By Josette Keelor - email@example.com
WINCHESTER -- Winchester has become the new New York, at least for recent NYC transplant Frank D'Alessio -- though minus the traffic, the smog and, most importantly, the stress. For D'Alessio, 46, that's the best part about living in Virginia.
Owner of City Bagels Delicatessen, which opened at 714 Berryville Ave. on Dec. 28, D'Alessio advertises his restaurant as having "BIG Apple Taste with LITTLE Apple Flavor."
Though he has been a chef for 27 years, he did not until recently intend to own his own restaurant.
"Before this I was managing a doctor's office," he said. He left New York to spend more time with his wife, Michelle, when it became apparent that their work schedules and commutes were not conducive to starting a family. Traveling from Queens to Manhattan each day to his job at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square did not make a lot of sense to him. Plus his wife wanted to go back to school to become a physician's assistant. Their choice seemed obvious to them.
Providence intervened when D'Alessio heard about a job opening managing a Hilton in Tulsa, Okla. When his wife was accepted at Shenandoah University, the couple moved to Winchester, where they have lived for seven years.
He took a job at Charles Town Races & Slots in West Virginia, and she now practices at the Urology Clinic of Winchester.
"It's nice, it's quiet," he said of the area. They "wanted to raise our children in a nice homey community," and that is what they got.
Leaving their family behind on Long Island, Staten Island and in Queens was not easy, but D'Alessio said their decision was what was best for them, and some family eventually followed, including D'Alessio's father, who died three years ago, and his mother, who lives in Strasburg.
Opening City Bagels would have made his father proud, satisfying the elder Frank D'Alessio's many frequent attempts to orchestrate his son's purchase of a restaurant in the greater Washington area.
"He got his wish, I did it too late," D'Alessio said. After securing the location on Berryville Avenue, his mother told him "Your father, he probably worked that out for you."
However it came to be, City Bagels might be here to stay.
"The idea seemed to be pretty well-received," D'Alessio said, which, considering a grand opening in the wake of a blizzard, is pretty impressive.
The first few days might have seen the restaurant sputter to a start, but now the bagel shop and deli is cruising along, taking on passengers and adding to its fuel at every stop.
Beginning with the simple idea of offering real New York-style bagels, made fresh each morning, the eatery soon added to its repertoire to become a deli, as well as an Italian and Greek restaurant.
With other pizza locations nearby, D'Alessio says he is not in the business of becoming a pizzeria, but he does make pizza in a catering pan for to-go orders. He also makes lasagna and baked ziti.
His father had wanted him to open a pizzeria -- he compromised by including Italian food at his deli.
D'Alessio says the fare is indicative of what one might find in a New York bagel shop.
The menu includes deli sandwiches, biscotti and muffins, potato salad, cole slaw, meatballs and pot pie.
"I do French, I do a little Asian," D'Alessio said. "Pretty much everything," which includes country cooking.
City Bagels' menu includes real mashed potatoes, gravy and fresh vegetables.
It may be Manhattan at its core, but it has given over its heart to the apple valley.
"[There are] not a lot of places like this," said chef Antonio Bucaloy.
To his credit, there are also not a lot of chefs like Bucaloy, 76, who has been cooking for 54 years. He met D'Alessio after the younger man moved to Virginia and has since become his closest friend.
"We just hit it off well," said Bucaloy, who was born in the Philippines. "We're just like father and son. We really hit it off."
Bucaloy said he formerly worked at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, was a chef at a Chinese restaurant at the Martinsburg Mall in West Virginia, and owner of the Gyro Express deli in Front Royal, and was most recently a consultant for Spelunker's in Front Royal and owner of Paula and Antonio's Eatery, which closed in 2006.
"I retired many times," he said, but the food kept calling to him.
Last year he was a guest chef at the Civil Cricket in Middletown.
"They loved it," he said.
Through his consulting work, he helped restaurant owners develop "perfect menus from scratch," he said.
"The people here, you have to cater to them more or less," he said of the customers he has encountered. Lucky for them, he knows how to make just about anything.
He makes fresh soups for the restaurant, and his chili recipe won the Frederick County Fair in 2007.
"I'm an international chef," he said, and a member of the International Chef's Association, D'Alessio added.
City Bagels offers catering for lunch and dinner and parties like graduations and anniversaries.
D'Alessio has been adapting to a quieter life in Winchester, with his wife and 2-year-old son, Frank, named for his grandfather.
"I miss the easy availability to some things," he said. "You have that hyper-vigilence," he said, that never quite dissipates. The urge to take things at light speed has its benefits, though, when it comes to offering his customer base everything he possibly can from his store of family-inspired recipes.
"I've been making it my whole life."
City Bagels Delicatessen at 714 Berryville Ave. in Winchester, is open 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays. For more information, call 450-8037 or visit the Web at www.citybagelsdeli.com.