The Grille at Novella’s has new manager, Cheryl Valentino

Cheryl Valentino is the new manager of The Grille at Novella’s. (Photo by Lauren Thomas)

The Grille at Novella’s has been open for almost two years now, but the restaurant remains a bit under-the-radar with locals, despite rave reviews heard from anyone who has dined there. It could be that The Grille’s location outside of the village puts it out of the usual range for those looking for a quick bite to eat, or that its close proximity to the Hampton Inn, right off the Thruway, makes one wonder if it’s perhaps a tourist joint. And it doesn’t help that the turn-in off South Putt Corners Road is a bit tricky to navigate.

But any of those objections should be overruled. The restaurant serves dinner seven days a week from 4-10 p.m. The dining room seats up to 40 with guests welcome to eat in the lounge area, as well, which features a gas fireplace and high-top tables, within view of the bar and its unique star-shaped lights overhead. The ambience is upscale but casual, adaptable to a special celebratory meal as well as that quick weeknight meal. Service is attentive and friendly, equally welcoming to the tourists who come in from the hotel or locals who make the drive to the end of town. 

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The signature drink menu includes the Blood Orange Margarita ($10), made with blood orange liquor, tequila, Cointreau and lime juice in a salt- or sugar-rimmed glass, and the Green Tea ($9), and a peartini ($10) made with vodka, amaretto, pear nectar simple syrup and fresh pear. An espresso martini ($10) is made with vanilla vodka, Kahlua, espresso and Bailey’s, and classic red or white Sangria is made to order ($9). House wines are $7 for a glass with a nice selection of wine available in the $9-$10 range. On draft are Stella, Lagunitas IPA and seasonal choices. Select bottled beers are available.

On the menu, ten-ounce Angus beef burgers ($15-$17) are hand-packed, served on a toasted brioche bun, and the dinner menu features a selection of steaks, from an eight-ounce filet mignon ($29) to a 16-ounce strip steak ($30). This reporter recommends the sliced steak sandwich ($17) served with caramelized onions and red wine reduction on toasted ciabatta bread. A 14-ounce grilled pork chop ($23) is served with herb roasted potatoes and grilled pineapple chutney, and a pan-seared Atlantic salmon ($24) is served with a strawberry and mango compote and balsamic reduction.

Pasta choices include a creamy crabmeat and kale Fettuccine ($20), made with lump crabmeat and sautéed kale in a creamy garlic mascarpone cheese sauce. Fettuccini and mussels ($17) are served in a saffron herb broth.

Appetizers include truffle mac and cheese ($9), a flatbread ($8) topped with sundried tomato pesto, goat cheese and pine nuts, calamari ($12) served with garlic aioli and “smashed beets” with tahini, lemon juice and herbs served with toasted pita bread, celery and carrot sticks.

Executive Chef James Kane, on board since The Grill opened, was previously chef at Rock & Rye Tavern. Kane started his culinary career at Le Chambord in Hopewell Junction, working his way up from dishwasher in his teens to sous chef. After eleven years, he switched from French cuisine to Italian at Urban Zuppa in Yonkers, moving on eventually to the Towne Crier Café in Dutchess County and then Rock & Rye in New Paltz.

“Chef James is amazing,” says new manager, Cheryl Valentino. Formerly the manager at The Gilded Otter, Valentino is one of their original employees, in fact, starting there as a bartender when they opened in 1998. Prior to that, she was a chef in the corporate world and earned a degree in hotel management at SUNY Delhi. Five years into working for the Otter, when a management position opened up for catering, Valentino took on the challenge and later became front of the house manager, a position she held until earlier this year. The parting was mutual and amicable, Valentino says, and she’s happy for the opportunity to remain in New Paltz and have the opportunity to help build up the business at The Grille.

Under Valentino’s management, The Grille has instigated a happy hour Mondays through Fridays from 4-7 p.m. at the bar. Beer costs $5, wine $6 and specialty cocktails $7. A selection of appetizers off the menu — mussels, chicken wings, flatbreads and more — cost $6. They plan to bring in more local wines and liquors produced in New York State, she adds, and improve road signage to help people find the entrance.

And with a lack of places to go in the area to watch sports but still have a good glass of wine or a specialty cocktail, she says, The Grille at Novella’s will offer special Sunday events this fall centered around football, with televisions tuned to the game and an earlier opening to accommodate. 

Down the road, Valentino says, The Grill plans to expand the building, taking out a wall and putting in a glass-windowed sunroom, ideal for bridal showers and other events. “We’re a business that’s here to stay,” she says. “We’re not going anywhere.”

The Grille at Novella’s is owned by Brian Keenan and Craig Gioia, who are also business partners in McGillicuddy’s in the village. Occasionally the restaurant closes due to a large party at the on-site catering facility; to check in advance, call or visit their Instagram or Facebook pages.

The Grille at Novella’s is located at 2 Terwilliger Lane, New Paltz.  More information is available by calling (845) 255-2122 or visit Novellasnp.com or “Novella’s New Paltz” on Facebook.

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