It’s difficult to open a business in today’s economy. In a time when many are cutting back on extra spending, it’s especially hard to open a restaurant and even more so in a college town. One New Paltz eatery, however, is thriving.
Rock Da Pasta opened its doors last January and is the creation of chef Cody Ritson and owner Judy Steele. The rock and roll themed restaurant gained fast popularity and is now one of the top places to eat in town. The owners couldn’t be more pleased.
“We are thrilled,” says Steele when asked about Rock Da Pasta’s growing fan base. “Though, our first two weeks were really scary because we were the new kids on the block.”
Having been open nearly a year, Steele and Ritson are looking towards the future development. Rock Da Pasta now features a counter they hope to turn into a bar, and a stage is in the works too. The stage should be completed once students return from winter break.
“We are blasting out with our brand new beer and wine license, also some live music at the same time. We are looking forward to having live music on the new stage,” said Steele.
While customers are eating, the restaurant plays DVDs of famous live performances on its large plasma television to go along with the motif. An idea was expressed by Steele to allow local bands to bring in footage of their own to play as well. This would not only support the local music scene, but additionally give the restaurant new material to play.
“We are adding some new menu choices as well,” says Steele. “One of them is our new ‘Rock and Roll’. What it is, is it takes our pasta dishes that we already have on the menu and incorporates them into a pastry. It is now in a warm calzone wrap. The appetizer and dessert list will be expanded too.”
In the future, the owners would like to add a grill. This would create a new selection of entrees on their menu that would include chicken and possibly steak.
Ritson, the chef, creates every dish on the menu. He has years of previous cooking experience from Oceana in New York City. The dishes are then given an appropriate rocker name, like the “Purple Hazy Caprese Salad,” “Stevie Ray-Violi,” or the “James Brownie.”
“Naming a dish can take anywhere from three months to three minutes. Sometimes we try to build a dish around lyrics, names, or albums that we already like. Sometimes it all depends on the ingredient we are able to get, that’s how Purple Hazy Caprese was inspired because we were able to get purple basil,” said Steele.
In addition, the owners take pride in the fact that any dish can be made gluten free, wheat free, or vegetarian. Also, all ingredients are fresh and many are bought locally.
“Even with winter coming we are still using local apples in our apple crumble and will be freezing them for later use. Obviously, we like local first and foremost; we love to be able to have organic lemonade available and we like that we make our own, fresh, ice tea,” said Steele.
The owners’ philosophy of food service is to put lots of love, time, and artistic integrity in their creations. They want people to leave happy, full, and with the intention to return to the restaurant.
“We know we are headed into a bit of an economic crunch,” says Steele. “We want people to leave [the restaurant] thinking they got a good value for their dollar. We are trying not to be one of those places that is over priced so that people can come back again and again.”
Rock Da Pasta has started a frequent buyer card to encourage diners to return to the restaurant. If a customer buys nine lunches or dinners, he or she gets the tenth lunch free. The eatery also participates in SUNY New Paltz’s Hawk Dollars program. This allows college students, or their parents, to place money on their SUNY ID card and use it at various participating establishments around town.
“I like the atmosphere of Rock Da Pasta,” says Cat Tosiello, a junior SUNY New Paltz student. “The guitar chairs are fun and the artwork on the walls is interesting. Plus, I like walking in to different music each time I go.”
The artist of all the pieces in Rock Da Pasta is Robert Lewis Hoover. He is a friend of the owners, and every piece that is in the restaurant is also for sale, from giant portraits of Indian goddesses to small works of iron.
Steele explains, “We want people to come back because they like the atmosphere as a whole.”
The only complaint to be heard about the restaurant was that the place could use more room. Rock Da Pasta only holds seven or eight tables.
“I love the food, but it sometimes gets cramped inside,” says Sarah Wintman, another SUNY New Paltz student.
Steele and Ritson do have hopes for expansion. They anticipate to first move the New Paltz restaurant into a bigger space and maybe create a few more locations in the future.
“I would like to stay in the Hudson Valley for a while at first,” said Steele. “Expand the New Paltz restaurant, open one or two more in the Hudson Valley, and then we have the idea of maybe opening in Harlem. It’s a beautiful time for that borough. I like the small town demographic here as well, so maybe we’ll think about another college town.”
For more information on Rock Da Pasta call 845-255-1144, or visit their Web site at www.rockdapasta.com.