Cafe DeWitt prepares to open under new ownership | Ithaca

ITHACA, NY — Since 1973, Café Dewitt has been intermittently providing an award-winning brunch to the Ithaca community. The space has served as a gathering place for almost 50 years, so it came as a surprise when the doors closed in December 2021.

This closure was always meant to be temporary, as the restaurant needed new management. On March 25, Ben Roach and Denise O’Leary assumed the roles of new owners of Café Dewitt.

Roach and O’Leary have extensive restaurant experience, working primarily behind the scenes in the kitchens. They are both passionate about their work as chefs and excited to take on challenges as business owners.

“Ben and I are new to this and the transition has definitely been a learning curve,” O’Leary said. “However, we’re finally at the stage where we’ve done most of the critical material and we can focus on the food. You can’t stop thinking about things to do and recipes to try, which is fantastic. He There are always endless possibilities in the kitchen, but even more so when you have creative control.”

Maintaining the legacy of Café Dewitt is a priority for Roach and O’Leary. They both know the Ithaca area, but Roach has visited the cafe since he was young and has fond memories of how it was always run.

“When I learned that the coffee was for sale, I knew I had to intervene. I couldn’t let it go,” Roach said. “Denise and I have done a lot of research and we intend to embrace history through wall decor and by selling merchandise featuring the original cafe logo. We know Café Dewitt means a lot to the coffee community. ‘Ithaca, and we want to honor what they’ve always loved about it.

Roach and O’Leary always intend to bring their own flair and personal values.

“We want the cafe to have an internet presence, and I’ll be doing a lot of marketing work as well,” O’Leary said. “By spreading our names, we can expand the consumer base and adapt our menu to cover a wider range of flavors. I’m personally excited to try vegan and other allergen-free recipes as we get down to business.

Café Dewitt’s new and improved menu will include past favorite sandwiches as well as the taste preferences of its new owners. Another thing Roach and O’Leary bring to the cafe is their focus on food sustainability, making well-researched decisions when it comes to choosing suppliers.

“Buying local is one way to combat the food sustainability challenges that most restaurants face,” Roach said. “Believe it or not, getting produce from local farms is comparable in price to big business, and it’s just one way to support the community that gives Café Dewitt nothing but love.” This is positive feedback. Food will always taste better if you know where it comes from, especially if it’s local.

Roach and O’Leary shared that they will be hosting a pre-opening of Café Dewitt in early May. They can’t set a date for the grand opening, but they’re determined to be fully operational by late spring.

“A lot of work has gone into this announcement,” Roach said. “We’ve been researching, making phone calls, completing paperwork and planning the menu for over four months, but we’re finally confident in our ability to open and we can’t wait.”

You can find Café Dewitt on Facebook and Instagram. Roach and O’Leary also have a mailing list on their website if you have direct questions.

Richard Dement

The author Richard Dement