Cathryn’s Men in Black
At 4:30 in the afternoon on a Friday, Cathryn’s Tuscan Grill, on Main Street in Cold Spring, is just beginning to buzz. Metallic sounds echo from the kitchen, cartons are being opened behind the bar, and the late lunch crowd, including a gaggle of small children chattering in French, is preparing to leave.
Then, one by one, the “men in black” begin to arrive.
Today they include Rafael Dalia, James Mackey, Dan Caporale, and Danny Greco. They are the wait staff, the people who, for busy owner Cathryn Fadde, are her connection to the customers who keep her business thriving.
And by all accounts, they do a terrific job.
Rafael, who lives in Poughkeepsie, is tall with slick black hair. His customary black turtleneck highlights his lean and graceful figure. His family heritage is Italian, but he hails from Venezuela (“way way before Cesar Chavez,” he said). Moving to the U.S. at the age of 18, Rafael attended SUNY New Paltz, earning a BA in Marketing and a Master’s in International Business. He has been doing this kind of work for 25 years, he says, the last ten of them at Cathryn’s.
Rafael says he knows Cathryn almost as well as a member of his own family: “We know what buttons to press for each other, so we don’t.” Although everyone works weekends at some point, Rafael says he needs to have one day of the week to himself. He loves to run, and is a voracious reader.
The one item on the menu he hasn’t tasted is the venison, but he hopes to try it soon. He also loves that Cathryn, who is a prodigious wine expert (“she’s definitely the sage of the wine,” Rafael said) will share some of her really wonderful wines with the wait staff so they can taste and comment on it to customers.
Does he get tired? “I think I have an extreme surplus of nervous energy,” Rafael said with a smile. “It helps.”
Dan has worked in restaurants most of his life, “close to 30 years.” A divorced father of three who grew up in New Rochelle but now lives in Mohegan Lake, he loves spending time with his kids and hopes to bring them to eat at Cathryn’s someday soon.
Asked what he likes best, Dan replied, “I like the atmosphere here…I like the interaction with people.” The first time he came to Cold Spring, resume in hand, he walked into Cathryn’s and has been there ever since. He sees restaurant work as a learning process—about food, about wines, about people. “And while we’re learning, we are also teaching,” and “Cathryn gives us the freedom to express ourselves.”
Dan’s favorite dish on the menu? “It varies. I’m big on a couple of pasta dishes. I love our gnocchi dish with the lamb....and our pappardelle dish, with the rabbit (fresh pappardelle pasta with pulled rabbit meat and seedless grape grappa sauce).”
James is the “baby” of the group, a Montrose native who attended Hendrick Hudson High School and began working at Cathryn’s as a busboy, “a little over four years ago.” He’s currently studying accounting at Westchester Community College, from which he will graduate in May, and hopes to move on to complete his college career at a new college in the fall.
James works Friday through Sunday at the Grill, and has little time left after school. He was a high school athlete, and loves to listen to music when he’s not working or studying. “I’m probably going to go to corporate [accounting] at first,” James told us, but will likely end up in the restaurant business, “because once you have it, you don’t want to leave it.” James’s favorite dish: the pappardelle pasta with pulled rabbit meat.
Danny, another restaurant “lifer,” has a lighthearted demeanor, and although people think he’s very extroverted, “in reality I’m not.” He is the relative newcomer at the Tuscan Grill: “In May it’ll be a year,” although he was a customer long before he began working there. A Peekskill native, he “always wanted to go into theatre, and this is how you end up in the restaurant business.” The whole business is “very theatrical,” Danny noted. “It’s like a performance every shift.”
Danny loves the “good mix” of customers at the Cold Spring eatery, and enjoys working for Cathryn. When he first met her, he thought, “This woman makes me laugh.”
“I’ve worked in some godawful places in Westchester,” he said, but feels settled at Cathryn’s. Danny’s favorite menu item: scallops, and fava beans with pancetta.
As for famous customers, other than George and Libby Pataki, the men named Richard Gere, Timothy Hutton, and Ernie Anastos.
Rafael told us that he likes to eat out elsewhere from time to time, “to be on that side again” and says it helps him understand the customer/ server dynamic. Is he a big tipper? “I am somewhat generous,” he said with a smile.