The March 26 press release wasn’t long. But its effects were immediate, just as the reasoning behind Ric Orlando’s decision to close New World Home Cooking on Route 212 between Saugerties and Woodstock on April 7 spoke clearly about some truths regarding all the changes overtaking the region in recent years.
“Liz and I want to truly thank everyone, the hundreds of thousands of you, who have dined, celebrated and supported our vision for the last 25 years. We have had a remarkable run for an independent restaurant, but now it is time for us to move beyond New World Home Cooking,” Orlando wrote on behalf of himself and his wife, Liz Corrado. “We can’t thank all of you enough for the life we have shared. We will cherish the memories for the rest of our lives. We raised our family at New World Home Cooking and watched many of our customers do the same. This was a difficult decision but we are sure it is the right one for both of us.”
When we catch up with Orlando, headed up the Thruway to New World Bistro Bar in Albany, where he’s going to double his hours as a chef consulting partner, he speaks about a history of local restaurant ownership that kicked off when he opened New World in an old stone building on Zena Road in 1993. About the difference between being a 33 year old, and a man with numerous options now at 58.
He says he’s planning out the menu for New World’s last week on 212, wondering which old favorites to trot back out for everyone lining up to make their last reservations already.
“It’s going to be very, very busy. But I have to plan it right,” he said. “Even though I know we’ll still be giving a lot to the local food bank.”
Orlando said he first listed the large barn-like structure that’s been New World’s home since 1998 in the year after the economic downturn. It stayed on the market for most of 2009, but then things looked up enough to wait for a better economic climate. Two years ago, Orlando listed the place again, but when nothing more than “nibbles” were coming in he and Corrado decided it was time to close.
“We were originally going to close right after Thanksgiving but then we figured it would be too much for our employees, right before the winter,” Orlando added. “By waiting we’ve been able to help our staff, who are like family to us, all find new positions.”
The veteran restaurateur, who started his career in Boston and then Albany after growing up in New Haven headed for the punk/new world music world of his younger days, said most of the people he’s talked to about buying his space were looking for smaller venues.
“They like exposed brick again, intimate places that remind everyone of Brooklyn,” he said. “We’ve seen a lot of places opening up in recent years throughout the area but the truth may be that the market’s oversaturated.”
Moving forward, Orlando and Corrado will hold on to their building “as long as the bank lets us.” But they’re going to unfetter their own careers from the huge commitment running New World had always been.
Orlando noted that in addition to increasing his commitment to the Albany bistro, now considered among the Capital District’s top dining spots, he’s ready to start chipping away at a long list of projects. He’s starting a regular podcast for WDST, Radio Woodstock. He’s shopping a new cookbook with his writing partner, Peter Barrett. He was recently named a “chef partner” with the Hannaford supermarket chain, developing childhood nutrition programs, working towards in-store appearances, and developing recipes for the supermarket’s magazine. He’s collaborating with Field Goods, the regional CSA-like distributor of local farm products. He’s working with a travel agent, leading chef tours of great culinary destinations such as New Orleans. He’s put a new band together.
Meanwhile, Corrado — who’d spent the last 25 years working on New World rather than her own legal career, was recently hired as an attorney for Ulster County Family Court Services.
“We’ve done everything we wanted to and more. It was time,” Orlando said. “This will give us time to do some things that have been on the slow burner for a long time…All in all, I’ve filled my plate well for the future.”
As for the place that filled his time these past decades, just down the road from where he and Corrado still live in West Hurley, Orando was full of fond memories, both of food created and grand events. He talked about the many families he’s seen grow older alongside him, as well as memorable events such as the night of Barack Obama’s inauguration, when an SRO crowd had to shout down local police trying to shut the party down, or a string of packed benefits for the Haitian People’s Project.
Year after year, day after day, it was all about keeping loyal customers happy, he said. “I always kept an open kitchen; it was great how the place was based on so many deep friendships…There’s a legacy here. It was just a restaurant, but it’s more than that, too: We’ve been part of the community, part of the family — of many families. Closing is for sure a bittersweet experience.”
Orlando added that people should be making reservations now for not only New World Home Cooking’s final night, but all the nights of its final week.
He said a video camera will be set up to record customer stories and memories, to then be incorporated into a revised version of the restaurant’s website, newworldhomecooking.com, that will remain online after the physical restaurant’s closure on April 7.
Call 246-0900 for those “Last Supper” spots.