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After almost a decade of dominating Poughkeepsie’s dining scene, chef and owner Ed Kowalski felt the time was right for change. “We were doing fine dining [at Crave] for nine years—and loved it—but felt that we needed to repurpose the space to keep it fresh,” Kowalski says. He redesigned the interior and the menu, imported a high-end wood-fired pizza oven and a pasta maker from Italy. Borrowing on the success of Lola’s, his casual eatery next door, Kowalski transformed the white tablecloth, formal service restaurant that had been Crave into an easy, colorful space where he could quickly and comfortably serve the public the kind of food that he and his family love to eat.

The 50-seat (30 inside, 20 seasonal outside) eatery specializes in wood-fired, Neapolitan-style pizza and fresh, handmade pasta—the bright red pizza oven is front and center, clearly visible in the open kitchen. Using a unique recipe, the team proofs 100 dough balls each day; they will ferment overnight and be ready the next day to fire up in the 900 degree oven. (He and partner, Craig Capano, tested dough recipes until they found a mix of local and imported flours and cheeses that worked best with domestic tomatoes and local vegetables.) The result: light airy pies, blistered to perfection. The menu is simple: pizza and pasta, like bucatini with pecorino Romano, butter and black pepper, and gnocchi with mushrooms and white wine. Starters like kale salad and caramelized Brussels sprouts satisfy the need for green. Specialty cocktails, local brews and wines from the Wine Spectator Award-winning wine list round out the meal and prove Kowalski is as serious as ever about food—just more casual. Open for lunch and dinner.

129 Washington St, Poughkeepsie
(845) 452-8100; lolitaspizza.com

Hudson Valley Restaurant Week is back this April 8-21!