menu are made, and speaking to some of the students in attendance about their culinary inspirations.

The eager culinary students paid close attention to the precise details of how the dishes were meant to look and taste, and snapped pictures of the finished products for posterity. As we watched, Chef Costantino called for pots, pans, and garnishes. “It can get stressful in the kitchen, but the Dean wants things to be precise,” said intern Geoffrey Decoster, who hopes to one day own a restaurant or food truck with his father, Alain Decoster.

One of the entrees on the menu features the fresh rigatoni pasta that Chef Vignapiano makes in-house each day. The dish includes braised chicken pizzaiolo, kale, and focaccia crumb. Every meal carries with it a specific cultural significance. Chef Costantino told the students about his personal relationship with the dish as he demonstrated how it is made. “This is what we ate on Sundays. A simple dish like this.”

When we asked intern Samantha Jimenez why she wanted to be a chef, she said, “Growing up in the kitchen with my grandmother made me want to become a chef. It was a time when my family was all together and happy.” A similar sentiment was shared by intern Grismeldi Ortiz, who talked about her mother’s influence on her cooking. When we asked her to talk about her favorite Mexican dish, she responded, “That is such a tough choice, but I have to choose my mother's mole poblano”.

By drawing on the memories and cultures of the chefs and students, the Dining Lab offers its patrons a glimpse into their pasts, experiences, and tastes. This is what is so special about cooking. It is not just the food that you’re eating, but also the memories that go into it. Good food gives the diner a moment to relax after a long day, to forget their problems in the outside world, and to feel at home. The Dining Lab offers its patrons that home away from home; it is a hidden gem that deserves far more recognition.