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B.A. Nilsson

Under the Suburban Sun

tuscan’s grill

Parkwood Plaza, 1760 Route 9, Clifton Park, 371-5672. Serving lunch Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30, dinner Mon-Thu 4-10, Fri 4-11, Sat 2-11, Sun 1-9. AE, MC, V.

Cuisine: Italian-themed steakhouse

Entrée price range: $11 (spaghetti with sausage) to $25 (linguine pescatora)

Ambiance: bustling

 

By B.A. Nilsson

It’s such a culinary buzzword these days that “Tuscan” is applied to nearly anything that comes within a few miles of Italy. I don’t pretend to be an expert on things Tuscan—well, actually, I do pretend to be so, which gets me in trouble—but I had a feeling I wouldn’t be seeing roasts of wild boar (cinghiale) on the menu here at Tuscan’s Grill. And I was right.

What I did find was a scratch menu of solid Italian fare, overseen by chef Ray Crodelle (formerly of D’Raymond’s). He and owner Mike Powers have transformed what once was the Parkwood Restaurant into an accommodating eatery that knows its clientele.

And it has to, tucked as it is into an edge of Clifton Park’s sprawling array of chain restaurants. A few mavericks are successfully challenging this hegemony, and I’m betting Tuscan’s Grill will be one of them.

It’s not pretending to anything fussy or gourmet-driven, but I had an entrée of veal Tuscan’s style ($17, also available with chicken, $15) that turned out to be a variant of veal piccata. It featured larger slices of the meat, slices that still were very tender. After a light sauté, they’re finished in a lemony wine sauce, a perfect accompaniment to a Chardonnay (or is it the other way around?).

I hadn’t been in the Parkwood for well over 20 years, so I have no idea how it looked by the end. I do know that it’s been cleaned and refurbished, with a few changes in floor plan, and it has a bright, cheerful look from room to room. There are several, for general dining and for private parties.

We were seated in a room a few steps down from bar level (the bar dominates the center of the restaurant); through the translucent window curtains we could see the Vegas-like lights of the adjoining gift shop.

Rick, our server, was clearly on a mission to see that our dinner went well, an effort you can’t help but appreciate. It was he who steered me toward the veal, once I made it clear by my indifference to his initial recommendations that I wouldn’t be ordering the most- (or second-most-) expensive item.

I do regret not exploring the entrées in the grill category. That’s where the sirloin is listed, the filet mignon, the beef combos, the salmon. Other fish dishes, like cioppino ($22) merit listing in the pesce section, but you’ll find fish throughout the pasta section as well. This was where my daughter spotted linguine in white clam sauce ($14), something she’s grown to like over the summer.

The antipasti list is unsurprising, but the results are a treat. Bruschetta, of course, and calamari ($7) and mussels ($7) and the usual shrimp items ($8), but there also are stuffed roasted peppers ($7.50) and an appetizer I particularly enjoyed, the Tuscan greens ($7), which is jazzed-up greens and beans, the jazz being a substitution of hot peppers and prosciutto for the beans, with a finish of bread crumbs.

My daughter’s ravioli starter featured pasta rounds with fresh lobster and crab ($9), and we knew it was fresh. She found some crab shell, which the otherwise eager-to-please Rick seemed to think was unremarkable and thus not remediable. An outstanding feature, however, was the marinara, which sported juicy sun-dried tomatoes and an appropriately strong flavor.

The risotto of the day was built around a medley of fresh vegetables, set off by the orange of the carrots. Susan had an appetizer portion ($6), which was delicious but promised to be too much after the warm bread and a plate of salad. So she take-home-containered it and concentrated on her entrée, Chicken Sorrento ($15, $17 with veal).

This is a jazzed-up parmigiana, adding eggplant to the meat and finishing it with marinara and mozzarella. But the meat and vegetable are breaded and fried before getting sauced, and took on some extra oil in the process, as if it were sautéed at too low a temperature or simply took a trip through the fryolater. Otherwise, the flavors were just as you’d hope them to be. (I had a lot less trouble with this dish than my oil-wary wife.)

A side dish of sausage ($3.50) showed me what the kitchen really is doing. It’s the real thing, that sausage, a little spicy, the meat rough-cut and wonderfully textured. So it was no surprise that the linguine with white clam sauce proved to be a straight-ahead take on this classic dish. The pasta was al dente, the clams were fresh, and we might as well have been by the ocean.

If the success of a meal can be measured by your post-prandial sense of well-being, then this was a great success. Dinner had been filling (the mountain of take-home containers attested to that) and the table was comfortable, so I tormented my somnolent family by lingering over an espresso as they stared in the direction of the door.

Clifton Park sings a siren’s song to passing shoppers; once again, it’s good to have a good, locally owned restaurant to patronize when that’s where you happen to be.

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.


TABLE SCRAPS

Chef André Begnaud, who served as executive sous chef at two of Emeril Lagasse’s restaurants, will cater the Ninth Annual Music Haven Community Gala celebration in Schenectady’s Central Park from 5:30 to 7:15 PM on Monday (Aug. 28). The menu includes smoked brisket, barbecued chicken, green beans with pecans, corn maque choux, Cajun/Creole potato salad, Louisiana slaw, and dessert beignets. The Gala marks the last concert of the summer series, which features zydeco master Geno Delafose and French Rockin’ Boogie on the Music Haven stage at 7:30 PM. The Gala’s $55 ticket includes VIP seating for the concert, the pre-show Louisiana bayou-style barbecue with dinner entertainment by the Ramblin’ Jug Stompers (Michael Eck & Greg Haymes), and post-concert café du monde dessert. The concert itself is free to the public as usual. For more information, visit www.music havenstage.org or call the Central Park office at 382-5152 or the Chamber of Schenectady County at 372-5656. . . . Chameleon on the Lake (251 Stafford Bridge Rd., Saratoga) is hosting a SPAC Food and Wine Fundraiser at 6:30 PM on Sept. 7 at the restaurant, which perches picturesquely on the northern inlet of Saratoga Lake. The event includes not only creative food and wine pairings but also Latin music and a complimentary dance lesson. The menu includes mushrooms stuffed with gorgonzola and sausage, paired with Sheldrake Chardonnay from Australia; coconut-crusted halibut with a Thai curry sauce, together with a Joseph Carr Sauvignon Blanc from the Napa Valley; and coulat steak with a morel cherry sauce paired with Joseph Carr 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon. The price is $110 per person, inclusive, and you can reserve a seat by phoning the restaurant at 581-3928. . . . 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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* E-mail address not required to submit your feedback, but required to be placed in running for a Van Dyck Gift Certificate.

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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