3182 Route 9
Cold Spring, NY
Focaccia is the ultimate Italian “comfort food”. Essentially a flat bread pizza, focaccia incorporates the bread basics of flour, water, salt, and yeast, and adds olive oil. Good olive oil. A trattoria staple, it can be shaped and topped into as many variations as pasta, but it always come down to the bread, which comes down to the dough ingredients and the oven….and the hands that shape the process. Which brings us to Eddie Lauria, whose hands also created Eddie’s Gourmet Pizza, Il Barilotto in Fishkill, and Aroma Osteria in Wappingers Falls.
Last summer the Lauria’s sold their interest in Aroma to a few of their key employees, with all good intentions of spending the summer in Europe, and scaling back their activities into a semi-retirement. That plan lasted, as any of us who knew Eddie knew it would, about a month and a half. Space was available in a mall on Route 9 in Cold Spring that the Lauria’s were developing with their partners, John and Michele Christiano, and a business plan was hatched. The partners were aware of one authentic focacceria – Liguria Bakery in San Francisco – and they believed that the east coast was ready for one. A year later, Grano Focacceria (Grano is Italian for wheat) was open with forty seats and an immediate fan club.
The concept was to take the focaccia from the bread basket, and place it in the center of the table, topped with only the freshest, highest quality, home made ingredients. Italian San Marzano tomatoes are hand crushed for the sauce. Only fresh mushrooms for the toppings, or sweet basil, and whole milk mozzarella. The garden down the road at Graymoor in Garrison gets raided on a regular basis.
The focaccias are baked on 12″ by 18″ rectangular pans, in a 525 degree brick oven for about fifteen minutes. The olive oil promotes a crispy thin crust that is light and airy and deceiving in its complexity. I would have guessed that the pizza dough was made with a delicate 00-pizza flour, but only high gluten bread flour is used.
There are as many focaccia variations as there are towns in Italy, ranging from added potato in Puglia to Venetian honeyed focaccia Easter cakes, but the common theme is a good olive oil and more leavening than a typical Neopolitan pizza. The leavening contributes to the extra rise of the bread, which also allows the olive oil to distribute throughout the crumb. That adds significantly to crispness and flavor.
Focaccia is not the only offering on the menu here, although the eight varieties on the menu account for about 70% of sales. Other appetizer selections include an artisanal burrata with arugula and grape tomatoes ($10), assorted salumi – capicola, mortadella, and Prosciutto di Parma ($12), and my favorite from Aroma, arancini ($8) – saffron risotto balls with smoked mozzarella and bolognese. If you are in the mood for a full entree, choices include Tegamino ($14) – baked Italian eggplant $(14), tomato and mozzarella, or grilled shrimp ($20) and broccoli rabe, or a baked pasta – Casarecce Al Forno ($16), with meatballs. Locally made Jane’s ice cream will finish your meal perfectly.
The wine list offers eight bottles of value focused Italian wines by the bottle or glass. A Cà Donini Pinot Grigio, will set you back $7, along with $3.50 for a slice of specialty focaccia. ($2.50 for the Margherita). You could also splurge for the best wine on the list – a Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Baiocchi ($38 btl | $10 gl).
Grano Focacceria offers an opportunity to sample classic Italian home style baking in an informal, casual, and very inexpensive venue. Nothing fancy, nothing complicated, just fantastic homestyle baking the way your mother did it….if your mother was the best cook in the neighborhood….in Naples.