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Rockland County, NY, a destination for food, films and fun

As a travel reporter, when you hit an “oh-my-god” moment, you talk about it forever. My husband Stan and I were shmoozing with Greg Parseghian, owner of the Best Western Nyack in Rockland County, NY, and he let on that we could go “backstage” at Rockland Bakery (where he buys his yummy baked goods) and pick whatever we wanted. As it turns out, not only could we do this, but so can you.

First, you put on a pair of clear plastic gloves and grab a brown paper bag, then you follow your nose to the cooling racks. You can watch the breads and rolls coming off the conveyor belts. Then you just help yourself to whatever you want – raisin, pumpernickel and whole grain breads, Vienna rolls, bagels, challahs, Stan’s favourite cranberry raisin corn bread or onion boards, or my favourite seven-grain bread with sunflower seeds smothering the outside. It doesn’t get any fresher than this. You pay for your goods out front in the retail sweets bakery, where you can add: rugalach, cherry, pineapple, blueberry or cheese danish, babkas, bowties, crumb buns, doughnuts, black and white cookies, brownies, cakes, pies – and expect it all to be oversized, US-style. Beside the retail area there is a little deli where you can grab a sandwich, or you can give them one of your hot fresh rolls and they’ll pile it with cold cuts.

This 40-plus-year-old bakery has become a regular pit stop for us whenever we drive the I-87 to New York City.

Once you’re in the area, you can eat well, go dancing and watch big-screen classics in an old-time movie theatre.

For dining options you can mail ahead or pick up a “restaurant row” 10- to 15-per-cent-off discount card good at 16 restaurants along a four-block stretch of Nyack’s Main Street.

Hailing from Abruzzi, Italy, chef Marcello Russodivito of Marcello’s Ristorante has been conquering fine dining for 21 years, combining excellent service and warm hospitality. Expect him to come out to chat with you during your meal. Generous with his recipes, he shares them online and in his cookbook. The menu has heart-smart choices: There are creative ones like the ravioli stuffed with lamb, ricotta and spinach or the seafood on black pasta, and there are classics like eggplant or veal parmigiana and a to-die-for garlicky white clam sauce. For dessert, I enjoyed the panna cotta (vanilla custard) with raspberry sauce, and you can’t go wrong with the flourless chocolate cake. The restaurant offers cooking classes, or you can dine at the chef’s table in the kitchen.

Make sure you organize your eating in time to pop across the street to the Lafayette Theatre. Saved from the wrecker’s ball, this classic movie theatre, built in 1924, seats 1,000 (with original seats upstairs) and has a resident ghost named John. There are first-run movies, fine art films, live performances and Saturday matinee Big Screen Classics. The best treat is the 1931 Ben Hall Memorial Mighty organ, which played in Carnegie Hall and now booms out for half an hour before the Friday and Saturday night movies and the Saturday matinees. If you need to use the restrooms, vintage radios keep you abreast of the dialogue in the movie.

And the fun’s not finished yet. To bed down for the night, head over to the friendly, family-run Best Western Nyack on Hudson, whose motto is “where your family meets ours.” Recently renovated and 100-per-cent non-smoking, the hotel has fridges and coffee makers in every room. On Friday nights the West Gate Lounge offers free-style dancing and on Saturday nights it turns into a Latin night club where you can take salsa lessons and later on in the evening enjoy live music by bands from around the world. The best part: You don’t have to drive home – just toddle off to sleep in your bed upstairs.

Before you go

I-87 Exit 13S (NY State Thruway): Rockland Bakery, 94 Demarest Mill Rd.W., Nanuet, NY. Phone: 845-623-5800. Hours: Sun- Fri 6am-10:30pm, Sat 6am-midnight.

Exit 14B: Marcello’s Ristorante 21 Lafayette Ave., Suffern, NY. Phone 845-357-9108. Hours: lunch Mon-Sat 12 to 2:30pm. dinner: Mon-Thurs 5-9:30pm, dinner Fri & Sat 5-10pm, dinner Sun 3-8:30pm

Exit 14B: Lafayette Theatre, 97 Lafayette Ave., Suffern, NY. Phone: 845-369-8234,

Exit 11: Best Western Inn, 26 Route 59, Nyack, NY. Phone: 877-358-8181 or 845-358-8100.

For all the info you need on Rockland County:



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