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Russell Balestra is 55 and lives on State Street in Hudson, New York. He has lived in Hudson for 45 years -- since his family's move from Brooklyn to Nutton Hook and then to Hudson. He grew up in the restaurant business and learned to cook from his Sicilian family at a young age. He is the former owner of three restaurants in Hudson and vicinity: Minrocks, Minrocks II and Anthony's II, where he used to hear stories of Hudson from the old timers. He is concerned for Hudson's future because of the lack of jobs available to keep youth in town. Russell thinks it is a wonderful thing that the old buildings in Hudson are being restored. But, he says that you have to look at the future to preserve the past. Hudson needs its young people to sustain itself. He is also concerned about the price of living in Hudson, increased taxes, and the many old Hudson families that can no longer afford to live here. He misses the little mom and pop stores that used to be in Hudson. He says change is good in a lot of ways. He appreciates the variety of people that are here now and hopes that Hudson can find a way to preserve its history and also make it modern.
He does not feel good that his son moved to Indiana because he could not find work in Hudson. He says it is good to have roots, to know where you came from and how you got where you are. Russell's mother told him to never put anything in front of your family. Him and his siblings are always there for each other.
Russell has worked as an outreach worker, a resident councilor for New York State and has fixed many old buildings around Hudson. He says he gets bored with things after a while. But he always comes back to cooking, which he finds to be relaxing. He describes the Chicken Francese in lemon butter sauce that he is going to cook for dinner tonight and how he will make it. He cooks with fresh foods and says that you never want to overpower one flavor with another. Cooking is about blending. His mother always told him "you don't skimp on your stomach." Russell hasn't seen a doctor in 30 years. Nothing is ever wrong with him. "I eat good," he says.
Russell is currently caring for his wife, who is sick. But in the near future, hopes to open an Italian restaurant in Hudson. It will be a small restaurant, with red checkered table cloths, with spools of cheese and salami hanging around. You will feel like you just walked into Naples. It will feel like home.
This interview is hereby made available for research purposes only. For additional uses (radio and other media, music, internet), please click here to inquire about permissions.
Oral history is an iterative process. In keeping with oral history values of anti-fixity, interviewees will have an opportunity to add, annotate and reflect upon their lives and interviews in perpetuity. Talking back to the archive is a form of “shared authority.”