There’s no shortage of Italian dining options in New Paltz, from A Tavola—long revered for its inventive dishes and rustic ambiance, to the slew of pizza joints that run along Main Street. But as you continue down Main toward the iconic Shawangunk Ridge, just before you get to the river you’ll find a new restaurant, Ciao Bella, serving Northern Italian fare in an upscale setting.
Housed in a former railroad station situated beside the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, many know this space as the site of the former La Stazione restaurant. But the building’s had a rich history over the last century, leading to its current iteration.
The original Wallkill Valley Railroad ceased passenger service in the 1930s and freight operations in 1977. Sixteen years later, the corridor was converted to the multi-use trail that it is today. During the ensuing years, the station saw a few businesses come and go, until 1999 when a restaurateur gave it new life as an intimate Italian restaurant—La Stazione. The eatery saw different management over the years, finally closing last year, after which the building underwent upgrades. This attracted the Gashi family, who ran a successful restaurant in Monticello—the original Ciao Bella—and were looking for a second location. Open since late May of this year, Ciao Bella New Paltz has quickly become a favorite of locals and tourists alike.
“Our family was growing, and since Monticello had been successful for many years, we decided to open another location, and here in New Paltz we found the perfect opportunity in this historic building,” says Roland Gashi, who co-owns the New Paltz location with his uncle, Vinny Gashi. “Both locations are family-owned and operated, and we’re very focused on not just serving great meals, but creating an experience. I’d like to think that between the food, our service, and the atmosphere, we create the type of upscale experience that people have been looking for.”
Although the building’s exterior is still reminiscent of a classic railroad depot, the interior is decidedly contemporary. Large windows that overlook the woodsy rail trail offer a bright and airy atmosphere for lunch, whereas the dinner environment is made cozy by lighting from suspended geometric lamps that shine warmly against peach walls with Colonial panel molding. Photo canvases display black-and-white scenes of life in Italy, the contrast complementing dark wood chairs and white linens. Outside, a large stone patio with its own bar offers additional warm-weather seating, nearly doubling the space.
Gashi, who resides in Sullivan County, says that managing the restaurant felt like a natural move after spending most of his life around the family’s Monticello location. “I studied business in college, and after college I knew I wanted to do this,” says Gashi, who’s in his late 20s. “I was very inspired by my uncle’s mentorship. He took me under his wing and taught me so much about restaurants over the last 14 years.”
Vinny Gashi also serves as head chef, bringing homemade touches and a few family recipes to the menu, like the popular fettuccine boscaiola, which comes with asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, and a light cream sauce ($26). Other favored dishes include the pollo martini—chicken with a parmigiana breadcrumb crust and lemon-white wine sauce ($25), and the gnocchi bolognese ($25). “But everything’s been received very well so far,” he adds.
Their dessert menu features seasonally changing items—pumpkin pecan cheesecake has been a top pick this fall—as well as a few standards. “The tiramisu is everyone's favorite—it’s homemade and people keep asking for the recipe,” Gashi says.
From the bar, the restaurant offers a menu of seasonally inspired drinks, such as an apple cider mule ($14) or maple bourbon sangria ($12). But the gem of Ciao Bella’s bar selection is their extensive wine list, featuring a multitude of Italian and Californian wines, plus a selection of rare fine wines. Besides a handful of house options ($10 glass, $35 bottle), most bottles range from $50 to around $200. The Special Selections fine wines can range up to $1,350 per bottle, like the rare cabernet sauvignon Opus One, Napa Valley (1997).
Vinophiles can also rent out the wine cellar for private dining up to 18 guests. The space is sometimes used for overflow tabling of weekend crowds, but the cellar can otherwise be rented for events, bridal showers, corporate meetings, and parties.
“Everything we do here is centered around creating a positive, memorable experience,” Gashi says, “serving great food, specialty wines, and excellent customer service, all with the welcoming feel of a family-owned business.”
Ciao Bella New Paltz is open from 4-10 pm on Monday and Wednesday; 12-10 pm on Thursday; 12-10:30 pm on Friday and Saturday; and 12-9 pm on Sunday.