Destination dining in Canandaigua Lake’s wine country
Kismet New American Bistro draws roadtrippers to Naples
Random wanderers through the western Finger Lakes have a strange way of popping up in Naples whether they’re driving from Rochester, Canandaigua, Geneva, or even the Southern Tier. At the south end of Canandaigua Lake, where Ontario County hooks down between the High Tor Wildlife Management Area and the wind turbines of Dutch Hill, Naples is a cute succession of brick storefronts and nineteenth-century homes. There are also lots of reasons to end up in Naples on purpose: Grimes Glen, grape pies, Joseph’s Wayside Market, the Bristol Valley Theatre, and now, Kismet New American Bistro.
“Kismet” is Turkish for “destiny,” a fun way to describe how travelers often land in Naples intentionally or by accident. Paul and Karen Trepes, along with their daughter, Nyssa, opened Kismet almost two years ago. Nyssa and her fiancé, Roberta Parrilla, lead the kitchen, while Karen and Paul manage the front of the restaurant. Their goal is to provide creative preparations of high-quality produce from small farms. They decided to buy vegetables mostly from local farms and meats from farmers across the country that place a priority on cruelty-free methods. You can find a full list of their vendors on the restaurant’s website under “Grateful.”
Kismet is a warm, inviting way to wrap up an autumn road trip. The mustard-colored walls of the converted house are sparsely adorned with artwork that leans heavily into red, orange, and purple hues so commonly found in surrounding vineyards. One wall is lined with a cherry-stained church pew. There’s a small kitchen in the back, a cozy central bar, and a dining room with a couple dozen place-settings—and that’s it. Smooth saxophone riffs whisper through the sound system. You feel immediately at ease, as if you’re in the dining room of a good friend.
The fall menu had not yet been released for this review. In fact, this is one of those kinds of restaurants that rotates its entire menu seasonally, making each visit a new experience. Spring emphasizes lamb, root vegetables, and charcuterie. Summer brings in fresh fish and leafy greens. Fall adds game such as bison sometimes served as a mignon or a deconstructed Wellington. Paul compares planning the seasonal menu to investing in the futures market as his family makes educated guesses about what will be readily available in the months to come and appeal to customer tastes.
The wine list runs heavy on Finger Lakes labels like Dr. Frank, Casa Larga, Atwater, and Fulkerson. Naples, however, presents its own impressive smattering of wineries including the Timothy Moore Reserve Chardonnay ($10), a fruity semi-dry that contrasts well with homemade bread and a simple cheese board of fine cheddar, gouda, and peppadew—a cheese made with a sweet, mildly spicy pepper from South Africa.
The poutine ($8) is representative of how Kismet playfully tweaks your expectations. You think you’re getting the Québécois guilty pleasure of french fries with beef gravy and squeaky cheese curd. Instead, it’s roasted whole baby potatoes with sliced tenderloin, onion gravy, and pungent bleu cheese. It’s not strictly poutine, but it’s quite good nevertheless.
The main course is a fork-tender rack of lamb ($40) with what appears to be a visual rhyme. The roasted, minced garlic on top is the same color and consistency as the bed of corn chowder—similar in appearance but much different in taste. Alongside the lamb are steamed asparagus and spiced apricots. Presented on a simple white plate, the crispy, braised meat is framed with gold, green, and amber—which in turn complements the restaurant décor itself. It’s as if you’ve stepped into the paintings on the wall to create a heightened experience. You consume the best meals, after all, with your five senses fully engaged.
Dessert is always “chef’s whim,” the chef being sous chef Kasey Angelo, who treats her job like jazz improvisation. She’ll take an interesting recipe and create a variation on the theme, such as truffles with strawberries and goat cheese, or a cream puff with port wine whipped cream. Tonight, it’s a row of three truffles in chocolate, strawberry, and a nutty paste that would remind you of a Middle Eastern halvah.
If you love long, meandering drives through southern Ontario County and into the high, sloping hills of Keuka Lake, you’ll likely pass right by Kismet. It’s well worth a stop to enjoy a glass of wine made by the vintner just down the road and a mindful, artistic culinary creation. In a region where every small town prides itself on a surprisingly good restaurant, Kismet stands apart. Call ahead for reservations or check the website ahead of time, because Kismet is typically only open for dinner from Thursday through Sunday.
Mark Gillespie is the communications manager for the Rochester Institute of Technology College of Science. He is an avid fan of the region’s food, culture, and great outdoors.