italian and american restaurant
By B.A. Nilsson
Southern Blvd., Albany, 463-3433. www.go-sams.com. Serving
lunch Tue-Fri 11:30-2, dinner Tue-Thu 4:30-9 Fri-Sat 4:30-10.
AE, MC, V.
price range: $8.50 (pasta with marinara) to $19 (veal
casual and cheerful
Sam’s has occupied its corner of the Albany culinary scene—and
its corner of Southern Boulevard and Kehoe Street—since 1965,
an incredible record. A grocery store at first, it evolved
into a restaurant by 1971. Although Salvatore “Sam” Rappoccio
and his wife, Angela, have since passed away, their son, Paul,
is executive chef, and daughter Carmella Daubney still runs
the floor and keeps it all feeling like you’re part of this
The cooking is red-sauce Italian at heart, but the range of
entrées is vast and varied. Veal and chicken dominate the
menu, insofar as you can get those cutlets cooked alla Milanese,
Parmigiana, Sorrento, Marsala, Primavera and much more ($13
to $16 for chicken, $16 to $19 for veal).
Eggplant can substitute in some of those dishes. Shrimp features
in many of the seafood dishes, along with calamari, scrod,
lobster and scallops. There are the baked dishes you’d expect.
And plenty of ways to enjoy pasta.
Get yourself started with a small antipasto ($10) and look
the place over. If you’re not too distracted by the neat array
of different salami, set off by some good provolone, you’ll
note that the long bar by the front door has the look of a
place where a gamut of emotions has been aired over the years,
but where camaraderie prevails.
A few tables sit nearby. Others fill the rooms, large and
small, that make up the rest of the restaurant. As you spear
some lettuce, dressed with a house balsamic-vinaigrette, you’ll
notice that people at adjacent tables more often than not
know each other, probably sharing the neighborhood as well
And there’s an easy familiarity among servers, who have worked
with each other for many years—some of them for decades—and
know many of the customers equally well.
Yet there’s no sense of entering as strangers. It’s not as
if anyone’s pretending to know you, as you might find in a
snootier place. It’s simply a great sense of welcome.
Ironically, this makes it easier to kick up conversation at
your own table. Not that it’s usually lacking where I sit,
but I tend to dominate the proceedings. In a place like this,
suddenly my wife is inspired to hold forth. We were joined
by a trio of friends, and the table was awash in chatter.
We also found time to try many items, like the dozen steamed
clams ($9), a stripped-down version of the more popular clams
alla Sam’s ($13), which are steamed in oil and garlic and
served with marinara and sherry sauce. Steamers alone force
you to deal with the purity of the bivalves, and, if you’re
in search of that seaside flavor, there’s a good argument
Although the conversation was shared, the escargot weren’t.
Even my adventurous eater of a daughter demurred at the sight
of the critters, six of which are sautéed and served on mushroom
caps ($6). A cup of pasta e fagiole ($2.75) takes you
to the classically Italian, and here it’s classically done,
macaroni and beans afloat in a rich broth.
It was easy to talk my daughter into trying the lasagna (kid’s
portion, $9), especially when the server offered an accompanying
meatball. Need I note that the lasagna assembly boasted what
for me is a hard-to-achieve balance of pasta and meat and
You can order an Alfredo sauce, that rich blend of egg yolks,
parmesan cheese and cream, over your choice of pasta ($11),
but why mess with anything other than fettucine? The wide
noodles are an ideal vehicle for the artery-busting brew,
and the flavor has the freshness of a wallop of cream.
My wife eyed her chicken primavera askance after a few bites.
She ordered the $14.50 dish with pesto (add $3), but noted
that the compote of meat and vegetables was richer with oil
than she prefers.
Veal saltimbocca ($18) is another classic, a Roman dish that
usually combines a sautéed cutlet with prosciutto and sage
and, sometimes, cheese. Although I didn’t find a sage leaf,
it was otherwise as tasty as I’d expect, adding sautéed spinach
below the veal and a cream sauce on top. Putting it, you might
say, over the top.
I was leaning toward a steak when my server suggested the
sausage and peppers marinara ($14.75), which I ordered with
penne rigate. Homemade sausage is always a good selling point,
and certainly defined the flavor in this otherwise simple,
We left the restaurant pleasantly full, laden with take-out
containers, and ready to buy a house down the street were
one available. It’s that kind of place.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
of the best in-state summer trips is a tour of
the Finger Lakes wine country, where you can set
up in a bed and breakfast and travel the length
of the lakes. Add another stop to your journey
by visiting the New York Wine and Culinary
Center in Canandaigua (right on the lake,
in fact). This newly opened facility features
a training kitchen, a 44-seat demonstration theater,
and a tasting room featuring the best of the state’s
wine. There is also the Taste of New York Lounge,
where you can pair food and wine samples, an outdoor
orchard and vineyard, an exhibit hall with interactive
displays and a retail center. It’s located at
800 South Main St., phone (585) 394-7070. . .
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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..