No Yawns at Yianni’s in Chatham
By Elizabeth Goldfarb Richardson
There are just some times when a restaurant brings out emotions that a mere dining experience shouldn’t necessarily bring forth. Edgar and I felt all sorts of things during — and after — dining at Lippera’s, located in a rather grand complex carved out of a once dilapidated and then quite nicely restored former hotel called the Chatham House in, you guessed it, Chatham. It’s a spot that created great expectations. Frankly, I’ve always found that grand spaces such as these, whether commercial or domestic, pose a serious probem (my own tends toward the cozily chic, half Bunny Williams, half Judendstil, with a tad of midcentury modern thrown in); people always expect something wonderful to happen in them, and heaven help you if you don’t provide. Meeting those expectations is a tall order and seemed to be the goal of Lippera’s, now closed after the sad passing of the owner, but also sad to say, the food itself did not always rise to the heights of the main dining room’s ceilings.
So Edgar and I would often feel a tad dispirited after dining there. The building looked so nice, the space had so much potential, and Chatham could use as many good places to eat as possible. But now, in comes Yianni’s Restaurant, just opened this month in the same location but newly reconfigured with a large centralized bar for drinks and sushi. Owned by Peter Stefanopoulos of the Four Brothers family (which also includes George, Christo, William) and fashioned after their fine Boathouse Restaurant in Lakeville, the admittedly impressive-looking spot is now serving, both for lunch and dinner, something worth climbing the rafters for. The answer to making these fine historic rooms come to life, it turns out, is being a little fresh, sassy, and culinarily all mixed up. But in a good way.
Contrary to whatever impression you might have gained when driving past one of their chain of mega restaurant/pizzerias spread throughout the region, The Four Brothers are also true cognoscenti about food, known for their delicious imported bottled olive oil from their own groves in Greece. They also use and sell their own salad dressings, goat cheese, yogurt, lamb, beef, and vegetables from (their own) Hudson Valley farm — using other locally grown veggies as well for the restaurants. This lends itself to a mix of influences that come together in a refreshingly spunky and tasty way at Yianni’s. There’s no hint of the chain restaurant here.
As it was in its former incarnation, one can choose to sit in the large elegant main dining room with tall brick walls, windows, and balconies reaching up to the 3rd floor, or in the more intimate tavern side of the bar. But this time, an extensive menu plus nightly specials showcase a great deal of variety and dextrous cooking experience, with seafood playing a star role. There’s an American/fine Greek/Japanese air to it all (talk about fusion!), with an abundance of choices from appetizer specialties such as escargot ($9) and Maryland crab cakes ($12) to a variety of seafood, NY strip steak, roasted duck or rack of lamb ($22-$32) in the main course section. Pastas include cioppino ($30) and shrimp and scallop risotto ($28), and, a rarity for the area, a raw bar (with oysters, clambs, shrimp, and a wonderful lump-crab cocktail, from $12-$20). Large salads are offered with various meat options. I chose the sushi; spicy tuna and Housatonic rolls (smoked fresh salmon, roe, and cream cheese; $8 each), which were fresh and delicious. Edgar, once again, opted for the burger, which comes with excellent steak fries ($12). Prosecco is on the wine list along with an excellent organic wine from Estate Brintzkiki, imported from Greece and distributed by a local Chatham resident, Greco Trading. There are many desserts to choose from, including cheese cake and an old-fashioned root beer float. The new waitstaff is still in training but seasoned members from the Boat House are there to oversee, and service ran smoothly throughout the meal.
This time, when Edgar and I got back in our car to drive home, both of us had smiles on our faces — and no mixed feelings in our minds or stomachs.
29 Hudson Avenue (Rt. 66)
Chatham, NY 12037
Open Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.