Gianni Scappin: The Man from Gusto | Dining | Hudson Valley | Hudson Valley; Chronogram

Food & Drink » Dining

Gianni Scappin: The Man from Gusto


1 comment
  • Roy Gumpel

Gianni Scappin learned the basics of Northern Italian food at his father's side as a teen. He flirted with the idea of medicine, but cooking was a more accessible career, and the young man found himself at Recoaro Terme Culinary Institute, studying with masters on internships all over the nation that famously lives to eat.

After graduation, Scappin wandered for a while: a fine hotel in England; a stint in a cruise ship galley, the Excelsior in Venice. As he roamed, he made connections; when Castellano in Manhattan needed an executive chef, he was recruited from Europe. In Scappin's deft hands, Italian food soared past the city's expectations. It turned out that New Yorkers had been starving for risotto and tiramisu made with traditional ingredients.

His next adventure involved developing several restaurants around the globe. Lured back to Manhattan to lead the kitchen team at Pino Luongo's Le Madri, he let a guy named Stanley Tucci come help out, a course of events that led to the making of Tucci and Campbell Scott's cinematic love letter to Italian food, Big Night.  

Having conquered New York, Scappin headed back to Italy and reopened the family trattoria for a time. His then-wife Laura Pensiero missed the US, though, and the talented pair landed in Rhinebeck where they opened the still-thriving Gigi Trattoria in 2001.

That partnership didn't last, but Scappin's found his home here: teaching at the Culinary Institute of America, running Woodstock's Cucina and the Market Street Restaurant in Rhinebeck, and penning definitive cookbooks. This spring, he's bringing his signature approach to a third Hudson Valley location, across from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie.

  • Roy Gumpel

Why a third restaurant, and why Poughkeepsie?

Because we thought this particular place was a very good opportunity. Poughkeepsie has the colleges and offices, the hospitals—just the overall density that you need to support a restaurant year-round. Wintertime for both the other restaurants has been quite rough. I love Rhinebeck and Woodstock both, but things there are a little more seasonal. I don't like to lay off my good people for the winter. Their bills don't stop, I want to keep them working and keep them all year long. It's the right thing, and I want them faithful when spring and summer comes. So yeah, population—students, infrastructure, the attractions, the train station—I think we will be able to move people there over the winter and they'll still have a job.

Also, we have people—dearly beloved customers, friends—who come from Millbrook and Cold Spring to eat with us. It's a long drive and some don't come as often as they would like or we would like. Hopefully some of those people will come more often. And the new place has 70-to-80-seat-capacity party rooms where people can have events. That changes the level of catering we can offer, and it should be pretty good for us. At Cucina, we have a gorgeous barn, now we'll have a private space right in Poughkeepsie.

Aren't you busy enough, between running the other two restaurants and teaching at the CIA? Do you worry about getting stretched too thin? Do you just not sleep?

I have a way with choosing people. I get the right team together—a very good chef, a very good manager. I'm 54 years old and I have the experience, I know how to do this. They're young and building their careers with a lot of passion, a lot of energy. And they get treated well, get good bonuses, get a lot of room to be creative, to feel as if it's almost their own restaurant. I have a good partner and a good team, why not expand and grow?

So each restaurant has its own chef, but we talk every day, we sit down together and plan the menus, we have some kind of a style, a line we follow as a team. I'm one of them, and they know if they have a problem I'm the first one to say leave, go home, fix the problem with your family, because that's your foundation—without that you'll collapse. And if your manager or your server is not happy, it spills over on the customer.

We have people that have been with us ever since Gigi opened, and I think this attitude is why. I come from Europe, I've been in this business back there, and when you give loyalty there, it is still the thing that from when you're born to when you die they take care of you. I'd rather pay more taxes and have that kind of a world, where you're set.

So we'll see how it goes. My next thing is, I want to be able to come to my restaurant and eat, have a good visit, get a little money and say, "Okay, I'm going to the beach now." I've been working since I was 14 and someday I'd like to be able to stop.


Showing 1-1 of 1


Add a comment

Latest in Food & Drink

  • Sake: New York's Next Craft Beverage Craze?
  • Sake: New York's Next Craft Beverage Craze?

    In April, one of Japan’s premier sake brewers, Asahi Shuzo, announced a collaboration with the Culinary Institute of America, to build the company’s first US facility in Hyde Park. The brewery and visitor center, a $28-million project that will create 32 jobs, is slated to open in Spring 2019.
    • Nov 9, 2018
  • Of Microchips and Microbrews
  • Of Microchips and Microbrews

    Sloop Brewing Sets Up Shop on the Former IBM Campus
    • Nov 7, 2018
  • Good food meets food security at 4th Annual Farm-to-Fork Feast
  • Good food meets food security at 4th Annual Farm-to-Fork Feast

    The Food Bank of the Hudson Valley will host its 4th Annual Farm-to-Fork Feast on Thursday, November 8 from 5:30-9 p.m. at The Country Club at Otterkill (100 Otter Road, Campbell Hall, NY).
    • Nov 3, 2018