Food Speaks Italian
Restaurant & Pizzeria
Albany Shaker Road, Loudonville, 459-2121. Serving Mon-Thu
11-10, Fri-Sun 11-11. AE, MC, V.
pizza and Italian fare
price range: $8 (traditional pizza) to $15 (veal parmigiana)
pushes you into that last-minute decision to dine out? And
how do you choose a restaurant when it’s a matter of impulse?
My family and I had one of those moments in an Albany parking
lot not long ago. We realized we wouldn’t be able to get home
until after 8 PM, which meant dinner wouldn’t have been ready
until nearly 9. (I’m not one of those 30-minute so-called
gourmet cooks.) How nice if we could find a neighborhood joint,
something with reliably good food that would be served quickly
and wouldn’t cost a lot.
Good thing I had my Metroland Dining Guide tucked into
the maps bin in my car. Pizza resonated most strongly with
the assemblage, and the new Inferno headquarters seemed the
most highway-convenient for us, located as it is not too far
from Northway exit 4. Besides, it was new and we’d yet to
The building rises like a beacon in the dark of an autumn
night, replacing the flagship restaurant in what’s now a four-unit
empire with plans to add still more. The original building
went up in 1968 when Louis and Angelina Riggione started the
operation, which remains in the Riggione family, now distributed
among several offspring.
The takeout business obviously dominates—when I called for
a reservation, the phone was answered, “Inferno: pickup or
delivery?”—but upon arriving we found a pleasant window seat.
An Italianate look distinguishes the new building, which boasts
high ceilings, blonde walls, attractively simple tables and
a comfortable sense of space. The menu is short and to-the-point,
with pizzas listed on the back page and a best-of assortment
of appetizers and entrées on the menu’s inside.
Although I can foresee the wrath I’m about to provoke, I want
to tackle the issue of pasta e fagioli. As its heritage
attests, it’s an excellent soup, practically stewlike if that’s
your preference. The name means pasta and beans, and from
there on in you’re on your own. As a non-Italian, I pronounce
it . . . I hesitate to say correctly; better, perhaps, to
term it, in “received standard Italian,” or, as my wife puts
it, “radio-announcer Italian,” hearkening back to my classical-radio
days. So I unashamedly say “pasta eh fa-jolay.”
That’s because I’m too self-conscious to utter “pasta fazool”
or some variant thereof. I’d sound like a tourist. This doesn’t
stop other non-Italians, however, such as our youthful server,
who enthusiastically repronounced it for me. (I have the same
issue with “gyro,” but I’ll save that for the appropriate
Although ostensibly born in northern Italy, pasta e fagioli
has migrated everywhere, picking up tomato sauce as it
traveled through that country’s southern portion. And it’s
the tomato-enhanced version served here, a big bowl of it
for $7. With the warm, crusty bread that’s served alongside,
you’ve got the makings of a complete meal here. It’s a good
brew, nothing outstanding in its flavors, but certainly what
Inferno’s reputation is based to a large extent on its pizzas,
but this was a first for me. Given the Tuscan-inspired decor,
I selected a Florentine chicken pizza ($13), an eight-cut
white pie topped with big chunks of chicken along with sautéed
spinach and fresh tomato chunks. With chunks of garlic as
well as pesto to spice it up, it had a satisfyingly mouth-filling
I’m eager to try the Rustica (sausage and peppers), clam (white
or red), Philly cheese and, of course, the works, priced between
$11 and $13. You also can create your own, with a generous
array of ingredients to choose from.
Greens and beans ($7) is also listed as a soup, but it’s a
pretty thick assemblage that also sports an abundance of garlic,
which has a natural affinity with the spinach therein. This
is one of my favorite dishes, so I’m happy to know that a
good version of it is available here.
Among the entrées, which are priced from $14 to $16 and include
a side of pasta, you’ll find chicken or veal parmigiana, ditto
marsala, chicken and broccoli Alfredo and more. Chicken Française
($14) is another favorite, although it should feature pounded
breast cutlets and not the thick, tough slices we encountered.
And there’s really no reason to use canned mushrooms for anything,
especially when you can flavor your own as you sauté them.
Stuffed shells ($12), listed among the Italian favorites like
lasagna ($13) and shrimp scampi ($15), are yet another of
the many manifestations of macaroni and cheese I used over
the years to wean my daughter away from the Kraft product
(with its vile orange color). Five big pasta shells are stuffed
with seasoned ricotta, served in a tomato sauce that’s light
and not too sweet.
When I return, it will be for the stuffed hot cherry peppers
($8), fettucine Alfredo ($11), or veal-and-pepper plate ($15).
But that’s when I return to dine in. Writing this has given
me a craving for yet another pizza, so I hope you’ll excuse
me while I phone in an order.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
(Thursday, Oct. 19) there will be a cigar soiree
at Park 54 (54 Clifton Country Road, Clifton
Park) in association with Park Lane Tobacconist.
$60 gets you drinks, dinner and cigars. For more
info, phone 688-1548 or check out www.park54restaurant
.com. . . . Tonight sees another cigar dinner,
this one at Carmine’s Restaurant (818 Central
Ave., Albany), where chef Carmine Sprio is designing
a menu to accompany a selection of CAO cigars
(you’ll get five!) Along with drinks and dinner
for $85 (inclusive). Call 690-2222 to see if there
are seats left. . . . The Gateways Inn and
Restaurant (51 Walker Street, Lenox, Mass.)
will host a Macallan Whisky cocktail reception
and four-course dinner at 7 PM Saturday (Oct 21).
Chef Rosemary Chiariello has created a four-course
menu that includes roasted-duck-breast salad,
lobster cappuccino and grilled beef tenderloin
in a peppered wine sauce. It’s $80 per person,
and you can reserve seats by calling (413) 637-2532.
. . . Girl Scouts, Hudson Valley Council, will
hold their fifth annual Cookie Cuisine event
from 6 to 9 PM Tuesday (Oct. 24) at the Italian
American Community Center, Washington Avenue Extension,
Albany. You’ll see Cookie Cuisine honorary chair
Carmine Sprio and a host of talented culinary
teams prepare gourmet entrees and desserts using
all of your favorite Girl Scout cookies, including
a brand new, top-secret cookie. Tickets are $35.
For reservations, call Sharon Smith at 489-8110,
ext. 105 or e-mail ssmith@ girlscouts hvgsc.org.
. . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland
(e-mail food@ banilsson.com).
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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..