Monte Rosa Lodge Restaurant
17 Monte Cristo Trail
Hopewell Junction, NY 12533
The road leading to Monte Rosa Lodge is a series of switchbacks and twists and turns taking you from the Taconic Parkway at Miller Hill Road, up Wiccopee Mountain. If you miss a turn and end up back on the Parkway, you will not be the first person to do so. The Monte Cristo Trail winds through the woods, which are dotted with hunting stands that the Monte Rosa hunting club uses during deer season in the fall. My first visit to the club was twenty five years ago with my friend Nino, who is a long time member and avid deer hunter. Monte Rosa’s reputation lies not only with its history as an Italian American men’s hunting club, but also as a lodge serving copious quantities of terrific traditional Italian family style food. It was for one of these dinners that twenty two of us ventured back up the mountain last Wednesday.
The Rosa family has run the kitchen here for as long as anyone can remember. In days of yore, “Momma” Marianna Rosa would greet diners from the kitchen entrance, as she stirred her sauces and baked bread on an old genuine wood fired cook stove that is still in the lodge’s kitchen today. The only other places I still see stoves like this are in “off the grid” fishing camps in the Canadian wilderness, but Inuit cooks can’t make sauce like this (and egg plant is hard to come by in boreal forests). Today Aten Rosa continues the family tradition, and he helped me make the arrangements for last week’s dinner.
Diners at Monte Rosa can attend one of the public functions held annually – a clam bake is scheduled for July 9. A second annual event is the fall pig roast, which will be held this year on September 17th. Or you can just put together two dozen friends and have your own dinner, which is what we did last week. A friend’s impending nuptials occasioned the night out, and this is what men of a certain age do in the way of a “bachelor party”. We eat and drink and smoke cigars, and eat and drink some more. And that is enough. Especially here.
|Original Kitchen Wood Fired Cook Stove|
For private parties you get to choose from a smorgasbord of available dishes. The complete list of menu selections appears here. Last week we started with platters of antipasto – sliced tomatoes and peppers and slices of cured prosciutto and salamis. My favorite was a dish of roasted zucchini, with just a drizzle of olive oil, served with baskets of piping hot Italian bread, fresh from the oven. I added a platter of stuffed eggplant to the choices, which in hindsight was too much food, but we were all glad it showed up on the table. Next came the pasta course, for which I had chosen a linguine tossed with white clam sauce, and a penne pasta which was served with separate bowls of Bolognese. All of this is served “family style” with a half dozen bowls of each dish passed round our table of twenty two diners. I can promise you this – no one leaves hungry. The kitchen also offered a half dozen other possible choices for this course, and I had a tough time choosing. I had to pass up the fettuccine carbonara and the risotto Milanese, which I recalled from prior visits were fantastic preparations. The entree selection was even harder, as I had sixteen choices from which to select three. I knew I needed one chicken and one fish, so I ordered the breast of chicken “Francese” style, and accompanied that with platters of shrimp scampi. My final selection was a roast pork “Marianna”, which is a kitchen specialty, and it seems to get better every time I try it. A slow roasted shoulder is succulent, perfumed with rosemary and garlic, and served with roasted potatoes and green beans. This dish is reason enough to drive up the mountain. On past visits I have also enjoyed the zuppe de pesce, and the stuffed breast of veal, both Italian classics that most of us do not make too often at home.
Big pots of espresso coffee followed, with plates of ricotta laced pound cake. The cake was just perfect with no topping of any kind necessary (but the bottle of Delamaine on the table was much appreciated.) All of this cost a grand total of $40 per person, plus tax and tip. I brought a few cases of our own wine from Sicily to serve with dinner, which did save some money. We started with a Tenuta Rapitalia varietal blend for a white wine, and a Mirabile Syrah to accompany the meats and red sauce. That worked out just fine, and the bar was open if anyone wanted anything stronger.
Monte Rosa is the perfect spot to host a family get together, or an office party, or just to join with a bunch of friends and spend an entire afternoon passing plates of fantastic Italian fare around the table. The restaurant is very comfortable and very casual. It is after all a men’s hunting lodge, and it looks and feels the part. It is also very much a part of the Hudson Valley’s culinary heritage, and one I heartily recommend you experience.