At the corner of Broadway and Abeel Street in Kingston’s Rondout District, there’s a building with a “flatiron” configuration and the name Greenwald’s memorialized in mosaic on the step up to the entryway. Max and Jacob Greenwald were Cunard steamship agents helping European families immigrate to the area in the early 20th century, and the storefront had housed their agency. Visitors to the neighborhood in recent years would remember it as Skillypot Antiques, a dense cluster of booths hosted by different antique dealers, with racks of vintage clothing hanging in the big front windows.
Sadly for some, Skillypot didn’t survive the pandemic, closing its doors for good in 2020. But home furnishings treasure-hunters’ loss is gourmets’ gain: The wedge-shaped 3,000-square-foot space has found new life as an Italian deli, bakery and café, under the auspices of a highly acclaimed chef, Anthony Sasso, and his three sisters, Andrea, Nicole and Ashley. It’s called Rosie General, to honor their mom.
Anthony Sasso is native to Glasco and grew up in the area, learning the basics of Italian cooking from his grandmother and attending Kingston High School before heading off to the Big Apple to seek his fortune. And find it he did: After college, he spent some time visiting an aunt in Spain and immersing himself in Catalan cuisine. “I fell in love with their food,” he says. Upon his return, in 2004, he got hired as a prep cook at a brand-new tapas restaurant near Gramercy Park called Casa Mono. “I was their third or fourth employee,” he recalls. He then went back to school at the Institute for Culinary Education, did an externship with Bobby Flay, obsessively watched celebrity chefs like Emeril Lagassé on the Food Network, made another trip to Spain to work at El Hogar Gallego.
Upon his return, Sasso settled in at Casa Mono once again, this time for a long haul. His mentor, Andy Nusser, gave him increasing responsibility and made him chef de cuisine in 2008. The following year, Casa Mono was awarded its first Michelin star; in 2015 Pete Wells of The New York Times gave the place a “shining three-star review,” which Sasso says is practically unheard-of for a restaurant so small and casual.
While working in the City, Sasso would come up to Kingston on his Mondays off to visit family and also learn the art of butchering with Josh Applestone at Fleischer’s. He used that knowledge to establish in-house butchery and meat-curing programs at Casa Mono. But by 2017 he was ready to try some new horizons, signing on with Nusser’s partner Mario Botali as executive chef at La Sirena. A year later he was getting invited by the James Beard Foundation to give cooking demonstrations on cruise ships.
In 2019 he set out on a five-month cross-country road trip, with LA the ultimate destination, but making it a point to couch-surf the homes of former co-workers from his 13 years in the Casa Mono kitchen and learn as much as could about American regional cuisine. The plan he had in mind to create a Southern California outpost for the Andy Nusser/Mario Batali/Joe Bastianich restaurant consortium didn’t pan out once he got there, so he decided to learn baking hands-on at Gjusta in Venice Beach. He made it back to Kingston to regroup, having given up his place in New York City, three months before COVID struck in early 2020.
Fed up with the burnout hours of working in a trendy urban restaurant, Sasso had decided to return to Ulster County and start a new business that could involve his sisters. The pandemic hiatus afforded them plenty of time to find and renovate the right location. “I fell in love with 20 places before I found Skillypot,” he says. He thought at first of making it a butchery; but the memory of all the little shops he’d visited on his road trip, his sister Nicole’s baking expertise and lower Broadway’s rich history as a home for ethnic bakeries combined to persuade the family that a combined bakery and café was the way to go. Noting that there was no greengrocer in the immediate vicinity, they decided to offer some fresh produce from their parents’ garden and local farms, as well as staple grocery items. “We’re a neighborhood joint,” Sasso says.
While the Sasso siblings have made every effort to preserve the funky period atmosphere of the Greenwald’s building, including its wood-plank floors and pressed-tin ceiling, the dim clutter of its antique-store days has been replaced by plenty of light and room to circulate. The step-down area in the front windows is but one of several clustered seating areas now. A long L-shaped counter holds the espresso bar and displays enticing arrays of breads, rolls, bagels, pies, cakes and Nicole’s extraordinary cookies, all baked on-premises. Candies and other things that appeal to kids are displayed on shelves at their eye-level.
Behind the counter is the kitchen where sandwiches are constructed and salads assembled. They also make and package lots of value-added gourmet prepared foods, such as specialty condiments, sauces and “ferments.” (Your humble correspondent enthusiastically recommends the pistachio pesto.)
Rosie General opened in May; its hours are from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, with the kitchen closing at 3. Breakfast and lunch items are both served all day. Sasso says that he is eager to expand his staff enough to stay open into the evening hours and serve dinners “eventually. Maybe we’ll start phasing it in on Mondays, when everything else is closed.” Butchering meats on-premises is also part of the plan – to be added to the pastrami, bacon and trout that they already smoke and/or brine themselves – as is sourcing ingredients locally as much as possible. Will Iberian dishes reflecting Sasso’s years as a tapas chef be far behind? Stay tuned.