There’s a new place to eat in Rosendale, in an old familiar location. Officially opened on January 1, it’s called the Truss and Trestle Diner; and if you remember its former incarnation, you’re in for a surprise.
In business for 50 years or more, the luncheonette in the Fann’s Plaza known as 32 Lunch had a reputation that might politely be described as “colorful” – especially under the auspices of its most recent chef/owner, Noli Limperopoulos, who had run the place since 1984. Consult any restaurant review website and you’ll find opinions split between those who found his sense of humor entertaining and those who were shocked and offended. “Ranting, angry abusive owner who was clearly trying to intimidate me,” wrote one visitor on TripAdvisor in 2019. “The cook is extremely rude/racist/homophobic,” another posted on Yelp in 2017. And yet the place had a faithful following, despite Limperopoulos’ notorious propensity for throwing customers out if he took a dislike to them for any reason (often political).
The food at 32 Lunch was generally praised, the ambience not so much. Health Department inspection reports can also be found online citing lack of cleanliness, poor construction of work surfaces, an inadequately equipped kitchen. The bathrooms were reputedly comparable to those found in gas stations in remote places. Clearly, it was long past time for a renovation.
Enter Gerard Swarthout, who took over the place in January 2020, with the intent of reopening the diner within three months. Covid-19 threw a monkey wrench into the plan.
A longtime patron at 32 Lunch, Swarthout was among those able to take the former owner’s controversial antics with a large grain of salt. He’s reluctant to say anything worse of Limperopoulos than to compare him to the Soup Nazi character on Seinfeld. But he did think that the place could do with an overhaul – and now he has made it happen.
A Kingston native who now lives in Bloomington, Swarthout’s main gig for the past 20 years has been running Bluestone Stonemasonry. However, the restaurant business was “always a thing I knew I’d get into eventually,” he says. “I’m a go-getter. I have to get over the seasonality of my work.”
His contracting skills have been put to good use over the past year. Inside and out, Truss and Trestle is almost unrecognizable, despite preserving the same building footprint and basic layout as 32 Lunch. “It’s a complete renovation. I gutted it to the concrete-block walls,” says Swarthout. “There used to be concrete floors that I jackhammered out and put new plumbing in.” That new plumbing was required to service three new sinks that needed to be installed in the kitchen in order to pass inspection. “Everything had to be updated and brought up to code.”
Among the structural changes he made was removal of an old drop ceiling that turned out to have concealed a system of steel trusses that strongly evoke the design of the railroad trestle spanning the Rondout Creek. That discovery has become emblematic of the role of the restursnt in the town’s appeal as a heritage tourism destination. They’re now fully exposed to view. “That’s why I decided to call it the Truss and Trestle.” He explains. “I wanted to get Main Street over here to this plaza,.”
The whole interior looks fresh and new, its booths along one wall refurbished, with a neutral color palette and an industrial-chic vibe. A tasteful wall-to-ceiling mural of birch trees dominates the square rear dining room. With a view toward drawing a dinner crowd for the first time in decades, Swarthout installed an impressive new L-shaped bar, some 22 feet in length. Its wood surface was repurposed from the lanes of a bowling alley that went out of business. He also built a new concrete patio on the Route 32 side of the building, to support an outdoor seating area once nice weather returns to the Hudson Valley.
With delivery of new equipment from manufacturers slowed down significantly due to the Covid crisis, Swarthout was able to do most of the renovation work himself over a longer timeline than originally planned, aided by his masonry-business crew. At long last, Truss and Trestle is open to the public at 50 percent capacity (although its hours of operation are still limited, opening at 8 a.m. daily and closing at 9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday through Tuesday).
The bar is equipped with liquors, mixers and a decent wine selection; coolers behind the long bar are well-stocked with bottled beers. Local microbrews will be brought in to supply the four beer taps as soon as full seating capacity is restored. Right now, with mostly takeout business, “It’ll go stale,” he notes. “Hopefully, we’ll have Guinness on tap by St. Paddy’s Day.”
At present, the menu is geared mainly toward breakfast and lunch food: “classic diner fare” which brings many of the former clientele of 32 Lunch back for more. “I’m not trying to take his menu,” he emphasizes/
What have been the most popular dishes so far? “The hand-cut fries have been pretty much a charmer. And everyone loves the chili.”
Long-term plan includes more dinner entrées, such as meat loaf and gravy and brisket that Swarthout likes to smoke himself. “I’m not inventing anything super-avant-garde at this point,” he says. “I just want this to be the best diner you can go to.”
At present, purchases are by cash only. To learn more about the Truss and Trestle Diner, including daily specials, visit www.facebook.com/chefgerard77. For takeout orders, call 658-2522.