ITALY NEWS: A ‘Tree’ grows in Little Italy

dWeb.News Article from Daniel Webster dWeb.News

dWeb.News Article from Daniel Webster dWeb.News

ITALY NEWS:

Success takes a vision, a bit of gumption and some risk.

How is it a tapas bar more fit for some tawny, hip locale ended up instead 1507 Pine Ave. in Little Italy?

Josh Carey and his sister Bekah had a vision and made it happen. They opened in spring and have been steadily busy since.

The cocktails are high end. A mojito, stripped down, all flavor without syrupy sweetness, a well-conceived mix of rum, mint, lime and club soda. An espresso martini, served without ice, with a bean on top and with real espresso. An old fashioned poured over a single large cube with an amaro cherry. A margarita with silver tequila, agave, cointreau, lime and perfect salt, again simple, elegant, beautiful. Most everything shaken, not stirred and iced only when appropriate.

The Careys united to open the establishment, in spite of Covid.

Bekah came back from the theatre business in New York, Chicago and Rochester working as an opera wigmaker and costume designer. Josh is a Niagara Falls firefighter with a degree in hospitality management from Niagara University. He bought the building as a place to live about four years ago.

They make simple food and drink to perfection.

For example, chilled beet salad is fantastic, cold perfectly cooked beets served over ricotta with chopped pistachios, herbs and a bit of olive oil.

Flatbreads are equally delectable, fig jam layered with brie, arugula and focaccia.

And save room for dessert. On a recent Saturday it was flourless chocolate cake with a generous dollop of creme freche and Amera cherries.

Nothing is fast or inexpensive because quality takes time and good ingredients. Even so, the Careys have created a destination.

Oh and about that curious name, it pays homage to the owner’s grandfather who had a favorite redbud tree in his backyard.

The siblings play off each other.

“We agree on the big stuff. We fight over little stuff. It’s a lot of work” Josh said.

Like what?

“She rearranged the bar putting the garnishes in front and the glassware in back,” he explained.

“It works better,” she said.

They speak with pride about their mother Beth and father John, who worked as a fire department battalion chief. Beth is a steadying force.

“She does some baking for us and is the gardener and keeps us sane,” Bekah said. “She is buoyant and effervescent.”

“Buoyant?” Josh said. “What does that mean? Put me on the record for ‘bubbly.’ ”

They laughed with a comfortable ease.

Josh didn’t know what would become of the first floor of the building but had a notion it could turn into something. He bartended some at the The Craft and Legends downtown and a vision started to form.

The space downstairs was a blank canvass, perhaps most memorably a candy store.

They sanded the floors. The tin ceiling had to go to comply with the fire code. It found new life with oak trim as wainscoting. The floors were sanded. Additional tin accents were added to the bar face. They ordered custom booths from Guido’s Upholstery.

Business has been steady. An outdoor patio space is now available. By next year, there will be bocce courts. A raised area at the back will accommodate food trucks.

The kitchen will stay simple.

There have been challenges.

“It is the learning curve,” Bekah said, “making sure I’m not serving product I don’t know enough about. I had a consumer-based knowledge.”

She strives for local, organic and natural product.

She also sees potential for renaissance on Pine Avenue.

“I like that people come from Fortuna’s after dinner or for a drink before,” she said. “It’s been a great symbiotic relationship. I hope more restaurants and bars open to create a more walkable community.”

The Carey’s also welcome the influx of immigrants to the neighborhood.

“Our parents and grandparents came here as immigrants,” she said. “It’s nice to see people out, fixing up property, happy to be here.”

Judas Tree is open 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. Wednesday through Sunday, closed Mondays and Tuesday.

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