Van Vranken Ave., Schenectady, 370-5455. Serving Sun, Tue-Thu
5-10, Fri-Sat 5-11. AE, MC, V.
exotic northern Italian
price range: $13 (spaghetti pomodoro e basilico) to
$23 (grilled filet mignon); and one dish at $48 (filet mignon-lobster
intimate but casual
You have to look outside to remind yourself that, yes, you’re
on Van Vranken Avenue in Schenectady, epicenter of Italian
dining in the Capital Region—yet what’s before you is a very
different take on this classic cuisine.
Chef-owner Daniel DeLorenzo is betting that what he offers,
which is a gourmet approach to (mostly) northern Italian fare,
will complement what’s been here for so many years, and I’ll
add my money to his. With the arrival of Lorenzo’s (which
actually occurred a year ago), a fresh wave of talent promises
to lift all the boats in the harbor.
And it’s good for the clientele, offering a chance, to put
it gently, to expand some horizons. “Adventurous dining” and
“Schenectady” don’t often appear in the same sentence.
So why is DeLorenzo here? This is a guy who parlayed a Culinary
Institute degree into work for Wolfgang Puck: In San Diego,
DeLorenzo opened Puck’s first Italian restaurant. And he’s
put in time at fancy resorts in Las Vegas and Key West; so
Schenectady would seem to be a last resort. But he has family
here, strong ties that have persuaded him back over the years,
this time to stay.
The menu changes according to season and customer response,
but there are some favorites you can count on enjoying. Veal
Lorenzo ($19) layers medallions of the meat with spinach and
mushrooms and Gorgonzola, with roasted red peppers adding
color as well as a contrasting sweetness.
My otherwise environmentally sensitive daughter has discovered
the appeal of veal, and tested its flavor against the hearty
competition of prosciuto and sage by ordering saltimbocca
($20), which is one of the finest preparations of this classic
dish I’ve sampled in the area. Those other flavors roared
on through without diminishing the quieter contribution of
the veal, all of it finished in a lemony wine sauce.
What also sets this dish apart is a chunk of melt-in-your-mouth
polenta, with wild mushrooms and a touch of heavy cream added
to the cornmeal mixture.
The few beef and chicken dishes tend to be similarly inventive.
Even the filet mignon-lobster combo ($48) gets some added
foie gras and is served with white truffle butter,
but more interesting are items like the pollo piccata ($16),
pairing sautéed chicken with sundried tomatoes and mascarpone-enriched
Or the entrée my wife enjoyed on one of our visits: chicken
alla forno ($17), noted as a Tuscan-style preparation,
in which the skin-on bird is roasted until crisp and served
with a mix of white beans and tomatoes. It’s a dish that exemplified
not only the persistence of flavors of fresh, well-seasoned
ingredients, but also an uncluttered but attractive presentation.
The restaurant itself is like that. DeLorenzo designed its
refurbishment, which meant replacing the wall between the
two small dining rooms with a friendlier divider, rebuilding
the bar, installing new carpet and painting the walls—in a
black-and-white scheme that carries over onto the tables as
well. It works, and it can suggest intimate or casual dining.
And it’s not surprising that the chef’s talents should also
extend to the look of his restaurant. “You eat with your eyes,”
I was repeatedly told during my own chef’s training, and getting
each plate to give a come-hither stare can be a challenge.
What, for example, do you do with four fat scallops? Contrast
the color, for one thing, with the green of an emulsion made
from sweet peas. Array them near a slice of that useful polenta.
And while you’re enjoying the complex, varied flavors of this
$20 entrée, you’re interacting with a kinetic work of art.
These plates prove that food needn’t tower to be attractive.
I mined the pasta and risotti list during both of the
visits I paid, first to enjoy risotto Milanese with duck confit
($18), which also includes sundried tomatoes and the flavor
of red wine—Sangiovese, to be specific.
Without my cheaters, I thought I read “peasant’s lasagna,”
and so ordered the $18 dish, wondering at its relatively high
price. “Pheasants lasagna,” it turns out to be, although I’m
still thinking my first guess was correct. There’s no pheasant
in it, but it’s filled out with shredded chicken, veal and
duck meat, with added mascarpone cheese, leeks and wild mushrooms.
A rich and filling dish that puts your old sausage-and/or-beef
lasagna to shame.
Entrées are served with an excellent house salad, but the
appetizer list may be too tempting to resist. We sampled the
artichoke hearts sautéed with anchovies ($10) and asparagus
wrapped in prosciuto with a shaved parmigiano cheese and a
cream sauce ($9), and they were worth the take-out containers
they cost us at the other end of the meal.
Lorenzo’s is a welcome, welcoming place that stretches the
dining boundaries in an area long overdue for such a gift.
Good thing family loyalty can be so strong.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
beer is back at the Van Dyck (237 Union
St., Schenectady), with 60 kegs of ale already
in the fermenters and another 20 being brewed
this week. The first batches, now on tap, are
an unfiltered pale ale and a full-bodied brown,
with a blond ale to follow next week. A porter,
amber and wheat beer will be on tap in the weeks
to come. Troy’s Michael Beauchea is the Van Dyck’s
brewer, and the brewery itself is the only true
German brew house in the Capital Region, with
the precise temperature control necessary for
the production of pilsner-style beer. Brewery
tours will be available, as well as beer tasting
for private and corporate groups. The Van Dyck
is open 4-11 Tuesday-Thursday and 4-midnight Friday-Saturday;
for more info, call the restaurant at 381-1111.
. . . Also in Schenectady, the Farmer’s Market
continues until the end of October, with local
farmers selling their wares Tuesdays at St. Luke’s
Church at 1216 State St. and Thursdays at City
Hall on the corner of Franklin and Jay streets.
You’ll find everything from vegetables to flowers
to handcrafted candles, and there’s even a chair
massage available. . . . Remember to pass your
scraps to Metroland (e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org).
want your feedback
you eaten at any
recently reviewed restaurants?
Agree or disagree with B.A.? Let us know what you think...
address not required to submit your feedback, but required to
be placed in running for a Van Dyck Gift Certificate.
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.
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
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!
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..