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David DiBari of The Cookery

Patch traces the career and explains the cooking philosophies of a Dobbs Ferry restaurant chef/owner who is gaining recognition for his imaginative and innovative and yet simplistic approach to comfort-Italian dining

From the beginning, chef David DiBari promised creativity and simplicity for the dishes to be served at The Cookery with priority on locally grown, quality, sustainable ingredients to be purchased from Hudson Valley farmers.

His pledges are being fulfilled. A big supporter of the Irvington Farmer's Market, The Cookery purchases many products and produce from the participating farms. In addition, it is outfitting its wait staff with T shirts that bear the names of seasonably available vegetables obtainable at the Irvington Farmer's Market.

Chef DiBari along with partner Michael O'Neill, opened The Cookery in Dobbs Ferry in March, 2009. Prior to starting the Italian comfort-food restaurant, DiBari had been executive chef at Zuppa in Yonkers for five years and O'Neill had handled the front of the house at Zuppa for four years.

The Cookery opened during difficult economic times in the country. The owners rewarded each customer who ordered a drink called the "Obama Stimulus Package" with a crisp new dollar bill as a coaster. The beverage, a rum and pineapple cocktail, was intended as a salute to the newly elected president. It also was a first hint that this management had no intention of boring its patrons with unimaginative food or beverages.

"We picked the name The Cookery," DiBari said, "because that was what we came here to do - cook great food."

When it opened, The Cookery's menu combined new dishes with some of DiBari's signature favorites such as beef short ribs; crisp Heritage pork osso bucco; "Easter Pie" made with ricotta cheese and salami; cauliflower ravioli; and grilled pizzete with clams, garlic and olio santo. Old DiBari favorites on the dessert list included fritters made with gelato and marmalade, and Budino, a warm Valrhona chocolate bread pudding with chocolate anglaise and fresh berries. 

The new dishes created for opening day included a creamy pasta called "White Lasagna" that combined bechamel sauce with ricotta, mushrooms - the dish originated in the region of Marche in Italy.

Crisp Heritage pork osso bucco ($23), cauliflower ravioli ($14), and white lasagna ($15) are still on the menu although their recipes may have undergone some refinements.

Pasta fritta and Budino remain from the original dessert selection. Two exiotic sweet treats were recently introduced: sticky tortina which is a warm date cake with toffee and vanilla gelato, and liquid amaretto cake with Slovenian sea salt. All desserts are priced at $8.

Once the doors had opened, DiBari set out to develop Italian-influenced dishes that reflected a "progressive approach" to simplicity. "The idea was to to use a few simple ingredients to make one harmonious dish," he said. Newer dishes include whole grilled Branzino ($25), crisp duck legs ($23), chicken al matone ($21), and macaroni lisci with octopus, green chili and pistachio ($13). Chicken al matone is butterflied chicken weighted down when grilled by a brick for crispy skin.

While in high school, Dibari worked part-time at the Paradise Bar & Grill in Verplanck, New York and at Crystal Bay Seafood & Company in Peekskill. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, he trained under Mario Batali at Babbo and with David Bouley at Danube. He also cooked at Windows on the World, Patroon and Five Points. Before joining Zuppa, he was the executive chef at Eastchester Fish Market.

DiBari's mother had a job so his grandmother helped with the cooking. When he was 13, he was trusted to clean green beans and other vegetables grown in the garden; grandma introduced him cooking when he was 15. Her large wooden kitchen table occupies a place of honor by the window at The Cookery and is used to seat larger parties. Laura Capicotto, his mother, helps out occasionally by making pasta and consulting on recipes.

On Thanksgiving Eve in 2009, The Cookery provided complimentary dining for the less fortunate in cooperation with local charities. Earlier in the year, it donated a portion of its receipts to the charities of choice of its customers.

DiBari recently toured Italy and part of his mission was to find new wines. After much tasting he selected three: 2007 Valpolicella Classico Superiore (Ripasso) M. Castellani from Veneto; 2007 Verdicchio "Casal di Serra," Unani Ronchi from Le Marche; and 2009 Sauvignon, Torre Rosozza from Friuli. All are priced at $40 per bottle or $11 per glass. 

The Cookery, located at 39 Chester Street, Dobbs Ferry, serves lunch and dinner every day except Monday and provides a prix-fixe bunch at $24 per person plus tax and tip on Sunday. Tuesday through Thursday: Lunch is from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and dinner from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday: Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and dinner is available from 5:30 to 11 p.m. Saturday: Lunch is from 1 to 4 p.m. and dinner is from 5:30 to 11 p.m. Sunday: Brunch is from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and dinner is from 4:30 to 9 p.m. Reservations are available on Tuesday through Thursday and on Sunday. On Friday and Saturday, reservations will be accepted for parties of five or more people. 914- 305-2336. www.thecookeryrestaurant.com.

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