Diners, chefs lament the closing of Rye’s La Panetiere after 36 years

La Panetiere restaurant in Rye to close

Jacques Loupiac, the owner of La Panetiere in Rye, talks about the closing of his beloved restaurant.

Mark Vergari, Rockland/Westchester Journal News

Jacques Loupiac, owner of La Panetière in Rye, is ready for a new chapter. And so, at the end of October, he’s closing his restaurant which has become, over nearly four decades, a Westchester dining institution.

Despite the challenges that have recently leveled the restaurant industry, Loupiac said it’s not COVID-19 or staffing issues that have caused him to close his beloved fine dining spot.

“I’ve accomplished what I consider to be the dream of my life,” he said. “I’ve been here over 36 years and have come to that age where I have to think of turning the page and retire.”

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The French restaurant, known for its magical Provençal-country setting, classic but modern cuisine and elegant hospitality, has been a fixture since 1985. It’s long been a go-to for generations of families who celebrated milestones, holidays and special occasions there. 

Its Christmas season was legendary, with decorative wreaths and roping twisted with white lights, opulent flowers and a festive feeling that made you want to order champagne.

For Jo Jayson of Harrison, walking into the restaurant was like being transported to Provence, from the food to the service, ambiance and décor.

Diners, as well as fellow chefs and restaurant owners, lamented the news.

“The closing of his restaurant will leave a hole in the tristate dining arena,” said Peter X. Kelly, owner/chef of X2O Xaviars on the Hudson and Restaurant X & Bully Boy Bar in Congers.

Wendy Pregiato celebrated many important occasions here, including her 10th wedding anniversary and her in-laws’ 50th. “I had lunch there with girlfriends on almost every one of my birthdays,” said Pregiato, who lives in Eastchester, and mentioned that dinner for her in-laws. After a mass for the couple at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan, they wanted to eat at their favorite special place.

“So we drove back up to Rye to have dinner at La Panetière,” she said.  “That’s a pretty big deal considering how many awesome places there are in Manhattan.”

That dinner was particularly memorable not only because of the anniversary celebration but because Pregiato’s daughter discovered chocolate soufflé for the first time and has been a huge fan ever since.

Scarsdale resident Mark Mathias has dined at La Panetière multiple times. “It’s by far the best French restaurant in Westchester,” he said. “It was also my wife’s parent’s favorite restaurant when they visited from Brazil.”

The restaurant was not only admired by diners, but by area chefs who praised Loupiac’s high standards. 

“He has been a friend, colleague and role model for me since I started in business and I will miss his gallic charm, handsome face and his personal ‘cuisine Francaise’ that made La Panetière the envy of every restaurant operator,” said Kelly. “La Panetière set the standard for fine dining in Westchester County.

“Monsieur Loupiac’s attention to detail and gift for hospitality are legendary,” he added. “He has trained and mentored scores of chefs and front of the house managers, which today are running restaurants across the country.”

For Donna Monaco Olsen, La Panetière was a special place to dine, “not only for the delicious cuisine and touches of France throughout the quaint dining rooms, but to experience the confections from its “on staff” pastry chef, which to this day is a luxurious expense and rarity at any restaurant.

“Throughout my career, this restaurant has remained the ‘gold standard’ for excellence in the hospitality industry,” said Olsen, coordinator for “A Taste of Westchester” and a longtime advocate for food education.

It was once the Milton Inn

Born in Toulouse, France, but residing in the U.S. since the 1970s, Loupiac, who lives next door to the restaurant, bought the building when it was the Milton Inn. Over the years, he remodeled the circa 1870s house into a dining destination that felt like a home, complete with a wine cellar, a second-floor party room and a main dining area that at one time was filled with hand-painted, terracotta Santons — French for “little saints” — from Provence. 

After working at La Caravelle in Manhattan and La Cremaillere in Bedford for many years, Loupiac knew he wanted a place of his own. When he saw the historic building on the corner of Milton and Oakland Beach Avenue, he knew that was it. 

He named the restaurant in honor and memory of his family who, for generations, were bakers who passed their traditions down “from father to son.” La Panetière, he explained, is a piece of furniture where bread is stored. A replica graces the restaurant’s front entrance. 

When asked about his best memories, Loupiac said it’s hard to pick just one. “I think the best memory is that I’ve accomplished what I wanted to do with my life,” he said. “As a whole, I’m leaving with a dream in my head.”

For now, there is no exact date for the restaurant’s closing. Loupiac just said “the end of October.” 

And while he’s unsure what his next chapter holds, he said his staff and his “wonderful patrons” will always occupy a large piece of his heart. 

He is humbled and grateful for all the support and happy he’s been able to provide the type of service, food and ambiance that’s kept diners satisfied.

As for the building, Loupiac said the new owner plans to keep it as a restaurant but no other information was available. 

Jeanne Muchnick covers food and dining. Click here for her most recent articles and follow her latest dining adventures on Instagram @lohud_food or via the lohudfood newsletter.