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photo:Shannon DeCelle

A Taste of Little Italy
By B.A. Nilsson

95 Ferry St., Troy, 272-6100. Serving dinner Wed-Sat from 4 PM. MC, V.

Cuisine: Mediterranean Italian

Entrée price range: $8 (grilled chicken) to $15 (veal parmigiana)

Ambiance: Little Italy

It’s been a fairly quiet homecoming for Sam Zolio. He opened Anselmo’s with no fanfare a few months before hosting a grand opening last month. He describes it as a “no-nonsense Italian restaurant.” And his unique, satisfying way with Mediterranean cuisine will soon end the comparative peace the restaurant seems currently to be enduring.

The place needs to be busy, because it’s the closest thing we have in the Capital Region to a true Mott Street Little Italy restaurant, and such restaurants are at their best when the party is in full swing.

Nevertheless, we found much to enjoy during a pair of comparatively quiet visits. The building has been extensively remodeled but retains the spirit of the old Sam’s. Again, the walls are crowded with photos, the lighting is restrained, the music Sinatra and familiar Italian opera arias.

You enter the bar area, which also has a couple of tables. Two dining rooms lie beyond that, and beyond the dining rooms is a comfortable lounge. Dining room tables are white-linened, and each sports a candle and a couple of bottles of wine. Places are set once you enter, or in anticipation of your reservation.

A generous selection of specials enhances the two-page menu, all sharing a fairly insane pricing approach. Steak pizzaiola, for instance, was $14, and we’re talking about at least 20 ounces of beef. It was a tender, tasty cut, grilled exactly to my specification. (“On the rare side of medium-rare,” I usually say, because medium-rare typically translates, these days, to medium.)

It seems an unlikely pairing, but the meat is served atop a marinara which packs a powerful garlic punch—perfect for a steak like this. A side of ziti completes the dish.

After a starter of bruschetta, a special that day, with a tapenade-like topping rich in olives and capers, as well as a sampling of other appetizers on the table, I wasn’t about to finish the steak (it was great the next morning with some scrambled eggs). And who would have thought the bruschetta would be so filling?

I was warned by the server, but heeded not the advice. I’ll know better in the future. These are servers you can trust for food advice—probably lots of other advice, too. There’s an energetic floor crew that works cooperatively, so you’re not relying on one person alone to see to your needs. Which is as it should be.

Other appetizers we sampled include the salad caprese ($7), a plate of fresh mozzarella paired with tomato slices, enhanced with big bits of basil. A classic. Add a little bread and you’ve already got a meal. I was headed toward the provolone cheese-Genoa salami plate ($7) when the server pointed out that the antipasto ($10) gives me the same thing with a lot extra.

Roasted red peppers, olives, tomatoes, mozzarella, anchovies: They’re items that are available in separate appetizer plates, but in combination take your palate so much further, and give you bargaining power when trying to taste the other apps at your table—like the sautéed artichokes ($8), a big portion of battered and fried artichoke hearts, served with a lemon-scented sherry sauce.

Your server will ask if it’s OK to put in a order of garlic bread ($4). And you’ll say yes, because you’ll want to add the crunch and garlic to whatever else you’re starting with. Make no mistake: This is bread liberally coated with thin, magnificent slices from the clove!

Pasta dishes dominate the entrée list, and the house special, pasta Anselmo ($13) is as good as such a dish gets. Sausage and broccoli are added, tossed in a cream sauce that’s cheese-rich. Similarly, fettuccine Alfredo ($11) gives you a cream sauce without the vegetables, but the velvety texture of the dish is superb.

Of course there’s marinara as a topping ($9), along with olive-studded puttanesca ($10), caprese with mozzarella ($11), and pasta piselli ($10), with prosciutto and peas added to the tomato sauce. It’s probably a little early in the season for pasta primavera ($11), which did have asparagus as one of its spring vegetables. But we also saw zucchini poking through, and we’re still on winter overload from squash.

Otherwise, look for chicken (grilled or parmigiana), grilled pork loin ($9), some calamari preparations, and a little shrimp. It’s reliable stuff, much of which Sam has been offering in his previous restaurant incarnations. He was at this same spot when we reviewed him in 1992; three years later he was running Sam’s Ninety-Five in Saratoga, while the Ferry Street address went through a succession of publike identities.

Upon learning last year that the building was for sale, he got back in business and his fans already are finding and enjoying the place. “Their tastes are changing, though,” he notes. “Used to be you couldn’t keep osso bucco for five minutes. Now I have leftovers.”

If it’s a special when you visit, try it. Or try the three musketeers ($14), which lets you sample chicken parmigiana, eggplant rollatini and brasciole all in the same dish. It’s the kind of thing Sam serves up like a virtuoso. It’s great to have him back.

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.


Celebrate spring with a wine-tasting dinner Apr 14-17 at the Saratoga Lake Bistro (Route 9P, where Saratoga meets Stillwater) where a four-course dinner is offered with three glasses of wine for $45 (not including tax and tip). You have a choice of appetizer, each paired with an appropriate wine. Entrées include poached salmon on a bed of creamy spinach served with steamed mussels and a 2004 Petit Bourgeois (Loire) Sauvignon Blanc, grilled filet mignon topped with a four-peppercorn-and-Cognac sauce served with a 1998 Chateau Bel Air Haut Médoc, and roasted leg of spring lamb rubbed with Rosemary and garlic, served with a 2002 Guigal Côtes du Rhone. A cheese selection and dessert follows. Wine experts will go from table to table to give you information about the wine selection. And note that the outdoor deck is now open! Call the restaurant for reservations: 587-8280 ( . . . Paul Parker, chef-owner of Chez Sophie Bistro (Route 9, Malta) is offering the last cooking class before the summer season kicks in at 11 AM on Sunday, May 29. The theme is appetizers and hors d’oeuvres, and will be a voyage through the kind of fare you make at home for dinner parties—and dishes to take to parties to impress your friends. The class culminates with a 4 PM sit-down meal. Because the class is a very hands-on experience, it’s limited to 12 participants, and the cost is $125 per person, which includes instruction, food and wine. To reserve a place, call the restaurant at 583-3538 (www.chez . . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland (e-mail: food@

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What you're saying...

I very much enjoyed eating dinner at Daniel's at Ogdens. You review described my dining experience perfectly. This wasn't the case with Pancho's. I much prefer Garcia's or Lake View Tavern for Mexican fare. I agree that a restaurant can have an off night so I'll give the second unit on Central Avenue a try.

Mary Kurtz

First, yes I miss the star ratings, bring it back. Second, I haven't had a chance to visit Poncho's yet, but I especially like reading the reviews.

Pat Russo
East Greenbush

I would travel to Amsterdam to this restaurant - it's not that far away. People traveled from all over to eat at Ferrandi's in Amsterdam. From his background, I'm sure the chef's sauce is excellent and that is the most important aspect of an Italian restaurant. Sometimes your reviewer wastes words on the negative aspects of a restaurant. I'm looking forward to trying this restaurant - I look forward to Metroland every Thursday especially for the restaurant review. And by the way Ferrandi's closed its Amsterdam location and is opening a new bistro on Saratoga Lake - Should be up and running in May. It will be called Saratoga Lake Bistro. It should be great!

Peggy Van Deloo

So happy to see you finally made out!! Our experiences have always been wonderful, the staff is extremely professional, the food subperb, and the atmosphere very warm and comfortable. Let us not forget to mention "Maria" the pianist on Friday and Saturday nights.

Charlie and Marie
Michaels Restaurant

I have been to Michael's several times and each time I have enjoyed it very much. The food is delicious and the staff is great. Also, Maria Riccio Bryce plays piano there every Friday and Saturday evening, a nice touch to add to the already wonderful atmosphere. It is also easy to find, exit 27 off the thruway to 30 north for about 5 miles.

N. Moore


Elaine Snowdon

We loved it and will definitely go back.

Rosemarie Rafferty

Absolutely excellent. The quality and the flavor far surpasses that of other Indian restaurants in the area. I was a die-hard Shalimar fan and Tandoor Palace won my heart. It blows Ghandi out of the water. FInally a decent place in Albany where you can get a good dinner for less than $10 and not have tacos. The outdoor seating is also festive.

Brady G'sell

Indian is my favorite cuisine available in the area--I loved Tandoor Palace. We all agreed that the tandoori chicken was superior to other local restaraunts, and we also tried the ka-chori based on that intriguing description-delicious.

Kizzi Casale

Your comments about the Indian / Pakistani restaurants being as "standardized as McDonald's" shows either that you have eaten at only a few Indian / Pakistani restaurants or that you have some prejudices to work out. That the physical appearances are not what you would consider fancy dancy has no bearing on the food. And after all, that is what the main focus of the reviews should be. Not the physical appearances, which is what most of your reviews concentrate on.
A restaurant like The Shalimar, down on Central Avenue, may not look the greatest, but the food is excellent there. And the menu has lots of variety - beef, lamb, vegetarian, chicken, and more..

Barry Uznitsky

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