Noble Cellar Unites Elevated Dining with Local History in Downtown Syracuse
February 6, 2024
When it comes to creating hype around a new restaurant opening, Noble Cellar crushed it. Their cryptic social media posts had the Syracuse community intrigued about what the restaurant would offer. And this month we finally got a look inside as Noble Cellar has opened its doors to the public.
The restaurant is stylish. It offers a high-end selection of appetizers and entrees. They have an extensive list of over 100 wines. And they pay homage to the unique history of the building. Win-win-win-win.
Who are the owners of Noble Cellar?
This brand-new restaurant in Syracuse is the creation of partners Rob Zaccaria and Sarah Pelligrini. Both real estate agents by day, this creative project was years in the making.
Both Rob and Sarah are local to Syracuse. (In fact, Rob and I grew up in the same neighborhood!) But they’ve also traveled the world, developing complex flavor palates. It is their desire to bring a higher level of dining to our city. And they hope to do just that at Noble Cellar.
The history of the location
If you talk to most folks who live in Syracuse, they will refer to the building at 304 E. Onondaga Street as “the former Mission”. Because that’s the restaurant that was located there for a long time. But let’s take a step back.
Originally built as a church in the 1840s, this building has seen a lot of history. One of my favorite facts is that it was a proven stop along the Underground Railroad. And unlike many of the stops that have been lost to history, here there is concrete evidence of the safe haven. Below the building, there are still tunnels, including a room where 50 fugitive slaves could stay hidden at any given time.
Some time after the church dissipated, the property became The Mission. The beloved Pan-American restaurant served the Syracuse community from 2000 until December in 2020.
In June 2021, the space gained new life again as Luna Loca, a Tex-Mex restaurant from the same owners as Oh My Darling and The Fitz. Unfortunately, the restaurant didn’t make it with the lingering effects of regulations as the world tried to come out from the pandemic.
But now we welcome a new era for this historic building as Noble Cellar, Syracuse’s newest fine dining option. The building has been carefully renovated once again. Although despite going through several different owners and businesses, many of its original architecture and beauty remains. You’ll notice that the stained glass windows remain intact, flanking the entry and the bar. The original tin ceiling remains, having recently been painted a deep turquoise. Even the original hardwood floors are still there with a fresh stain.
Noble Cellar’s Elevated Menu
When asked about what inspired the menu, Rob and Sarah were happy to oblige. They shared that a lot of thought went into curating the menu. Using dishes and flavors that inspired them during their world travels, they wanted to bring a menu to Syracuse unlike before. And they’ve done just that. Let’s be honest – not many restaurants in Syracuse serve foie gras or octopus as an appetizer.
What the menu lacks in size, it makes up for in flavor. The dishes are obviously well constructed and crafted in such an elegant way. Like its restaurant predecessors, Noble Cellar also only serves beer and wine in addition to soft drinks and espresso.
Are the dishes on the expensive side? Yes. But are they some of the best dishes you will find in the Syracuse area? Also, yes. It’s the perfect spot for a birthday or anniversary. Take your new in-laws or a bougie client there to impress them. Or heck, just treat yourself to a fancy night out. You deserve it!
Some of Noble Cellar’s dishes
When I visited the restaurant for the first time, I was excited to discover the menu. To start, I ordered the Slow Roasted Berkshire Pork Belly. It’s one of my favorite appetizers (and one I love at Main Deck in Penn Yan!) This pork belly was on a higher level than most. It came sliced and carefully piled on my plate, with a perfectly crispy crust and tender belly inside. While a touch salty for my taste, as pork can be, it was nicely balanced with sliced apples and a cider reduction. Dehydrated kale and toasted hazelnuts rounded out the dish.
For my entree, I had to order the Grilled Onglet Steak, as it had been highly recommended to me by a friend. After my first bite, I knew she was right! The steak brought me back to my time in France, when steaks ordered medium-rare are not overcooked. Served over a bed of seasonal vegetables with a red wine glacé, the steak was incredibly tender and generous in size. Silly me was almost as excited about having a pink knife as I was about have it cut through the steak like butter. And speaking of butter, the whipped black truffle compound butter on the steak just might have been my favorite part of the meal.
You know I don’t order dinner from a restaurant without first inquiring about the dessert options. And once again Noble Cellar didn’t disappoint. For dessert we shared the Flourless Espresso Chocolate Torte and holy moly was it delicious. Super rich and creamy with a delicious cherry gelée… If I could give this dessert a hug, I would.
Where did the name ‘Noble Cellar’ come from?
The name actually comes from two sources. First, the grapes that are used for making wine are referred to as ‘noble grapes’. Add to that the fact that wine is stored in a cellar – and the restaurant prides itself on its extensive wine options. Together they make the name ‘Noble Cellar’.
But that’s not its only meaning. Remember how the building was a spot on the Underground Railroad? Well, the fugitive slaves were kept safe below the building, in the ‘cellar’. The work the conductors were doing was indeed quite noble. Again, you get the name ‘Noble Cellar’.
What’s the meaning of the rabbits?
No, the rabbits aren’t some play on the Alice in Wonderland ‘down the rabbit hole’ trope. (Although the cryptic social posts and use of the term ‘curiosities’ did lead me to wonder about that.) Like the name of the restaurant, its rabbit logo also represents two important meanings.
First, the rabbit symbolizes rebirth or resurrection. In the words of Sarah, “Syracuse has been in winter for a long time. It’s finally starting to grow.” Like the city around it, Noble Cellar is a sign of a renaissance in the industrial concrete jungle.
The second meaning also honors the Underground Railroad history. Why? Because rabbits like to burrow. Rabbits form tunnels. And those tunnels that saved so many lives are still there beneath the restaurant’s floors. It all comes full circle, and I couldn’t possibly love it any more than I do.
Look around the restaurant and you’ll find rabbits hidden everywhere. On the wallpaper. On the menu. Above the front door. On the window sill. In the cabinet near the bathrooms…