Troy-Schenectady Road, Latham, 220-9900. Serving dinner Tue-Thu,
Sun 3-10; Fri-Sat 3-11. AE, D, DC, MC, V
traditionally American Italian-American
price range: 8 (pasta with pomodoro sauce) to $21 (filet
large tables; Sinatra songs
Shelley Francella has been in the restaurant business in the
area for 30 years, noting the foibles and pitfalls of other
people’s eateries. When she decided to open her own restaurant—an
event that took place last December—her ambition was to get
as far from the chain joints as possible.
want to have a place where people know your name,” she explains.
“Where you can come in and feel like home.” So she places
an unusual (for the area) emphasis on service, even as she
has put together a menu featuring items made with fresh food
obtained, when and where possible, from local purveyors.
want this to be a mom-and-pop place,” she says of Santino’s
Italian-American Restaurant. “Something that helps the little
You’ll find the deceptively small-looking place on a rise
overlooking Troy Schenectady Road in Latham, beside the moribund
The menu stays on very safe ground, letting you start with
the usual barside appetizers and then offering two or three
preparations apiece of chicken, veal, beef or vegetarian fare
($14-$21). A few more seafood and pasta dishes round things
out ($8-$19). There’s also a listing of burgers (cooked to
your specification, $7) and sandwiches ($7-$10) for smaller-
commitment meals, and all-around favorites like fish and chips
($13) or a hot meatball sandwich ($7).
What do you get? Some very nice choices of preparation and
presentation. We started, as we often do, with the Soup Test.
Does the minestra del giorno show the personal touches
that distinguish it from the run-of-the-mill?
The bean-based soup we sampled ($3) was thick and enriched
with the flavor of pancetta, as well as evidence of greens.
With not a lot of salt, its very nice flavor results from
a skilled combination of the other ingredients.
When the fried calamari ($9) arrived, we were pleasantly surprised
to see that it lacked the batter coating that so often makes
this dish indistinguishable from, say, fried clams. Instead,
the rings are breaded—sparingly—and sautéed, then served on
a bed of spinach, with the flavors of olive oil and hot peppers
peeking through. Even the chicken-wings fan at my table, who’d
been lamenting my refusal to order yet another damn dish of
those things (but they’re $8 for a dozen), was won over by
the little flavor surprises the calamari imparted.
Salads are served with any entrée order. They’re fresh and
sport a pleasant variety of ingredients, with a garlic-based
house dressing that I’d be happy to have at home.
Penne, linguine and cappellini are the available pastas, and
your choice can be topped with a simple pomodoro (tomato and
basil, $8), or fleshed out with meatballs or sausage ($10).
To get fancier, try the pasta Florentine ($12), which adds
spinach and cheese to the tomato; if you want to add chicken
or shrimp to that addition, you’ll pay $4 or $6 more, respectively.
Broccoli Alfredo ($12) has the appeal of taking a rich-with-cream
and bad-for-the-arteries classic and dressing it up with a
façade of healthful respectability by adding everybody’s favorite
green vegetable. We enjoyed the result, although we longed
for more cheese in the recipe to give it a thicker sauce (I
don’t believe any egg yolks went in there, as they do in a
traditional Alfredo), or at least a container of freshly grated
cheese on the table. This is another dish you can chicken-
or shrimp-enhance for the fee noted above.
What won me over on the plate of bourbon-glazed sirloin ($20),
believe it or not, was the stack of grilled squash. Fat circlets
of the yellow and green varieties bore the marks and flavor
of a quick sear over high heat, and gave me psychological
assurance that the meat, too, would be tasty.
It was, and it was cooked to the most perfect state of medium
rareness I’ve seen in a long time. Ac companying it were chunky
mashed potatoes that bore the fancy swirl of a trip through
a pastry bag, although how they managed this without clogging
the serrated tip beats me.
You know the standard presentation of Italian-themed meat
dishes: You get a plate with the meat and possibly a vegetable
on the side; you get a bowl of accompanying pasta. Chicken
marsala ($15) was presented differently. The fat chunks of
meat, sautéed and finished in the sweet wine of its moniker,
were served right on top of the pasta (cappellini, in this
case, which we chose in order to more fully integrate noodles
and sauce with one another). So instead of tomato sauce, we
had the marsala flavor in and around the whole dish, which
was a pleasant change from routine.
The servers are young and there are many of them, assuring
that you’ll be greeted when you enter and well-minded once
you sit. Although it’s a fairly straightforward station-based
system, our waiter was helped by others when necessary. We
knocked him off routine by having a latecomer during a visit,
but he recovered quickly and got us back on track, getting
some elusive salads out quickly when he discovered his error.
Although we declined desserts, there’s something called Big
Fat Chocolate Cake that sells for $7.50 and looks like something
that mutates in the moonlight. No doubt I will fall victim
to a craving that will return me some day for a portion of
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
hip” and “south of the Mason-Dixon line” aren’t
usually overlapping concepts, but the South has
us beat where barbecue is concerned. But there
are signs of hope, the latest being the addition
of barbecue to the menu at the Van Dyck Restaurant
(237 Union St., Schenectady), which you can
enjoy alongside the restaurant’s newly reinstalled
home-brewed beer. Look for slow-smoked beef brisket,
pork ribs and pulled pork, among other barbecue
classics, along with blackened salmon, seafood
gumbo and steaks from aged sirloin. The items
are also available from the restaurant’s to-go
menu. In addition to the barbecue items, many
of the Van Dyck menu favorites remain, with fine-dining
and tavern-fare options. Call the restaurant at
381-1111 for more info. . . . Nicole’s Bistro
(Quackenbush House, Broadway and Clinton,
Albany) celebrates its 21st anniversary with a
special dinner at 6 PM on Thursday, Nov. 10. The
courses will be paired with appropriate wine,
and include tartlet au fruit de mer (a
quiche of lobster, scallops and shrimp); grilled
milk-fed veal chops with butternut squash risotto
cakes; and a dessert of individual Paris-Brest.
Music will be provided by Ed Clifford, and the
price is $100 per person, all inclusive. Reserve
seats by calling the restaurant at 465-1111. .
. . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland
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..