Staff Spotlight – Nico Vasquez

The hard work and commitment of many have helped build Gigi Trattoria. We are now one of Rhinebeck’s premiere restaurants and a relevant part of the Hudson Valley local food scene. While many have been involved in the process, there are a few standouts who come to mind, like Nicolas (“Nico”) Vasquez.

Nico began his employment at the Trattoria in October 2001, just one month after the opening. He is not only our most veteran employee but also the one most treasured by me, the staff he works with and especially our customers.  All of our loyal “regulars” look for him and feel comforted when they see him in the dining room attending to their tables. It’s getting difficult for him to carry plates because he is constantly shaking the hands of his adoring fans. 🙂  He is shy, but confident and proud of his position and the food and service that Gigi Trattoria is known for. He cares, and it shows.

What everyone doesn’t know is all he does behind the scenes. Nico is not only a stellar food runner, he’s also an amazing prep and line cook, and is incredible at one of the most difficult, high pressure positions in the restaurant – expediting or “EXPO.” In this role he coordinates the timing and “firing” of dishes that might add up to 400-500 in a single shift. I’ve seen many melt down in this role, Nico is always cool, collected and in charge.

I know we have a problem when I see his eyebrows furrow … When Chef Wilson Costa and I need  more information about where and why there may be issues, we include Nico in the discourse so that we can correct them expeditiously. He sees all, and with some gentle arm twisting he gives us his very valuable opinion. Of Chef Wilson, Nico tells me, “I like working with him, he’s happy, positive and I respect him.” 

When he’s not at the Trattoria, Nico enjoys his daily workouts at IXL (he has a fan base there too), trying new restaurants and cooking at home. His favorite dishes to cook include braised lamb shank, some traditional dishes from his native Oaxaca, Mexico and Italian fare. Nico cooks with soul and passion and its all there on the finished dish.

Laura & Nico, Halloween 2004

Restaurant life is tough, fun, rewarding and frustrating.  I could not have embarked on my Gigi journey without the help of Nico. In 2003, when I bought out my then husband and partner, I was terrified as to whether I could run a restaurant. The quiet support, hard work, and loyalty of Nico helped me significantly. He says, “Gigi is in my heart forever.”  Nico is in mine forever.


Staff Spotlight – Cory Lenko

Want to know more about a bottle of wine?  Can’t decide on something to drink?  Ask Gigi Trattoria server Corey Lenko and he will have the answer. Gigi is proud of our staff, especially those that go above and beyond.  Corey does just that.  In the year he has been at the Trattoria, he has been busy working as a server and a host. Yet, he also found the time to come up with a study guide of our wine list for his fellow colleagues.

Corey is clearly very passionate about wine.  Currently studying for part two of the sommelier test, Corey hopes that in 5 years he will be getting his Master Sommelier Certification with the goal of opening his own place.  It is not surprising that after a successful night at work, Corey goes home to drink a good bottle of wine.  The best bottle of wine this 21 year old has ever had was an Amarone.  It probably would pair wonderfully with one the pizzas Corey makes on his spare time.  His favorite to make is topped with fresh tomatoes, basil and prosciutto.  And, he makes his crust from scratch!

Wine is not Corey’s only strength as a server.  He loves reccommending cocktails or drink specials as well.  Whenever we have a drink special Corey loves to share it with the customers.  He once sold 8 quarts of our Summer Berry Sangria in one night!  If you are dining with us and can’t decide on a bottle of wine, Corey would recommend the Non Confuditor. This balanced red wine is moderately priced and pairs well with many of our menu items.  If you have trouble deciding on an entree, Corey recommends the Bistecca.

Come on in and meet our future sommelier, Corey Lenko.  He will be graduating from the Culinary Institute of America with a Bachelor’s Degree on October 18th.  We are so proud and excited for him and his future endeavors.  Like many delicious wines, Corey has matured and developed in the past year.  He will only continue to grow and become more successful with each step of his career.  Hope you get to see him in action!


Staff Spotlight – Adrienne Chiaramonte

This week we are shining a light on one of our Trattoria managers, Adrienne Chiaramonte.
Her passion for hospitality in the restaurant business started at a very
early age. Adrienne cites her late mother, Arlene, as her role model and
inspiration. Whether it was a holiday gathering, a family party for 90, or a Wednesday night dinner around the kitchen table, Adrienne’s Mom made every meal feel special. Small touches like choosing the right music to accompany a meal, or lighting candles to create a lovely mood, were always important.

Arlene with granddaughter Teagan, Christmas, 2010

Arlene believed attention to detail was vital and always insisted
that everyone should always enjoy the absolute best. It was this respect of gathering at the table, & creating memories with friends and family that cemented Adrienne’s love of the business. The creating of these experiences (they were more than just meals); from raising the livestock, growing the produce, assisting with prep and baking, to cleaning up as a family, were all a part of daily life in the Chiaramonte household.

It is now Adrienne’s mission to create for others what she was lucky enough
to have experienced for so many years. Adrienne says that her dream guest is
one that puts themselves in the competent hands of the Gigi staff and is
open to suggestions for both food and wine. She is proud to work closely
with her front of house team and loves helping to create an excellent guest

Outside of work her hobbies are growing produce, bike riding,
visiting Montauk and making meals for friends and family with her husband
John at their home in Hyde Park.

“Gigi is a perfect fit for me. It’s a thrill to see the farmers bring in the produce that will be used for that night’s dinner, to know how much care and thought Chef Costa and his team put in to the meals they are creating, and it is bliss when it all comes together seamlessly on a busy weekend night at the Trattoria. When I’m busy seating guests and saying goodbye to those that have just enjoyed a fabulous dinner, and the room is buzzing with energy, it makes me so incredibly happy.” You could easily say “it’s just dinner,”but we all know that it is much more than that.

Staff Spotlight – Dave Meltzer

This week’s staff spotlight shines a light on our master baker, Dave Meltzer. Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Dave grew up associating baking with the loving times spent in the kitchen with his mother Frieda, who passionately cooked from Love and Knishes throughout his childhood. This is how he came to make his first challah and bagels, which are still two of his favorite preparations. When he first came on board the Gigi Team, we were all skeptical about producing our own bagels — I clearly remember saying, “If they’re not as good as H&H or Ess-a-bagel, I don’t want to go near it.” Needless to say, Dave nailed it and we now have golden bagels ready for toasting and enjoying with our local butters, jams, cheeses and spreads.

Dave formally studied baking at Orange County BOCES and has taken continuing education courses over the years at The Culinary Institute of America. Most of his knowhow however, results from experience and intuition.  Dave has owned his own bakeries in the past, including Rock ‘n Rolls in Highland, NY. Last year he decided to sell his partnership and take leave of the joys and headaches of self-employment once and for all. After many years of the alarm clock going off at 3AM, and managing the administrative side of the business, Dave decided it was time to just enjoy his passions for baking and simplify his life. His intention was to spend more time with his fiancé Leslie. Tragically she passed away earlier this year.

Joining the Gigi Hudson Valley team, Dave moved from Poughkeepsie up to Tivoli, late this spring. He describes the area as “comforting” – long drives in the pastoral countryside are helping him heal and move forward. He also says, “Joining the Gigi team has been a great move for me. There is kindred spirit, helpfulness and flexibility in allowing creative outlets.” One of Dave’s Gigi experiments includes Cheddar Jalapeno Sourdough that always sells out quickly. He also provides us with one of the best multigrain I’ve ever enjoyed and a delicious crusty Italian baguette.

What’s he working on for fall? A yeast leavened pumpkin bread that we’ll be selling by the loaf and adding to both of our brunch menus (Trattoria and Market) in the form of scrumptious French toast.

Dave dreams of one day writing a book, saying, “I love sharing recipes and that is the philosophy at Gigi, sharing.”  He feels like he’s having fun.  As he points out,  “Who works these hours if they aren’t having fun?” I couldn’t agree more.


Staff Spotlight – Wilson Costa

For our second staff spotlight, we decided to focus our attention on the kitchen. If you have eaten a delicious meal at Gigi Trattoria in the past seven and half years, you have our wonderful Chef, Wilson Costa, to thank for it.  Wilson is constantly coming up with creative new menu items using local and seasonal ingredients and pushing himself and the rest of the kitchen staff to excel and keep things fresh and inspired.

Wilson and Tadeo

When he is not in the Gigi kitchen or making sure the dining room is in tip-top shape, he is most likely spending time with his beautiful family including his two sons Otto, and newborn, Tadeo.

Not just a chef and a loving father, Wilson also loves to fish and is an avid bike rider.  He comes into work each morning refreshed after a 6AM bike ride!

Having been part of the Gigi family for quite some time, Wilson has really seen it all, although he admits the high point was cooking for Bill Clinton when he came in to the Trattoria.

From a food perspective,  Wilson loves when certain local ingredients come into season.  Local ramps, plums & broccoli rabe are three items you will see on our menu or specials list when the time is right.  Wilson’s favorite item to make is creamy Risotto Nero. The dish features cuttle fish, bacon and squid ink, which gives it its wonderful intense black color.

So next time you are sitting at Gigi Trattoria and are savoring that bite you just took, think of Wilson behind the scenes.  His inspirational, innovative and comforting style of cooking is what makes the food at Gigi Trattoria the best in Rhinebeck!



Staff Spotlight – Lisa Butenhoff

We love all of the wonderful staff that help to make Gigi Trattoria and Gigi Market a success!  From CIA students to Brazilian natives, the Gigi family is fascinatingly diverse. We thought it would be fun to spotlight a member of our team every week to help you get to know them and what makes them so special, and so unique! We’re kicking things off by spotlighting our talented and personable bartender, Lisa Butenhoff.

Lisa has been with Gigi for over 7 years!  Thanks to her long stay with the Trattoria, she provides a familiar face to the customers.  She takes pride in the fact that she knows unique things about many of the customers, like their favorite tables (and of course, favorite cocktails.)

Not only is Lisa a soldier behind the bar, she has served in the US Marine Corps for nearly ten years,  and participates in drill once a month.  After a long day of early morning drills followed by a shift behind the bar, Lisa loves to have sushi take-out for dinner.  If she is dining at the Trattoria, her favorite menu item is the Rigatoni Buttera (without the peas.)

Next time you are visiting the Gigi Trattoria, be sure to order up a margarita from Lisa.  She loves the challenge of making the perfect margarita since so many people are picky about this particular cocktail.  But that is just Lisa, always looking to please the customers and give them a great experience.

One of Lisa’s fondest memories of being behind the bar at Gigi Trattoria was the night some bar guests challenged each other to a blind tasting of our Tawny Flagate Ports to see who could guess the vintage of the port.  “When customers are obviously here to have a good time, it makes it fun to serve them.”

When you are looking for the best margarita in Rhinebeck served by the best bartender, come into Gigi Trattoria.  Lisa would love to see you!