Saturday, October 1, 2022

Loda opens in Bolton: ‘Elevated’ dining from NYC couple

Loda and Bear’s Cup owners Danielle & Louis DeSantis and their children Teddy and Stellalou. Photo provided
By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor

Louis and Danielle DeSantis, known for their popular Bear’s Cup bagels-and-breakfast take-out on Main Street, Bolton Landing, have now opened Loda, an “elevated dress-up” restaurant next-door.

“There are many options here for casual dining or more luxurious, but it’s still the Adirondacks theme,” says Ms. DeSantis. “My thought is to transport you maybe to a New York City speakeasy, French bistro for a special night out.” The name Loda is derived from the first two letters of their first names.

“Our mission is to modernize the Town of Bolton, to bring new things to the town,” Ms. DeSantis says.

She says Bear’s Cup “makes everything from scratch every single day. We’re well known for our bagels most of all.

“Rachael Ray featured them on her show and orders them every weekend. What people don’t know is we also do all-classic French artisanal pastries from scratch.”

How did the New York City couple — he with “a high intensity” finance job in Connecticut, she a NYC professional singer and waitress with Hillside Restaurant Group — land in Bolton Landing?

Ms. DeSantis’s parents Dawn and Bob O’Keefe own the Huddle Restaurant a block down the street.

The DeSantises came to help — “and we fell in love with the town,” she says.

They married in 2017 at the Sagamore Resort. A year later, expecting their first child, Ms. DeSantis says they decided, “You know what? Let’s make a business together, just us.”

In Bolton. “That was an adjustment for me, a city girl who likes to get dressed up,” Ms. DeSantis says.

They bought a building a block away from her parents’ restaurant, and opened Bear’s Cup in May 2019, 10 days after their son Teddy was born.

“Insane, not what we were planning, but you’ve got to make the summer money,” Ms. DeSantis says now.

Six months ago they had their second child, daughter Stellalou.

Brother Peyton O’Keefe now has Trailhead Pizza, also in their building.

Bear’s Cup bagels instantly popular

Bear’s Cup drew nearly instant recognition. “We certainly didn’t think that would happen,” Ms. Desantis says. “It’s taken on a mind of its own,” locally, regionally and nationally.

“Yelp just named us one of the Top Five bagels in the country, even against New York City. It’s very humbling, especially because my husband, who runs it, is a self-taught baker. He has crazy skills.”

Ms. DeSantis laughs that he studied at “YouTube University,” and then taught everyone else on staff how to bake.

When Covid hit, they closed the bistro and served everything to-go, food-truck-style, from their window on Main Street.

“Covid was actually good for our business,” Ms. DeSantis says. To meet increasing demand, they converted the cafe space to expand production.

“Not everyone likes that it’s only to-go now, and I understand that,” she says. But “with the volume of product we do every day, we can’t give up that space.”

Still, dreamed bigger

“It was still my dream to bring people inside, to have a fancy elevated dressed up restaurant,” Ms. DeSantis says. “I’m a self-proclaimed city girl. I love dressing up in heels and getting to have a night out with my girlfriends, or even my husband.”

Will people in Bolton dress to dine? “They do here,” she says, “and I thank them for recognizing the vibe we have. Really what we are trying to do here is make everyone feel special. It’s a fresh sexy elevated place to come.”

She adds, fancy dress isn’t imperative. The only real rule is no bathing suits.

“Just come and celebrate life,” she says. “Every day on this earth is a special day.”

On the menu

The menu Ms. DeSantis describes as “Modern American with a French flavor.”

Steak Frites, $54. Photo provided

Signature entrees include Miso Cod ($46), marinated in saké and ginger, and Steak Frites ($54) a New York Strip, hand-cut shoestring fries and Béarnaise sauce.

Loda uses Bear’s Cup’s baked goods as the basis of many of its signature dishes.

Pigs in a Blankie ($18) is all-beef mini hotdogs wrapped in Everything Croissant dough, served with a Dijon aioli.

“We use Bear’s Cup ciabatta for the French onion soup ($15), Bear’s Cup crostini with the amazing cheese board ($42),” — a sharable opener of cured meats and Nettle Meadow cheeses from Lake Luzerne, Ms. DeSantis notes, touting their animal husbandry practices “that even a vegan can appreciate.”

Bear’s Cup puff pastry features in their signature Bananas Foster Pop-Tart dessert, a decidedly high-end take on the breakfast food.

Dessert — warm pan cookie dough from Bear’s Cup with vanilla gelato, and make-it-your-own toppings, sprinkles, chocolate sauce, caramel. Chronicle photo/Cathy DeDe

The ethic: “Everything made from scratch, in-house. We don’t buy anything frozen. Everyone is in the kitchen prepping all day. We don’t use fake juices or syrups in the bar. There’s a lot of pride and integrity in everything.”

Bar offerings include two frozen concoctions — a “Frosé” rosé-based punch and an Aperol Spritz, each $16.

A Champagne and Caviar Service for two is $75.

Pigs in a Blankie ($18), ‘warm magically soft olives,’ says Cathy DeDe, her photo.

‘Really nice — and bougie’

“It’s really nice, and bougie,” Ms. DeSantis says, slipping into urban shorthand for “fancy” or “aspirational.”

“The price points are on the heavy side of town. It comes with being who we are, the integrity of the dishes and the labor of doing it from scratch.”

She terms it “upscale, not fine dining. It’s not linen or white collar. A lot of emphasis is on great service.”

Current hours are Thursday to Sunday from 5 p.m., Ms. DeSantis said.

“We will keep the bar open late if there are people here, even if the kitchen closes at 10. The other night we had people at the bar until 2 a.m. It was great.”

Most of the core staff is doing double duty at both restaurants, Ms. Desantis says. They have 23 employees between the two venues, plus three nannies who take care of three young staff children.

Key to the operation, Ms. DeSantis says, are core staff members who came from the Bear’s Cup baking side, but with experience beyond that.

From left: Executive Chef Andrea Rice, co-owner Danielle DeSantis, Bar Director Paul Boucher. Photo provided

Executive chef Andrea “Drea” Rice, Ms. DeSantis describes as “a bad-ass, hard-working woman” who’s had every job in front and back of house, now heading their “bad-ass female-run kitchen.”

The French-inspired menu has notes from Ms. Rice’s Mediterranean-Greek family heritage.

“My family was in the restaurant business,” Ms. Rice says, “but it was my grandmother, my YaYa, who taught me basically how to love and take care of food.”

Bar Director Paul “Bouche” Boucher is an old friend who grew up with Louis and Danielle in the neighboring Long Island towns of Smithtown and Hauppauge.

Among other gigs, he said he was the founding Bar Manager at Morrissey’s at the reconfigured Adelphi Hotel in Saratoga Springs, and came up to help at Bear’s Cup and stayed on with the team.

The decor is casual-luxe, brick-and-green velvet, with curved green leather booths and bistro tables, an elevated bar.

Decor: Think ‘Speak Easy meets French Bistro’ Photos provided.

The former location of Adirondack Winery and Bob’s Ice Cream, it was completely gutted, Ms. DeSantis said.

Her husband laid the brick walls himself and poured the concrete bartop. It’s her interior design, Ms. DeSantis says. “Most of it we did ourselves, from scratch.”

‘Need not be a ghost town in winter’

She said they hope to stay open year-round, as they do with Bear’s Cup.

“Our intent is to continue to build up this town, so there is enough to keep it afloat all year long.”

She notes the natural comparison to The Gem, the barbecue restaurant that just opened up the street, run by Richard and Paty Boccato of New York City and William Kirby Farmer and Kristan Keck of Hudson, N.Y. They also opened Gem Wines & Liquors.

Ms. DeSantis says, “We have a lot of camaraderie in this town. We support every other local business.

She quotes Gem’s Ms. Boccato: “A high tide floats all ships,” and adds, “If people come to town, it’s because of all of us. We’re here to stay. This does not have to be a ghost town in the winter. We can revolutionize and modernize Bolton. It takes young, hungry-minded people to make it happen.”

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