Hudson Valley Original Cooking up Something Special For Valentines Day

Executive Chef Charles Bivona III is a Hudson Valley original in every sense of the word. His high school days consisted of mohawks and an outstanding alternative lifestyle complete with rocking out in a punk band—Argyle Flag—and setting things on fire, allegedly. But, CJ, as he is affectionately known to his friends, did a 180 during his stay in higher education, effectively fooling all of his friends, and leaving them in the dust of the culinary path he was blazing. These days you'll find him working the kitchen in one of NYC's finest Italian eateries: Petaluma. We visited him there, just in time to get the scoop on a truly amazing Valentine's Day menu. 

One of my favorite things about living in the Hudson Valley is our door-to-door service to New York City. With unbelievable treasures like Petaluma an evening's throw away, this Saturday night could be the perfect occasion to spring this five star moment on that special someone in your life. Valentines Day on a Saturday Night... it's too good to be true. The mood and the motive are perfectly in place for a night you'll never forget.

c/o Petaluma instagram

Petaluma has been featured in the New York Times and New York Magazine, hailed for its convention (an Italian savor's dream) and loved for its savvy adaptations on old world favorites. I sampled a variety of C. J. Bivona's creations at the restaurant, and found the combinations to be flagrant and robust. The overall experience of the upper east side establishment left me reeling for days. It was intimate and luxurious. The sautee on the shishito peppers was delightfully crisp. Fresh scallops were served in a delicate sauce that barely made its presence known, until dutifully hitting my lips. The preparation of the polenta was unassailable. Every dish was a total success. The bread, the dash of oil that accompanies it, and the bottle of hand-selected wine to finish off the flavor. 


And, for your Valentine, something special: 

The three course meal curated by CJ includes a mouthwatering first course ....

Course 2 to suit the fine diner in us all: carnivore; vegetarian; seafood lover...

and of course a dessert selection that will leave you licking your lips the whole way home..

Petaluma is on instagram:

warm beet salad*

perfectly plated*

About the chef: 

CJ  was born in the winter of 1984 way up North in New Hampshire, and then moved to New York’s Hudson Valley at the age of 2. By the age of 7, he could be found in his mother and father’s pasta shop after school, helping to roll fresh pasta, make sauce and assemble meatballs. During his college years he ran the gamut of industry jobs, working in Italian restaurants and pizzerias – plus a French bistro – in upstate New York.

CJ moved down to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to finish his degree in Marketing, and worked at an Italian bistro.  Not long after, he was entrusted with taking over kitchen operations at the owner’s other establishment, Junior’s New York Pizza. Cooking had become CJ’s career, so he moved back to New York City to attend the Institute of Culinary Education on 23rd street, and then headed South again, but this time to Miami where he cooked at an Irish pub. After, he spent a year under Chef John Suley at the Miami extension of the NYC Institution, Gotham Bar and Grill.

After being introduced to Jeff McInnis, he was brought on as Executive Sous Chef at his restaurant, YardBird Southern Table and Bar. For two years, CJ worked hard and was rewarded with multiple James Beard nominations and the honor of the local rag calling Yardbird “Best New Restaurant.” CJ now returns to New York City to further his career and immerse himself in the NYC lifestyle.

Compliments to the chef! - Stefanie Pearl, publisher, with CJ (We're old friends, how do you think I dug up all that high school gossip?)

By the way our friendship did not sway opinions on menu items, the meal was incredible! I visited Petaluma on a Thursday night, and there was standing room only, a divine musical atmosphere, beautiful mood lighting and the food just kept coming. 

The experience was something I'll never forget, truly a treasure carved into the corner of 73rd and !st..

Theresa Rockabirdie gets a surprise firework in her cake


*Samples do not necessarily represent menu items for Valentines Day menu

**Sorry ladies, CJ is off the menu!