North and Points Beyond
Rosa Road, Schenectady, 381-2080. Serving dinner Tue-Sat 5-9.
AE, MC, V.
price range: $15 (gemelli with asparagus and mushrooms)
to $27 (duck two ways)
By B.A. Nilsson
Bistro is the newly opened successor to Perrino’s, which opened
on a corner of Schenectady’s Rosa Road in 1973. But where
Perrino’s was a red-sauce joint, Cella Bistro offers something
more Northern Italian, if not downright gourmet. And the cuisine
goes beyond that, with tapas served in the bar and entrées
that show an international flair.
The menu is strategically designed to give a variety of entry
points to the entrées and such. Soup and salad is $6 to $7;
generous-sized appetizers plates average $9. Pasta dinners
are priced in the teens, while other entrées push into the
There’s an old-fashioned-looking bar, expansive and welcoming;
on the other side of a low divider are some bar tables. A
nearby blackboard lists tapas items, available in that room
and an excellent way to make a meal out of a drink’s visit.
Past a wine rack and through a doorway is the main dining
room. A practical divider holds olive oil (for bread dipping)
and pepper mills, among other decorative items; the brick
wall in which the doorway is framed sports an attractive array
A family birthday party was taking place in another, smaller
room off to the side, virtually unobtrusive; our dinner, with
a handful of other tables filling around us, was quiet and
Arriving in advance of my family, I settled in with a glass
of sparkling wine and learned, to my initial disappointment,
that the tapas, listed in the bar area, aren’t served in the
dining room. The list changes daily; when I was there, three
dollars would buy some cheese samples, a Spanish tortilla,
or beef braciole, among other items; for five bucks,
stuffed mushrooms or a mixed seafood-sausage grill were representative
I wanted a $2 dish of spiced olives. “I can do that for you,”
a server said, and so she did. And it was just what I needed
to wake up the palate—with crisped rosemary and a dusting
of seasonings adding a lively flavor.
With my fellow explorers in place, we charted a three-course
meal that began with selections from the appetizers list.
I like the idea of eponymous eating, so the escargot O’Sullivan
($9), named for a regular customer, caught my eye—and my olfactory
sense, too, when the dish arrived, with puff pastry shells
slowly moistening in a garlicky demi-glace. With white wine
and leeks broadening the flavor, you could almost forget that
snails are at the heart of the dish. But those squishy little
monsters had a delicious vehicle for their delivery.
Spring rolls are ever-more-common menu visitors these days,
but the Cella version ($6) puts artichoke hearts and goat
cheese into the wrappers, a very compelling combo. Other apps
include filet mignon carpaccio ($11), baby back ribs
($9) and a fried calamari ($8) that chef Michael learned on
a recent trip to Italy.
Four different salads include additions of fruit, nuts and
cheese in varying combinations; roasted beets, walnuts and
cheese ($7) are a tasty trio found in many a recipe; in this
case it’s goat cheese, with a bed of arugula.
We shared an order of pappardelle ($17)—homemade pasta, wide
as lasagna, with a delicious bolognese. The sauce is as tricky
as it’s traditional, a confluence of different meats finished
with cream, making the journey from one flavor to the next
with careful seasoning—all of which was in place here.
In the entrée realm, a classic steak frites ($26) caught
my fancy. It’s a big slab of ribeye smothered in fries, but
this cut is more than that: It’s more flavorful than a filet,
and once it takes its trip across the grill, cooked rare,
it’s a sensual experience. The potatoes are a bonus: in this
case, a generous heap of hand-cut fries. What’s best is when
they’re aggressively crisp, which they weren’t, and which
is a sign of oil that’s not hot enough.
If there’s an inviting-sounding chicken dish available, my
wife is guaranteed to order it. But even I, my palate dulled
by too many at-home chicken dinners, was delighted with the
roasted (under a brick) free-range half bird ($19), moist
and tasty and served with a light pan gravy, with a side of
savory bread pudding.
Duck confit, where the dark meat is pressed in its own fat,
is a marvel—the basis of cassoulet, for instance. Cella presents
it as half of the duck two ways ($27), the other way a seared
breast served with a cherry-laced port sauce. Goat cheese
made its third appearance in our dinner as part—a hidden part,
fun to discover—of the mashed potatoes.
Chef Michael put in quality time at other area restaurants,
most notably at Troy’s Allegro Café; here he’s able to flex
his muscles or spread his wings, depending upon how you regard
creative freedom, and craft a changing menu that honors the
season with its use of fresh ingredients.
His parents, Jim and Cheryl, and his wife, Julia, also are
principals in the place; Julia kept a keen eye on the commendable
service even as she wrestled with computer problems during
our visit. There’s nothing like a dedicated family to give
a warm feeling to a restaurant, and dining at Cella Bistro
has that vital but elusive sense of being at home.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
the new year with New World Home Cooking Company’s
10th annual Champagne Dinner, which takes place
at 6:30 PM on Dec. 14. Chef Ric Orlando and Michael
Weiss, wine instructor at the Culinary Institute
of America, join forces to present a seven-course
meal paired with seven wines. Start with a clam
foursome—raw littlenecks with mustard sauce, cherrystone
ceviche with cilantro, razor clam spicy Asian
barbecue, and Manila clam paella with peas and
chorizo—and continue through a meal that includes
a trio of lamb (lamb filet mignon, sweetbreads
with strawberry-chipotle sauce, and crepinettes
with tomato jam) and much more. It’s $79 per person,
plus tax and tip, and you can reserve seats by
calling (845) 246-0900. The restaurant is at 1411
Route 212, Saugerties; check out newworldhomecooking.com
for more info. . . . Remember to pass your scraps
to Metroland (e-mail email@example.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..