Wood-Fired Pizzas From the Community Bread Oven
The tiny village of Cambridge, population 1,900, is nestled in the verdant hills of Washington County, New York. Surrounded by Vermont’s Green Mountains and acres of fertile farmland, it’s a beautiful place to spend a summer evening. If you find yourself driving through the village on a Friday night, you may notice the crowd gathered outside Round House Bakery Café on Main Street—and for good reason. Every week, this small café serves up artisan pizza to hungry locals and visitors alike. While there are other pizza establishments in town, none can compare to the wood-fired pies that Round House creates each Friday.
But as delicious as the pizza is, the dining experience is just as special. In the warmer months, the pizzas are baked in the community bread oven located just behind the café on the Hubbard Hall campus. Local musicians treat patrons to music while they wait, and if the weather is nice, you can find many people en- joying their pizza al fresco, either at the café’s patio tables or on nearby picnic benches. Locals agree; Round House’s pizza night is the place to see and be seen in Cambridge.
Scott and Lisa Carrino, the husband and wife team who own Round House Bakery Café, re-opened the doors to the historic 19th-century bank building in April 2013. From the ornate 6,000-pound vault door (which now serves as the entrance to a tiny gift shop) to the high tin ceiling and original paneling, the café’s space is as unique as its food offerings. The Carrinos initially decided to rent the vacant storefront as a retail space for the baked goods they produced at their property, Pompanuck Farm. The café has quickly secured itself a beloved spot in the commu- nity, but Scott says it almost didn’t happen. “We were hesitant at first, knowing that we did not have the funds to start such a ven- ture, but the people in our community got together and raised $10,000 as a loan to get us started,” he says. The Carrinos used the loan to purchase equipment and make necessary updates to the building, and as Scott explains, “We are still paying it back to these loyal customers by discounting their purchases 10% each time they come in.”
Fortunately, the café’s business is thriving and the Carrinos are continually adding new offerings to the menu. Recently, they added a popular Sunday brunch to the lineup, but for many, pizza night is still the winner. For years, the Carrinos hosted a semi-annual pizza and jazz night at Pompanuck Farm, so it seemed only natural to bring that idea to the café space.
The combination of local ingredients, the use of the wood-fired community oven and musical entertainment became an instant hit with the community. Pizza nights are offered year-round, but arguably warmer months offer the best experience. Scott says, “We are able to use the community bread oven in most seasons, but winter is difficult because the oven is outdoors and has difficulty holding heat in cold weather—as do the pizza makers!” He continues, “During the winter, we use our in-house convection oven with pizza stones.”
For the pies themselves, the Carrinos use their own homemade dough (which they also sell at nearby farmers’ markets and co-ops), Vermont and New York cheeses, meat from Yushak’s Market in Shushan and a variety of local vegetables—many of them grown in the Carrinos’ garden at Pompanuck Farm. For anything they can’t grow them- selves, Scott says, “We barter with vendors at our farmers’ markets for the freshest vegetables and greens available.” They also have ongoing relationships with local organic farmers and foragers. Scott says, “[They] bring us ingredients weekly and offer them to us for all kinds of meals, but especially for pizza night.”
In addition to the tasty wood-fired pies, Friday nights at Round House Bakery Café are special for their social appeal. Pizza night has become known as a time for family and the Cambridge community to come together. And with a beer and wine license expected early this summer, there’ll be one more reason to celebrate on balmy evenings. Scott says they hope to add more dinner nights to their lineup once the license comes through.
While the quality of their food is always top of mind, the Carrinos hope their café can continue to be more than just a place to grab a bite to eat. Over the past three years it has become one of the few places where residents of this tiny rural village can sit and enjoy a meal with friends. And the café’s newest endeavor is raising money for a down payment to purchase the building. Scott explains, “Our landlord retired and moved out of our community and he is ready and wanting to sell the building.” The Carrinos hope to buy the building so that the café can remain next to other village institutions like Hubbard Hall, Valley Artisans Market, Battenkill Books, Over the Moon Bead Shop and the Cambridge Diner. Scott and Lisa explain that at the urging of friends and pa- trons, they started a GoFundMe campaign (GoFundMe.com/y3vgejjg) and, as of press time, they are over halfway to their $75,000 goal. Scott says, “We are grateful for all of the donations—big and small—that have encouraged us to continue our adventure to keep a small rural village business viable in this age of multinational corporate focus.” He continues, “Small communities, especially rural villages, have been forgotten and disregarded in the big push for globalization. We hope to prove that small communities can not only survive but can thrive and be places where young people can have opportunities to grow and prosper.”
To experience Round House’s wood-fired pizza for yourself, head to the café, located at 1 Washington Street (just off of Main Street) in Cambridge on Friday evenings until 8pm. For more information on the Carrinos’ farm, bakery offerings or café, visit Pompanuck.org.
What’s in a Round House Pizza?
Homemade dough (made fresh by Scott and Lisa twice a week)
Vermont and New York cheeses
Local meats from Yushak’s Market (Shushan, NY)
Homemade long-simmered tomato sauce (in-season)
Wild herbs and mushrooms from local foragers
Homegrown eggplant, onion, garlic and greens from the garden at Pompanuck Farm (Cambridge, NY)
A variety of other vegetables from Happenchance Organic Farm (White Creek, NY) and local farmers’ markets