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The River Rises
By B.A. Nilsson

The Water’s Edge Lighthouse

2 Freeman’s Bridge Road, Scotia, 370-5300. Serving light fare daily 11 AM-midnight, dinner daily 5-10. AE, MC, V.

Cuisine: continental with red sauce

Entrée price range: $14 (pasta alla Lighthouse) to $23 (filet mignon cipolla fritto)

Ambiance: expansive

 

It was a soft opening, but if you crossed the river over Freeman’s Bridge Road during the past eighteen months, it was obvious that something was going to happen here.

The Water’s Edge Lighthouse took shape on the site of the former River House, but where was once a loud bar with burgers is now a much more refined (but still fun) place to dine.

Being at the water’s edge means you want to take advantage of the view over the water, and the handsome terrace does just that, offering a pleasant al fresco dining spot. “My wife and I were in Italy last year,” says owner Pat Popolizio, “and that’s where we got the idea for the look of our patio.”

I mention this to tantalize you, I’m afraid, because outdoor service is drawing to a close for the season. The patio harmonizes nicely with the interior design, which features very high ceilings for an airy ambiance, and a use of colors like deep reds to maintain an earthy look.

The property began as an 18th-century farm, and it was once owned by the same Volney Freeman who put up the bridge on the site that bears his name. A 19th-century Greek revival farmhouse was the basis of the building, flourishing during the broom- making era of this part of the Mohawk Valley. The building opened as a tavern in the late 1950s; the Popolizios bought it last year.

The floor staff is well organized and very attentive, with service manager Diane Marsh, a longtime veteran of area dining, to thank. Once you’re seated and nibbling some bread, you’ll study a menu that’s well-tuned to the area.

Start with a cup of minestra ($4, $5 if you want a bowl). This is reliable ground, a nostrum that includes the best of garlic, stock, beans and a selection of greens, including escarole and cabbage. It’s a delicious appetizer, and Popolizio insists that he consumes a bowl of it every day. I can taste why.

The greens were cleverly repackaged as an accompaniment to grilled ahi tuna ($23), a beautiful pair of filets on a plate decorated with parsley and wasabi, with a mound of risotto-like jasmine rice as the foundation of the dish.

I was torn, I told the server, between that special and the crumb-coated Mediterranean Sea bass that’s a regular menu item ($19). “Get the tuna,” she advised. “It’s very fresh. Then come back and get the sea bass.” Fair enough. And she was right. The contrast between the rich, pink meat and the creamy rice was transitioned by the sautéed greens, a skillful touch.

But there’s a solid core of red-sauce dishes at the heart of this menu, a menu concocted by Popolizio and his three chefs, local talent wooed from other restaurants. Chicken cacciatore ($16), for instance, is a classic dish nicely done, with chunky breast segments tossed with onions and peppers and served over linguine with a chewy marinara.

Eggplant roulade ($17), a worthy signature dish for the restaurant, presents thin eggplant slices that have been breaded, sautéed and then rolled around prosciutto and a three-cheese combo. But it hardly stops there. The rolls are laid over artichoke hearts, peppers and mushrooms, and then all of that goes on top of a huge dish of pasta, with the marinara set off this time by pesto.

The seafood roster includes preparations of salmon, shrimp, clams, lobster and scallops. There’s also a best-of assortment, the frutti di mare alla Fra Diavolicchio ($22), that combines clams, scallops, shrimp and calamari in a spicy broth, with—you guessed it—a pile of angel-hair pasta and marinara sauce underneath.

We had all those red sauce dishes during one visit; the next day, as we microwaved the prodigious amount of leftovers, bits of tomato exploded within the oven, leaving it looking like a crime scene.

During a subsequent visit, we put together a completely different dinner array that also included a taste of chicken Francaise ($16), this time presenting tender boneless breast cutlets that have been egg-battered and sautéed, then finished in a lemony, garlicky white wine sauce.

A side dish of potatoes and vegetables gave a pasta respite.

There’s a light menu, served outdoors and at the large bar area, that includes salads and wraps and burgers and wings and a selection of deli sandwiches, priced in the $7 to $8 range. As the weather chills, this menu will be folded into the regular dinner menu, so your options will be plentiful.

Desserts are a fairly conventional assortment of well-chosen items, of which the chocolate-chip canoli is hard to resist. The place is busy, especially on weekends, so you should make a point of calling ahead. We’re kicking ourselves for discovering the outdoor dining option this late in the season, but you can bet we’ll be there next spring.

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.


TABLE SCRAPS

Chez Sophie Bistro (2853 Route 9, Malta) announces its first cooking class of the season, to be held from 11 AM to 4 PM Sun., Oct 23. Tentatively titled “Fall Harvest,” the class is limited to 12 people and will be a real hands-on experience. The students will work together to prepare a number of dishes, focusing on techniques that can be used in the home kitchen, after which everyone will sit down to a late-afternoon lunch to enjoy the fruits of those labors—with the added fruit of wine. The price is $125 per person. Also, the restaurant’s first wine dinners of the season take place at 6:30 PM Wed., Nov 9 and Thu., Nov 10. The theme will be “Seraphic Syrah,”and the dinner will focus on the divergent ways in which the French use this versatile grape to make everything from rosé to Chateauneuf du Pape. The dinner will include five courses designed by Chef Paul Parker to complement each wine. The cost is $75 per person plus tax and tip, and seating is limited to 20 people per night around a single banquet table. For more info and reservations, call the restaurant at 583-3538. . . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland (e-mail food@banilsson.com).


We want your feedback

Have you eaten at any recently reviewed restaurants? Agree or disagree with B.A.? Let us know what you think...

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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
Castleton

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
Schenectady

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
Albany

Wonderful!

Elaine Snowdon
Albany

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
Albany

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
Guilderland



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