Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Once Upon a Table in Chester offers a fresh take on signature fare
A gem of a restaurant almost hidden in Chester has been offering fresh, quality food on Main Street for the past 11 years.
And, after customers delight in one of its scrumptious quiches du jour or one of the eatery's signature sandwiches — such as oven-roasted fresh roast beef with Istara cheese, chipotle mayonnaise, red ripe tomatoes and arugula on Ciabatta bread — they can then walk around and look at some beautiful furniture.
Welcome to Once Upon a Table, which has both great homemade food and name-brand furniture all under one big roof.
The restaurant is co-owned by Charles Wasser, who worked as an attorney in New York City before he followed his passion into cooking, and his wife, Kimberly Carluccio-Wasser, who was a New York City fashion designer.
The couple at first had designs for a space as grand as their food, with a large seating area, an outdoor gazebo, a French bistro look and cool jazz on weekends. They were forced to scale back that plan, however, because the town wouldn't allow a change of use for the building.
"We share space with my mother-in-law's business, which is called Bizzy Lizzy, and we were going to kind of just share the building," Charles Wasser says.
An agreement was worked out so that they would be able to keep the cafe and still be able to sell furniture there, too, with guidelines such as only being able to serve food on paper plates and not being able to hire any waitresses. But don't be fooled by the humble serveware. The food here is high-end enough to be served on silver platters.
"Our number-one sandwich is our fresh roasted turkey (with) sliced Granny Smith apples, walnuts, and cranberry chutney, which is similar to cranberry sauce, but chutney is more of a European kind of condiment," Wasser says. 'We have fresh cranberries and we put it on a Ciabatta bread . . . people call it a 'Thanksgiving.' "
Wasser is all about fresh ingredients and he takes offense at other places that load their products with preservatives and byproducts that he feels aren't healthy.
"We roast our own meats, and we make everything from scratch," Carluccio-Wasser says.
"You know, it's amazing," Charles Wasser adds, "When people bite into real roast beef, they'll say 'What is this?' because they're so used to the other stuff that tastes like cardboard."
Even as a child, Wasser always felt that food should both be made and taste fresh.
"Even as a kid I read labels and didn't eat margarine because I didn't understand half the things that were on the label," Wasser recalls.
And that's why he and his wife only want the best for their customers, whether it's fine food at the cafe or fine furniture on the other end of the store.
"It used to be called, Once Upon a Table: An Epicurean Fantasy. That was the original tagline," Wasser says about the cafe.
"We moved away from that because a lot of people associate epicurean just with food, which it's not. It's more than just food," Wasser explains. "It's a love of good things, finer things in life. So, the whole feel of the store is this sort of fairy tale realm where (we want you to) enjoy life, to slow down, and really stop and smell the roses."