Billy Ledda’s Italian Market Is Hudson’s Hidden Gem
By Jamie Larson
The unambiguously named Italian Market in Hudson just might be the posh little city’s best-kept secret. Unassuming at first glance, this humble market and deli is quietly home to some of the best food in the gastronomically cultured area.
Billy Ledda moved to the Hudson Valley from Long Island and opened up shop on the corner of Park Place and Columbia Street during the summer of 2011. Since then he hasn’t spent a dime on advertising — this article is his first piece of press — yet, by the consistent quality of the perfectly executed sandwiches and Italian staples Ledda puts out every day, The Italian Market has amassed a secret cult following that he says now keeps him busy even in the traditionally slower winter months.
“I don’t cut corners,” said Ledda plainly. “You have to slice the meat thin and fresh for every sandwich. It keeps a sandwich light no matter how much you put on it.”
Ledda didn’t actually glean recipes from his family growing up, but he did learn the Italian way to cook. He was raised on Long Island but his father, who had a bar in Hudson in the 60s, grew up on 100 acres in Green County’s “Enchanted Forest” outside East Durham. Ledda spent time as a kid on the family farm where they produced their own food and slaughtered their own animals. “It made me appreciate where food comes from, where I come from.”
“There’s nothing I’ve had here I didn’t absolutely love,” said loyal customer Nathan Harrelson. “First off, the place is spotlessly clean. And when you get your sandwich, it’s like a piece of art on the plate. Billy treats you like you’re eating in his house.”
The food at The Italian Market is simple, intuitive and driven by the quality of ingredients. Ledda gets his bread shipped up from Manhattan every morning; his meats are imported from Italy and he uses as much local produce as possible. He takes no shortcuts and and he makes everything his way.
Ledda’s way works: take the chicken salad, which people rave about. When was the last time you heard someone rave about chicken salad? Ledda has elevated the most innocuous, frequently bland deli offering to unbelievable heights by roasting the chicken in fresh herbs so that when he mixes it with just a little mayo and celery, all the complex flavors you taste are from the meat.
“People ask me things like, ‘why don’t you put bacon or pancetta in your broccoli rabe?’” he says from behind his inviting counter, peppered with little ‘No Cellphones Please’ signs. “I say, ‘because when I eat broccoli rabe I want to taste broccoli rabe.’ I like the taste. Why would I cover it up? I keep it simple — good olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper — and cook it right.”
That perfect broccoli rabe goes into one of Ledda’s signature sandwiches — the “Grandpa.” The sandwich isn’t named for his grandfather, but rather a quaint attempt at marketing (“Everyone wants a story with their food now,” he says with a smile. “It’s the type of thing my Grandpa would’ve eaten, but no, it’s not like my grandmother snuck the recipe out of Italy hidden from Mussolini.”) is crafted on a pillowy sub roll with perfectly breaded chicken cutlets, fresh mozzarella, toothsome broccoli rabe, roasted red peppers and balsamic.
The Italian Market’s clientele is a melting pot of Hudson old and new. Its classic look and traditional offerings of meatballs, pasta, veggies and sandwiches welcome local old timers and hospital and county workers. The impeccable quality and execution have pulled many a weekender off of restaurant-rich Warren Street to the less polished end of town. The Market is also a shop, supplying the area with a small but well-curated supply of classic pastas, European sweets, dry goods, sauces, oils, pickled goods and Italian sodas.
Ledda might seem a little gruff at first meeting, or if he’s been bristled by a rude customer, but what makes his place so outstanding is that he loves spending time with the people who come into his store, recreating the ambience of the community deli that doesn’t really exist anymore. His eagerness to please is exemplified by the catering menu because, while there is a menu, if you give him the appropriate amount of advance notice, he’ll cook you anything you want — even if he’s never made it before.
“That might scare some people, but if you know me you’ll trust I can make anything,” he says. “If I haven’t cooked it before, I’ll call my mother.”
717 Columbia St., Hudson, NY
Open Mon-Sat 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.