Westchester Medical Center converts vacant storage space into modern Italian cafe

After brainstorming ideas on paper, the Morrison Healthcare team turned a pizza, gelato and espresso concept into reality.
Cecilia Cucina Italiana
Cecilia Cucina Italiana was carved out of an empty storage space at Westchester Medical Center. | Photo courtesy of Morrison Healthcare.

Since opening in April, Cecilia Cucina Italiana at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, N.Y., has become a bustling destination for staff and visitors craving artisan pizza, gelato and espresso.

“We hit the ground running,” said Albadin Milovic, director of dining services for Morrison Healthcare, foodservice provider at the hospital.

But it took some strategic equipment purchasing and menu planning to turn a vacant storage space into a modern cafe.

“We had to get creative with our equipment since we are a fully electric kitchen and working with self-exhausting ovens,” said Amber Chermak, regional director of operations for Morrison. 

That meant the team had to bring in special electric pizza ovens. They chose three TurboChef Fire ovens “because they put a nice crust on pizzas. We also added a convection oven for calzones,” said Chermak. Espresso machines were also a new spec, as was a new POS system and self-service kiosk.

To keep service moving during the busy 11 a.m-7 p.m. operating hours, Stephen Naleski, division chef for Morrison Healthcare, aimed for a simplified menu featuring fresh ingredients. “We source dough made with double zero flour from our supplier, and it is delivered frozen, in a ball,” said Naleski. “The team stretches the dough into a personal pan pizza and tops it to order. The crust bakes up with a crisp crunch.”

Five pizzas are on offer: a simple margarita, a margarita topped with sausage or soppressata, a prosciutto pizza and a rosemary truffle. “We’ll also add seasonal pies and LTOs,” said Milovic.

artisan pizzaFive crisp-crusted personal pan pizzas are on offer every day at Cecilia Cucina Italiana. | Photo courtesy of Morrison Healthcare 

The gelato is locally sourced from a New Jersey company, and six flavors rotate in seasonally. Installation of espresso machines means customers can request hand-crafted affogatos—espresso topped with a scoop of gelato. The staff also pipes cannolis to order, and tiramisu is another sweet option to accompany a latte, cappuccino or other beverage.

Naleski pretested the pizza equipment in Boston prior to purchase, and the staff was trained on stretching the dough before opening Cecilia. The coffee vendor also did some training on the espresso machines.

“Lunchtime is the busiest, and we see another pop around 6:30 just before most hospital employees leave for the day,” said Milovic. “The cafe can also pack pies to go.”

When Cecilia is closed, employees and visitors can access the hospital’s Market Cafe, set up like a mall food court. The frictionless concept offers several options, including a sushi station and grill.

But there’s no Italian-style station—which makes Cecilia so popular. Westchester Medical is the first to feature this concept created by the Morrison team, but now that it is off and running successfully, it can be replicated in other locations, said Chermak.



More from our partners