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October 16, 2019Cart

Business

by Westchester County Business Journal
by WCBJ

The Tasty Table brings community feel to longtime Ossining gathering spot

The Tasty Table owner Lisa Ocasio in her Ossining restaurant. Photo by Ryan Deffenbaugh

Look down toward your feet when you enter The Tasty Table, a new restaurant in Ossining, and you’ll notice the words marked in the tile: “Ossining, Est. 1813.” Look up and to the right, and you’ll then read the wooden placard: “Welcome to Our Table.”

That mix of community, history and home is what The Tasty Table owner Lisa Ocasio hopes will make a community hub out of her new 1,100-square-foot, 36-seat restaurant in the village. The restaurant opened Dec. 5 at 21 Campwoods Road, part of a small business district wedged between Routes 133 and 9A.

Ocasio described growing up in the business. From her days in third grade she’d help out in family-owned restaurants in the Bronx and New Jersey. But her career took her other places. She spent 25 years in corporate marketing.

She carried over her childhood in restaurants to her home in Cortlandt Manor. She’d host dinners or baking days for friends most every weekend. “They’d joke and ask, ‘Are you sure you don’t have people hiding in your garage making all this food to bring it in?’ ” Ocasio said.

Despite a busy career, the idea of one day having her own restaurant stayed in her mind. She’d watch cooking shows about restaurants and picture herself in their place. But it had to be the right opportunity. That came around December 2017 when she had a friend over from Ossining for a day of baking. The friend mentioned that a restaurant in Ossining, the Wobble Cafe, was up for sale and nearing closure. Ocasio had never been there, but the restaurant’s description matched much of what she had been seeking.

“I wanted something that was a walking community, not in a strip mall where you could get missed by someone driving by,” Ocasio said. “I wanted an identity that could be joined with the community.”

She signed a lease for the building in the summer and renovated the space in the months leading up to the December opening. For now, The Tasty Table is focused on breakfast and lunch. Doors open at 7 a.m. most days and close by 4 p.m., staying closed on Mondays.

The menu has a mix for different eating habits throughout the week, Ocasio said. Weekday diners go for quick, healthy meals during work hours such as avocado toast, grilled chicken salad and homemade tomato basil soup. For customers looking for a big meal on the weekends, there’s meatballs, baked mac and cheese and stuffed eggplant.

The Sunday menu is for all-day brunch, with pancakes and paninis. Acai bowls feature granola made in the restaurant. All of the baked goods are made in-house as well, including gluten-free items. A kids menu includes grilled cheese and chicken fingers. Ocasio said her focus is on providing something for everyone, whether they want a burger, veggie panini or salad.

“I love to feed people and making sure they are happy in what they are eating and know it is fresh,” Ocasio said. “I think there’s such a difference when something is made with passion.”

There’s also been a strong take-out business, she said. Off to the side of the main dining counter there’s a to-go cooler with pre-packaged items that can be picked up in the morning or midday for lunch or snacks.

The building has a long history in the community, which Ocasio has tried to honor. In the 1950s, it was the Campwoods Sweet Shop, known mostly as “Frank’s” for its owner Frank Pavelka. Ocasio described the original store as a candy store, CVS and hardware store all in one. It sold sweets, of course, but also greeting cards, cigars, food items and other groceries.

As Ocasio wrote on The Tasty Table’s website, “kids would come in to get their school supplies, candy and 2-for-a-nickel pretzel rods. The adults relied on Frank’s for their daily newspapers, sundries and tobacco products.”

It was, she added, “a place for everybody. There are just so many memories still in the community.”

Before opening, Ocasio met with the former owner’s son and daughter at the property, who provided photos from the original shop that now hang in the restaurant. The original icebox where the store kept its ice cream is refinished and still behind the counter, having survived the several businesses that have taken up the location since its closing.

The Tasty Table’s design and decor are meant to create a warm and airy feel. Ocasio said she tried to view the restaurant as an extension of her own home. Along with the pictures of the old candy shop, there are photos of Ossining and Hudson River landmarks along the wall.

“It was so important to see that this place has always been somewhere people came together,” Ocasio said. “Once I introduced myself to the community as the new owner, the level of response I got was tremendous. They wanted that type of place back and that was exactly my vision.”

As for expanding to dinner, Ocasio said she wants her restaurant to “absolutely perfect breakfast and lunch first and get an understanding of what our customers want.” It’s possible the restaurant could expand to include it, but there’s no timeline for that yet.

For now, she’s enjoying the welcome from the community.

“Just in the week and a half we’ve been open, I’ve had people say to me, ‘my mom came in last week, then I came in, then I told my cousin and he was here yesterday,’ ” Ocasio said. “So there’s a whole lot of that, and that’s why to me I know this was the absolute best choice of location and bringing something to the community.”