Of food and fencing: Palizzata takes a place in Kingston’s busiest neighborhood

Blake Soto of MB Construction of Kerhonkson adding stockade-motif fencing to Palizzata. (Photo by Phyllis McCabe)

Eric and Joseph Cafaro, father and son, have been working to create a restaurant with authentic Italian fare in the middle of the Stockade neighborhood in Kingston. It is to be called Palizzata — Italian for “palisades.” Palizzata will open its doors to the public in early to mid-June, Joseph Cafaro says, serving a variety of classic Italian dishes.

As it happens, last Thursday was an auspicious day to commemorate the history of Kingston’s palisade, or Stockade neighborhood. The date marks 360 years to the day that Dutch director general Peter Stuyvesant ordered the scattered settlers of what is now Kingston to create for their own protection a defensible settlement, a stockade protected by palisades.

Advertisement

Eight-foot-high wooden barriers made of tree trunks were erected in the autumn of 1658 around what is now known as the Stockade neighborhood, the core of today’s Uptown Kingston. The area they protected in 1658 was enlarged by subsequent additions to the Stockade in the 1660s and 1670s.

In today’s Stockade, the Cafaros, owners of Tony & Nick’s Restaurant in Ellenville, are extending the palisades theme, so much a part of local history, to the outside of the restaurant they are creating at 298 Wall Street, once the location of the Kingston Tea Garden and more recently Indian and Mexican restaurants. A row of tree trunks wouldn’t provide suitable decoration. Instead, stretches of rough-cut wooden fencing are being installed above the restaurant’s picture windows at the street corner of Wall and John. The pointed ends of the vertical wooden pieces face upward, as they would on a picket fence: an outpost of enclosure.

Chef Joe Cafaro says the restaurant will have 95 seats and will employ around 20 persons. It’s a big space. Cafaro expects that Palizzata will appeal both to local people and to visitors and tourists.

Cafaro says he wants to base his menu at Palizzata as much as possible on Hudson Valley foods — in the Italian tradition of local sourcing. His family, part of the regional food ecosystem, expects to lean heavily on existing relationships with local farmers in the Route 209 corridor. He will get some of his supplies through Ulster-based Hudson Valley Harvest, which distributes produce from 60 Hudson Valley farms to restaurants, grocers and others.

In 1658, not everyone was celebrating the new defining physical characteristic of the neighborhood. Not everyone was happy about the palisades — the row of tree trunks — and the reason had nothing to do with aesthetics.

The local 17th-century Indians, the immediate cause of Stuyvesant’s concern for settler security, were not pleased. The Lenape had farmed the rich alluvial plains of the Esopus Valley for centuries, and the desire of their new neighbors to fortify themselves infuriated them. A wall delineating private property was foreign to the Indians. The way they saw it, it was they who were being walled out. They didn’t love this wall.

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know

What I was walling in or walling out,

And to whom I was like to give offence.

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That wants it down.

                – from Robert Frost, “Mending Wall”

Many of the European settlers who did love this wall looked forward to housing their institutions (their school, their court, their church and their numerous drinking places) within its secure confines. They were not just securing a physical space, they were also building a community culture.

Dutch settlement included a degree of cultural toleration. The settlers were a motley lot of immigrants from a mélange of European cultures: Dutch, English, Scandinavians, French Huguenots, (later) German Palatines and others. Toward the end of the year before the director general’s Kingston edict, about 30 residents of the small settlement of Flushing in Queens had petitioned Stuyvesant for an exemption on his ban on Quaker worship. “We desire therefore in this case not to judge least we be judged, neither to condemn least we be condemned, but rather let every man stand or fall to his own Master,” they wrote him.

Some of the 1658 Kingston settlers hadn’t liked the high-handed way in which changes in land ownership was being handled back in their native lands. In Britain, many folks had been struggling for centuries against the enclosure by private landholders of lands held by custom in common. A popular protest poem of the seventeenth century expressed the anti-enclosure feeling:

The law locks up the man or woman

Who steals the goose from off the common,

But lets the greater felon loose

Who steals the common from the goose.

A block up John Street from Palizzata is the Ulster County-owned Persen House, one of the two local locations — the other is opposite Clinton Avenue in front of the Senate House — where archaeologists have found indicators of the 17th-century stockade. In the cellar of the Persen House, the wood from the original structure has completely rotted and disappeared, but the classic vee shape in the disturbed soil indicates the one-time presence of the downward-pointed posts that the Kingston settlers had pushed into the ground, creating or extending the crude palisades which they had been instructed by Stuyvesant on May 31, 1658 to build.

Also found by archaeologists during the dig in the cellar of the Persen House were two burn lines, the lower one dating back to the second Esopus-Indian war of 1663 and the higher one the British burning of Kingston in October 1777.

Stuyvesant was a tough customer, no doubt about that. Augustus Van Buren’s not-always-accurate 1912 history has him laying down the law to the assembled Indians checking out the new stockade. “In the meantime Stuyvesant called the Indians together and in substance told them they must behave themselves or he would blow them into the kingdom come,” Van Buren wrote. “To all this they faithfully promised.”

Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,

One on a side. It comes to little more:

There where it is we do not need the wall:

He is all pine and I am apple orchard.

My apple trees will never get across

And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.

He only says, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

– from Robert Frost, “Mending Wall”

The businesses in the present Stockade neighborhood reflect a wealth of diversity. The bustling place, a marriage of past and future, is no neat Colonial Williamsburg, that’s for sure.

What is more central to any culture than its food? It’s entirely appropriate that various nationalities might want to contribute to the neighborhood through honest representations of the best their ancestral cultures have to offer.

Joseph Cafaro senses the vitality and charm of the current Stockade renaissance, and says he is eager to become part of it. How will he contribute? What will be some of chef Cafaro’s own favorite dishes on the menu?

There’s beef braised in Barolo red wine from the Piedmont region, he says. There’s chicken tartufata, chicken wrapped in prosciutto and served in a creamy white sauce with mushrooms and truffles (chicken tartufata). And he recommends a veal-and-tuna combination served in a mayonnaise-like sauce with anchovies and capers (vitello tonnato).

Post Your Thoughts