Meet the Chef: Alex Napolitano of Prospect at Scribner’s Catskill Lodge
Today’s MEET THE CHEF interview features a Catskill Mountain foodie and outdoor activity hotspot. A favorite of urban explorers and locals who make their way to this bespoke mountain resort, Scribner’s Catskill Lodge is a must-experience upstate new york destination.
Long cherished for its thoughtful design, friendly service, delicious food and expansive mountain views, Scribner’s boasts a thriving business four seasons of the year. Follow their popular Instagram feed where nearly 60K followers eat up their stream of cozy interiors, spectacular mountain views, enchanting apres-ski to pool-side selfies, hipsters inside and out (sorry, couldn’t help ourselves), and what about the adorable dog photos! Yes, they are pet-friendly. And, of course, there are the alluring food shots that include breakfast in bed, casual fare, and exquisite gourmet dishes.
So, Let’s get right to the delicious food. Part of the lodge’s legacy and year-round attraction is Prospect, the on-premise restaurant spearheaded by executive chef Alex Napolitano. Chef Napolitano cut his chops at Michelin Star-rated restaurants such as Vicolo Santa Lucia (Cattolica, Italy) and A Voce Madison, Charlie Bird and Rubirosa(all in NYC). Today, as executive chef of Prospect Chef Napolitano, his award-winning restaurant proudly sources quality local ingredients from the rich and diverse offerings of the Catskills that inform and shape his menu. And let’s not forget to mention the fresh produce and microgreens from Scribner’s Garden.
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INSIDE+OUT: Tell us about yourself: Where were you born and how did you wind up in the Hudson Valley?
CHEF ALEX NAPOLITANO: I was born and raised in Northern New Jersey, and after living and working in Italy and NYC for over a decade, I decided that I needed some fresh air and a positive change of pace. My fiance and I first settled in Stamford, in the Great Northern Catskills, and just recently moved to Germantown, in the heart of the Hudson Valley.
Where did you get the inspiration to become a chef and what was your journey?
I was fortunate enough to attend Bergen County Academies, where I was first exposed to the prospect of cooking as a profession. As my passion grew, so did my serious interest in pursuing a culinary career. As I completed my undergraduate degree at Rutgers, I worked as a line cook, and soon after earning my bachelor’s degree I decided to enroll in culinary school in New York, and then in Italy. After a time working abroad, I moved back to NYC and worked for some truly wonderful Chefs at very special restaurants. As time went on, my skillset and responsibilities grew, and I found myself in leadership positions, culminating in my current position as Culinary Director at Escape Hospitality (Scribner’s Catskill Lodge, Prospect and Fellow Mountain Cafe).
What do you think is the draw of your restaurant and what do you do to keep things fresh?
I think Prospect offers a chance to experience true fine dining in a gorgeous mountain setting. When people think of the Catskills, high-caliber restaurants are not often at the top of the list as far as reasons to visit. I believe that we have worked to change that notion over the past few years, making our restaurants a driving factor in many of our guests’ decisions to visit. As far as keeping things fresh, I try to keep the menu aligned with the peak products of the season. This means changing dishes often and trying to utilize creative techniques and flavor combinations that serve to inspire both my staff and our guests.
Who or what inspires your menu and how often do you change it?
I think that a sense of place is very important when planning a menu, and thankfully the Catskills in general, and specifically the area surrounding Hunter, are teeming with sources of inspiration. The garden on our property, ‘The Scribner’s Garden,’ produces stellar products in-season, and local sources of meat, dairy, and produce fill the rest of the gaps. The availability of exceptional products combined with my love of and experience with varied Italian food traditions lead me to some very interesting and unique dishes. That said, there is no set “menu schedule”. I change dishes when inspiration and opportunity align.
What is one question you’re constantly asked or what’s the biggest misconception about your business?
I think a common misconception is that because we are located right next to Hunter Mountain that we must “ski all the time”. Though I would love to spend some time on the mountain, I am usually working during the time everyone else is skiing!
The restaurant industry has seen much change and disruption with Covid. How are you adapting and is there a silver lining to be had here?
Covid has presented many challenges to myself and my peers in the F&B industry. The silver lining, as it relates to us in the Hudson Valley, came with the advent of Covid which caused a spike in domestic travel and turned many second-homeowners into full-time residents of our area. As one of the premier restaurants in the region, this meant an even more robust “regular” clientele. As a Chef, I truly love and appreciate the opportunity to cook for the same guests over a long period of time. It is these people that appreciate the growth of the restaurant more than anyone. I, somewhat selfishly, also strive to be people’s “favorite restaurant”, and this homegrown clientele has availed that opportunity to us many times over.
How do you inspire your staff and what is your company culture?
Since I arrived at Scribner’s over 3 years ago, I have worked very hard to cultivate a culture of positivity in the kitchens as well as in the Lodge as a whole. I want my staff to be excited to come to work and create every day, and if they aren’t, then I feel that I am not performing a vital part of my job. Our company culture is quite collaborative and positive, and it is our desire that all of our employees feel heard and appreciated. I specifically try to inspire my staff by sharing my own experiences and inspiration while doing my best to cultivate theirs.
What do you love most about living + working in the Hudson Valley?
Firstly, I love the landscape of the Hudson Valley. It is very easy to feel content and inspired when you are surrounded by such beauty day in and day out. I especially love the seasonal changes the landscape undergoes.
What impact does your business have on your community?
Other than being a stable source of employment in our community, I believe that our company has become a stable draw for tourists in the area at large. The more economic activity there is on the mountaintop, the more everyone benefits.
What local businesses do you rely on to be successful?
I rely almost exclusively on local purveyors for my key restaurant supplies. All my meat, dairy, and poultry come from local sources, and without them, Prospect wouldn’t be Prospect.
What is missing in the area that you wish we had?
Since I often work long, odd hours, I would love some more 24-hour options for shopping and dining. I am from New Jersey, the land of 24-hour diners, so one of those would feel familiar and fill a niche that is currently unfilled.
What is your favorite thing to eat/cook when you’re home alone or with your family?
On a quiet night at home with my fiance, we usually skew towards simplicity. A nice roasted chicken or a quality steak on the grill with a good salad are often on the table.
Would you share one of your favorite recipes with the readers of Inside+Out Upstate NY?
Yes, here’s my recipe for one of my favorite dishes served at Prospect, which is really easy to prepare. (Click HERE to see the recipe)
Tell us something about yourself people might be surprised to learn?
I am a huge animal lover, and Sal, my albino chihuahua, is one of my true joys.
Name three things you always have in your fridge.
Fresh berries, good quality eggs and ice cream (in the freezer of course).
What would be your dream Hudson Valley staycation?
Honestly, a few days at home in Germantown would be ideal. Depending on the season, outdoor dining at Gaskins and breakfast at Otto’s Market are ideal.
What was the best dish or meal you’ve ever had and who made it?
There is a small trattoria in Parma, Italy, that changed my life with their Torta Fritta and paper-thin ravioli. There is something about an unpretentious neighborhood restaurant in Italy that is truly unique to any other dining experience in the world.
Let’s get personal…
What are you reading?
I am always on the hunt for interesting cookbooks, of which I own dozens.
What are you watching?
I am a sucker for any good series, especially quality HBO shows.
What are you listening to?
My tastes in music vary, but I am generally listening to contemporary rap music or vibing to some easy-listening pop music in the car.
Last home-cooked meal you made?
The last home-cooked meal I made of note was a little kale stew with fennel sausage, clams, and tomato. It was warm and delicious.
Your current state of mind?
I am focused on the many tasks at hand and hopeful for the future.
PROSPECT AT SCRIBNER’S CATSKILL LODGE
Executive Chef Alex Napolitano
13 Scribner Hollow Road, Hunter, NY, 12442
518-628-5150 | WEBSITE
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Read all of Inside+Out’s MEET THE CHEF SERIES
Chef Jesse Frederick | Butterfield Restaurant at Hasbrouck House | Stone Ridge NY
Chef Corwin Kave | Deer Mountain Inn | Tannerville NY
Chef Isaias Lira | Lis Bar | Kingston NY
Chef Alex Napolitano | Prospect at Scribners | Hunter NY
Chef Clare Hussain | Runa | New Paltz NY