The New York Times


D I N I N G   O U T

A Place for Tuscan Flavors in Cold Spring

by M.H. REED

COLD SPRING —  This village has become so commercialized that it no longer seems a destination for the discerning. Yet, on recent spring evenings, the village, still empty of tourists, looked like the quaint old town that drew people here in the first place. The emporiums peddling spanking new antiques, scented candles or ubiquitous silver jewelry receded in the dusk, leaving the loom of Storm King Mountain and the sunset's afterglow on the silvery Hudson River. Although some of the character of the place has changed, much remains for eye and palate.

 Tucked into a corner of a charming courtyard, Cathryn's Dolcigno Tuscan Grill has added a few theatrical trimmings to the space once occupied by Vintage Cafe and, more recently, Dolcigno Tuscan Grill. Throughout these ownerships, the kitchen's star has risen and fallen. We now catch it on the rise. Someone at the stove is cooking with intelligence and putting a moratorium on oiliness, overcooking and pureed sauces like undistinguished slush.

 The restaurant's decor is snappier than the derivative styles of past attempts. Gaming board table tops are sealed under white linens, and instead of mildewed books and bric-a-brac, dried flowers and bottles of wine fill tall bookcases. A wall-climbing wooden snake, bold murals and great swathes of sheer fabric hang down from the ceiling - all done in robust rues hues without apology - giving the place an aura of romance and adventure. It is as genuine as a stage set, and it works.

 It is tough to go wrong ordering salad caprese with its stock of ripe tomatoes, fresh basil and creamy mozzarella. Sprightly mixed green salad made a decent lighter opener and was the generous underpinning for several appetizers, including a special of grilled shrimps, an offering to look for. Full of satisfying texture and smoky undertones, this dish deserves a permanent place on the menu. Not every item at Tuscan Grill is grilled or Tuscan, but an unusual starter of tart apple quarters wrapped in a thin sheet of smoked Scottish salmon topped by a bit of red caviar could be recommended. But beautifully grilled vegetables - fennel, eggplant - were weighted by smoked mozzarella, the addition of cheese a mistake in this dish and in pasta dishes as well.

 Goat cheese provided the sinker for farfalle caprino, the "light tomato sauce" already dense and unpleasantly intense from an excess of sundried tomatoes. And while not the heavenly delicacy of years past, farfalle all'arancia with cream and orange proved an acceptable facsimile.
 Think about having those delectable grilled shrimps for an entree; or, for a royal meal, begin with the shrimps and follow with bistecca al'espresso. Coffee and a hint of porcini added a superb huskiness to the meat. Good enough hanger steak suffered by comparison.

 Quite a few entrees involved simple preparation, and their success was a credit to a kitchen that has the courage to eschew the overwrought. In a classic pairing, silky, perfectly cooked calf's liver and a generosity of sage could have come directly from the Tuscan hills. And a thin but juicy pork chop arrived encrusted with fennel seed, in a winning marriage of flavors.

 Lovely free-range chicken, running with juices, took magnificently to fresh herbs and lots of lemon, and roasted salmon brought a clean-flavored slab adorned with fresh rosemary. All entrees came with an interesting mix of escarole, peppers and roasted potatoes.

 For those who must, desserts were harmless: buttery tiramisu sprinkled with good chocolate and coconut ice cream in half a cocnut shell.  A three-course dinner averages $30 without drinks, tax and tip. The restaurant is in the courtyard on the south side of Main Street.

HOURS: Lunch, Mondays through Sundays, noon to 5pm. Dinner, Mondays through Sundays, 5 to 10:30pm; Sunday brunch, noon to 3pm. CREDIT CARDS: All Major Cards. RESERVATIONS: Always a good idea.