Making and Enjoying Hudson Valley Fare at Home

The Gigi Brand

Laura Pensiero, the founder, owner, and creative force behind Gigi Hudson Valley, is a constant reminder that healthy food does not equate to less tasty food. Pensiero, a graduate of the French Culinary Institute, opened Gigi’s Trattoria in Rhinebeck in 2001. Since then, the award-winning restaurant has made quite a name for itself, and has been recognized by dozens of news outlets in the Hudson Valley and beyond.

This past November, Pensiero was recognized in Hudson Valley Magazine as being “arguably the single most influential person in creating the Hudson Valley ‘brand.’” Her approach to sourcing local, healthy, and flavorful food was an immediate hit in the Rhinebeck community. Hudson Valley produce, poultry, fish, cheese, spirits, brews and desserts line her menu. Local vendors include, but are not limited to: Hearty Roots Farm, Starling Yards Farm, Mead Orchards, Pampered Cow, Falanga Dairy, Keegan Ales and Tuthilltown Spirits.

Laura Pensiero is the founder, owner and creative force behind Gigi Hudson Valley (Gigi Trattoria and Gigi Catering.)

Laura Pensiero is the founder, owner and creative force behind Gigi Hudson Valley (Gigi Trattoria and Gigi Catering.)

In addition to the trattoria, Pensiero also operates a catering service, Gigi Easy Entertaining, which features an online menu complete with hot and cold hors d’oeurvres, soups, salads, pastas, entrées, sauces, side dishes, and some home baked goodies. Anyone can enjoy impromptu gatherings or parties by selecting from their menu of seasonal delights. All items are available for pickup at Gigi Trattoria in Rhinebeck, or by delivery. Easy Entertaining is a perfect option for informal weddings, and gatherings large and small. Cold hors d’oeuvres include beef tartare on peppered baguette rounds and lemony kale Caesar in Parmesan cups. Moroccan curried mini chicken kabobs, balsamic-glazed black figs wrapped in mountain smokehouse nitrate-free bacon, and Tuscan kale and ricotta tartlets, are favorites on the hot hors d’oeuvres menu. Platters of cheeses, local and imported meats, and vegetables with dipping sauces get the party started. A variety of the trattoria’s popular salads and entrées also populate the Easy Entertaining order form. All you need to do is invite your guests!

Connecting Gigi’s to Astor

Being heavily involved in the community is important to Pensiero. Contributing her services and food to many of the local historic sites and educational initiatives, as well as delivering fresh farm-raised turkeys with all the fixings to the children in our Residential Facility in Rhinebeck, NY, are just a few examples Pensiero’s commitment to the local community. Pensiero also helps spread the word about this very special county in the Hudson Valley through her work on the Board of Dutchess County Tourism.

“I pick donations locally to try and make them meaningful. We try to make a difference with whichever organization we choose to partner up with,” says Pensiero.


The famous Skizza™

Gigi’s Trattoria welcomes all ages at the restaurant. One of the most popular menu items for children and adults alike is the Gigi Skizza™, short for “skinny pizza.” It’s a flatbread pizza packed with flavor, yet made so light that it can easily be eaten between a salad and an entrée. Since 2001, Gigi’s has sold more than a half million Skizzas™ at their 80-seat restaurant in Rhinebeck and through local retail outlets. Gigi’s now offers gluten-free options as well.

The Gigi Skizza™ has been covered far and wide, from Hudson Valley Magazine to O, The Oprah Magazine. In January 2014, The Food Channel’s Chuck Hughes of “Chuck Eats the Street” joined Gigi Chef Laura Pensiero, and they prepared a tasty Kale Pesto, Roasted Tomato and Butternut Squash Skizza™. The episode aired early last August.

Gigi's Bianca Skizza™ with Coach Farm goat cheese, mozzarella, rosemary, preserved figs, pears and arugula, topped with a drizzle of white truffle oil.

Gigi’s Bianca Skizza™ with Coach Farm goat cheese, mozzarella, rosemary, preserved figs, pears and arugula, topped with a drizzle of white truffle oil.

Gigi Skizza™ Kits, which are available at Gigi’s Trattoria in Rhinebeck and Otto’s Market in Germantown, make a perfect family meal. Everyone in the family can get involved, and they’re easy to put together! There are even gluten-free kits available.

Kit flavors include:
• The classic Margherita: tomato sauce, basil, oregano, and mozzarella
• The Bianca: Coach Farm goat cheese, Gigi Fig Jam, pear, arugula, and truffle oil
• The Mamma: Tuscan-style porchetta, fennel salami, mozzarella, and tomato sauce

In addition to the above, two new, Mediterranean-inspired Skizzas ™ will be introduced with Gigi’s spring 2015 menus.

Hudson Valley Eats

Below is the recipe for Gigi Fig Jam, which can be used as an awesome pizza topping or cheese plate item. Bon appetite!

Recipe – Adapted from Hudson Valley Mediterranean: The Gigi Good Food Cookbook (HarperCollins/Pensiero 2009)

Gigi Fig Jam

We use this delicious jam on our local and imported cheese plate and as the base for the ever-popular Bianca Skizza.

Makes 1 quart

2 medium shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh chopped rosemary
12 ounces chopped dried Calimyrna figs (about 2 1/2 cups)
2 tablespoons dry red wine
1 tablespoon dry white wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Sauté the shallots in the olive oil over medium-high heat until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the rosemary and figs and cook another 3 minutes, until the figs soften slightly. Add the wine and 4 cups of water and bring to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the figs are very soft, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Puree the mixture in a food processor until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Store, covered and refrigerated, for up to 1 week.