A harmonious treat for foodies has snuck its way into Latham’s busy Route 9 corridor, sandwiched between motels and car dealerships, for a taste of something far apart from fast-food fare: fresh, farm-to-table food.
Viola’s Café, located inside the Monte Mario Motel at 947 Loudon Road, officially opened its doors Monday, July 15, and aims to supply the area with homemade, locally-grown breakfast and lunch.
Owners and couple Cindy Therrault, an interior designer, and Scott MacPherson, veteran music producer/engineer, said they had been dreaming of opening up their own café for years, especially after getting fed up with their chain-heavy neighborhood.
“It was frustrating for us. We just couldn’t find any restaurants. Every time we’d go out to eat, it was a disappointment,” MacPherson said.
The artistic couple both grew up in Colonie, MacPherson attending Shaker High School and Therrault at Watervliet High School, and spent the majority of their lives out of the area, including time in L.A. and New York City. The once high school sweethearts separated for college, lived their own busy lives and eventually relocated to Loudonville, where they rekindled and reconnected.
The two discussed their passion for food and their plans to open their own eatery.
“Food is like music. You need a harmony to the things to complement each other. Creating music, interior designing, creating food, all need harmony,” Therrault said. “Same process, different avenue.”
So the search for their own café began. The two spent a couple of years finding the right spot in terms of space and cost. This past March, MacPherson told Therrault of a space for rent in the Pennysaver and with a little work, knew the space would be just right.
“It was a little bit of a wreck, but with my design background and expertise I thought, ‘I could make this pretty, that’s not a problem.’ It just needed some TLC,” Therrault said.
A few renovations later and with a menu developed, the team was ready to open. The small but versatile menu includes salads, sandwiches and array of homemade sides, mostly priced between $6 and $7.50. Currently, there are two vegetarian options, but Therrault said the roasted red pepper and goat cheese sandwich, filled with layers of roasted red peppers, goat cheese, capers, homemade pesto and thinly sliced red onion ($6), is one of their top sellers for any kind of palette. For dessert, the café has a homemade cookie of the day.
Everything at the café is intended to be as local as possible, MacPherson said. The bread is from Heidelberg Baking Company in Herkimer, the meat is from the Niskayuna Co-Op, and produce is often obtained from the Troy Farmers Market. Therrault’s sister owns a catering business and helps out occasionally.
Nothing is processed and there are no preservatives in the food, MacPherson said. For an even homier feel, the owners grow their own herbs right in the café’s windowsill.
“Every sandwich is thoughtfully prepared. No production line with everything ready to go,” Therrault said. “We try to really view each order that we do with the same kind of care as if I was making it for myself or a friend or family member. I think that shines through with our food. I think you can tell it’s a handcrafted lunch, that’s important to us.”
While the café doesn’t have its liquor license yet, customers can bring in their own wine if they’re eating in.
Right now, the owners said they’re focusing on expanding their catering section. With several nearby businesses, Therrault said they’ve been filling many take-out or delivery lunch orders for large companies.
One of the café’s biggest struggles, the owners said, was coming up with the perfect name. After deliberating for three weeks, Viola came naturally, as the name runs in Therrault’s family, and it also represents a flower and musical instrument. Yet, as of now, the café remains unmarked along Route 9 as the owners save up for a sign. MacPherson suggested a possible fundraiser with music to help get their name out there.
Eventually, the café will add dinner portions to the menu, and might open up in the evening for private parties, with seating for up to 20 people.
Right now, the couple is still getting accommodated with their small but charming café.
“We’re still learning and growing,” Therrault said. “I think we have dreams someday when we grow up we’ll get a bigger restaurant. Dreaming big, living large.”
Viola’s Café is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. for eat in, take out and free delivery on minimum orders of $20 within a 5-mile radius.