One of the new restaurant openings we were most anticipating at the start of the year, Apropos Restaurant at The Abbey Inn in Peekskill was also sadly one of the first reservations we had to cancel at the outset of the pandemic.
Thankfully, after months of waiting (and a few to-go brunches) we finally got to make good on that reservation.
Executive Chef John Paidas has crafted a well-rounded fine dining menu that balances traditional fare with more contemporary sensibilities, “Mediterranean by flavor profiles, Italian by cooking style,” as he puts it. Ingredients are sourced from local co-ops whenever possible, but the house’s famously imported olive oil, basted steaks, and a massive 80-pound cheese wheel we glimpsed passing through the kitchen hint at the meticulous technique that elevates each dish beyond your average farmers’ market find.
The restaurant itself is housed in the 118-year-old abbey, and both main and lawn view dining rooms — like the Abbey Inn — have been lovingly restored to highlight original architectural notes while modernizing and renovating the interiors.
All told, Apropos can seat 119, plus about 20 more in the abbey’s garden courtyard during the warmer months. Guests indoors and out will also benefit from the abbey’s extensively curated wine cellar (beneath the chapel and bell tower), which once completed will feature over 200 bottles, including a dozen carefully chosen New York State selections.
While combining the recent American trend of farm-to-table rustic and high-end Italian cooking techniques with a Mediterranean spice palate seems a daunting task, Chef Paidas delivers. The Caesar salad, despite being easily half a Romaine head, was light and crunchy, substituting perfectly toasted breadcrumbs for the traditional croutons, but then utilizing the slightest hint of Sorento lemon and anchovy in its dressing, a move which is traditional despite having waned in popularity in recent years.
As far as other starters go, the far more rustic grilled peaches have a real southern Americana vibe, pairing well with chopped nuts, fresh mint, and the creamiest, fluffiest, no-lumpiest house-made ricotta we’ve ever encountered.
In terms of entrées, the octopus Panzanella is excellently cooked with a great texture. Mint provides a nice, refreshing note along with thick cuts of heirloom tomatoes and pistachios for a little bit of crunch.
Lenghitta pasta plays merrily with textures, combining al dente noodles with crunchy broccoli rabe, soft fennel sausage, and crunchy breadcrumbs.
While the dry aged burger (with red onion marmalade, pickle, and smoked mozzarella) was calling our name, ultimately the aged ribeye won us over and it was absolutely the right decision. Perfectly seared to order, basting with anchovy herb butter creates a thick, beautiful, almost bark-like crust. The whole affair comes served over cauliflower and caramelized onion purée and a gluten-free agrodolce of roasted cauliflower and rehydrated sweet golden raisins.
For dessert, the panna cotta is soft and properly wobbly, topped with strawberry, fresh basil, and a drizzle of the house’s best olive oil.
For something a little sweeter, try the salted caramel gelato, served in a martini glass with graham cookie.
Classic cocktails are also available, as well as bottled beer and cider (Stella and a few local brews), along with a half-dozen New York drafts.
Apropos is currently open from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, until 9 p.m. Friday, from 1 p.m. until 8 p.m. Saturday, and from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Sundays. Sunday brunchers can also look forward to the restaurant’s $24 brunch special until 2 p.m., including two farm-fresh eggs, OJ, seasonal fruit, molasses cured bacon, sheep’s milk yogurt with house-made granola, and an English muffin.