Guest Columns

Restaurant Examiner: Spring Menu Unveiled at Mt. Kisco’s Café of Love

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Berbere-crusted thick-cut lamb chops, one of the many mouth-watering menu items at Leslie Lampert's Cafe of Love in Mount Kisco.
Berbere-crusted thick-cut lamb chops, one of the many mouth-watering menu items at Leslie Lampert’s Cafe of Love in Mount Kisco.

Leslie Lampert is the founder and proprietor of the popular Mount Kisco restaurant Café of Love, Ladle of Love (takeout only) and Love on the Run (off-premise catering).

Just over a decade ago she was one of America’s leading food writers. A senior editor at Ladies Home Journal, she wrote food features, among other responsibilities.

But Lampert liked making soup at home for her fledgling gift basket business so much that she decided to give up journalism to pursue a career in the food business. Her “reinvention of herself” was brought to the attention of a vast television audience on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in 2008.

“It’s all about love,” Lampert said about her endeavors, “Love of food, community and cooking with a conscious.”

She sources many local ingredients and products and stresses the importance of contributing to the neighborhood’s economic (and overall) health.

restaurant-2Lampert, a White Plains resident, finished the 2015 spring dinner menu for Café of Love about a week ago and it debuted last weekend. She wrote the menu and the recipes.

“The kitchen staff creates the dishes with French technique and a whole lotta love,” she said.

The varied spring menu consists of 14 appetizers and 13 entrees — most of which are new dishes.

“The farmhouse salad and the bouillabaisse will stay on the menu forever; there would be a mutiny by my guests if I ever took them off,” Lambert commented.

No cuisine is off limits for Café of Love, which changes menus about every 10 weeks with dishes derived from many continents.

“Customers can go on a global trip food-wise. That is why when the meal ends, the bill arrives in a passport,” Lampert pointed out.

Café of Love’s appetizers include Korean Bulgogi steak skewers with chopped green onion kimchee and gochujang sauce ($12); roasted chicken Shawarma taco with chopped Turkish salad, tahini aioli and corn tortilla ($12); and shrimp mojito ceviche lettuce wraps with Amba Farm butter lettuce and serrano-agave drizzle ($12).

Asparagus salad.
Asparagus salad.

For some items, the menu identifies the local supplier used as a source, such as Amba Farm greens, Daisy Hill Farm herbs, John Fazio duck and Sugar Hill steak.

Seafood includes Atlantic salmon ($29), crusted Mahi Mahi ($33), pan-seared Long Island hake ($26) and seafood bouillabaisse with shrimp, mussels, hake, prawn, tomatoes and saffron-fennel broth ($34).

The spring menu also includes a $16 hamburger and the $18 signature farmhouse salad that comes with 11 ingredients. Chicken, shrimp or salmon can be added at extra cost.

Pasta whisperer Esvin Perez Garcia receives special praise from Lampert.

“Perfect pillow gnocchis — pappardelle to make a Paisano proud,” she said.

Bar manager Justin Pollack gets a nod of approval, too, for his signature beverage called “Blood Orange Bourbon Thawed.”

Café of Love has two ongoing $15 specials: burger and beer on Tuesdays and wine and wings on Wednesdays. It is open for lunch and dinner every day except Monday and for brunch on Saturday and Sunday.

Chef de Cuisine Hector Coronel has been minding the stove at Café of Love since the start more than seven years ago. He trained at a little cafe called Restaurant Cummanda in his hometown of Quito, Ecuador. When he was only 15, he mastered the preparation of a local favorite — sopa de pollo (chicken stew).

He arrived in America in 1994, worked at several local restaurants and developed Café of Love’s searing technique for fish and beef.

“For me, cooking is relaxing. Love the fast pace and the structure of working with the guys on the line,” he said.

Kitchen Manager Mike Donnelly was classically trained at The French Culinary Institute in Manhattan (now called the International Culinary Center). He’s the newest team member, having joined the restaurant five years ago.

“The kitchen is my comfort zone,” Donnelly said. “I hung out with my Irish grandma watching her cook from recipes in ‘The Joy of Cooking’ and ‘The New York Times Cookbook.’ When I was five years old, I already knew I would make my career in the kitchen.”

He began as an overnight cook at Ladle of Love, and shortly after, moved to Café of Love. He is the first one to arrive in the morning and often the last one to leave.

Lampert said Cafe of Love manager Amanda Gomolka makes sure the rhythm stays on point, ensuring each guest has a memorable experience.

Ladle of Love is headed by manager Jennifer Mendez and lead cook Jackson Lopez. It has no tables or chairs, just an order and pickup counter and a kitchen.

The frequently changing menu offers hot and cold items for lunch including sandwiches, salads, stews and of course — soup.

The chocolate chip waffle is available at Cafe of Love for those diners who want to finish off their meal with something sweet and delicious.
The chocolate chip waffle is available at Cafe of Love for those diners who want to finish off their meal with something sweet and delicious.

For lunch and dinner, the entrees typically include chicken, pasta and grain dishes, with vegan and gluten-free items always among the choices. Ladle of Love is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Many Café of Love and Ladle of Love soups and stews are available at Mrs. Green’s Natural Markets. Lampert’s establishments support local charities and community organizations ranging from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and Little League to land trust and lunch programs. Ladle of Love won the Forbes Enterprise Award in 2008 and The Love Group received four Snail of Approval Awards from Slow Food Metro North in 2013.

Café of Love is located at 38 E. Main St. in Mount Kisco. Call 914-242-1002 or visit for more information.

Ladle of Love is located at 11B S. Moger Ave. in Mount Kisco. It can be reached at 914-242-9661 or visit

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