Putnam St., Saratoga Springs, 581-1973. Serving dinner Wed-Sun
from 5 PM. AE, D, MC. V.
price range: $19 (fettuccine Bolognese)
With eight tables sharing space with the stoves, Lanci’s fills
quickly; with a welcoming, family run ambiance, it tends to
stay filled. Having heard many enthusiastic reports about
the place, I made a couple of unsuccessful incursions during
the preceding months and gave up last August, when it was
perpetually full. And then I was in Saratoga one chilly evening
earlier this month, looking for a meal, and saw empty tables
through Lanci’s window.
In short order, my family was installed at one of them. What
turns out to be one of the restaurant’s greatest assets initially
proved frustrating: The two servers were so busy with other
customers—not only serving them but also chatting with them
and, in one case, getting editorial help with some written
material—that we were seated and then, it seemed, forgotten.
I wasn’t aggrieved as much as I was jealous, knowing that
few can offer snappier pointers than I—but, of course, I was
dining anonymously. Which ultimately didn’t matter. Once we
fell into the service queue, so to speak, we were never neglected.
And it’s not the kind of place where you maintain much anonymity
for long. If you initially aren’t conversing with neighboring
tables, you’ll be drawn into it once chef-owner John Lanci
emerges to check on the food he prepared for you.
He and his wife, Cathy, opened the place over a year ago as
a complete change of career. John learned his craft in the
best of all schools: the family kitchen, where a family heritage
was celebrated in the daily cuisine. He then enhanced that
knowledge with formal training.
Duck around to the other side of a partition at one side of
the dining room and you’ll see the “line”: stoves, salamander,
prep table. And more likely than not, John wielding skillets
or dressing plates.
As it turned out, the servers are siblings, next-generation
Lancis: son Matthew, who guided us through our meal, adds
a sound knowledge of wine to his familiarity with the cuisine.
The menu changes regularly so it can remain a snapshot of
what’s fresh and what’s captured the chef’s imagination. For
example: A lamb shank ($22) was offered the night I visited,
making its debut in this recipe. Although it had been braised
to a fare-thee-well, ossobuco style, it was served dry and
with a crust of a variety of herbs. Even better, it perched
atop a bed of risotto nicely flavored with parmesan cheese.
You don’t expect to find tender shank meat under that crust,
so it’s a delightful and surprising experience working your
way through the meat, as tender as it gets but with some flavorful
crunch to it. With such rich risotto beneath it, I never missed
the sauce that otherwise might have enhanced it.
It wasn’t the entrée I ordered. My daughter often charges
me with choosing for her, and I chose ossobuco Milanese ($24)
to give her another perspective on veal. But the presentation—again,
of braised shanks, this time very much in a sauce—had a kind
of Three Mile Island look, with twin towers of veal bone dominating
And it wasn’t just the unfamiliar appearance. When I pointed
out that those bones, topped with a garlicky gremolata, contained
marrow she was expected to eat, she pretty much willed my
plate of lamb to apparate in front of her.
No complaints from me. Anything cooked that slowly draws in
flavor against which the flashier meats can’t compete. Creamy
polenta is served alongside; like risotto, it’s not only a
treat in itself but also a vehicle for whatever sauce may
With no chicken on the menu, my wife was forced to choose
one of a pair of pasta dishes. Penne Norma ($19) adds grilled
eggplant to the macaroni tubes, finishing the dish in a simple-seeming
tomato sauce (chunks of the fresh stuff) with ricotta adding
a bright, sweet finish to the dish.
Any of these would be enough to satisfy a reasonable appetite,
a condition with which I remain unfamiliar. A pair of salads
is tempting, but we selected three of the four hot appetizers.
Contorni ($7) is described as sautéed greens, but it’s
one of those deceptive items that turns out to be much more,
a good-sized serving of garlic and crunch. Equally simple-seeming
is the artichoke dish, carciofi ($7), which presents
a trio of big, fresh hearts sautéed with garlic and topped
How did mother do it? Gnocchia alla Nonna ($9) answers that
question with handmade potato dumplings served in a chicken
liver-scented tomato sauce. Again, deceptively simple but
teeming with unusual and very satisfying flavor.
Cathy Lanci is responsible for those desserts that aren’t
imported, and her panna cotta ($7) was a definitive version
of the compote that does for cream what flan does for eggs,
topped with exquisite chestnut honey. Limoncello tartufo
($6) puts the tangy liquor flavor in the center of a ball
of vanilla gelato, itself coated with lemon sprinkles. Both
desserts made their way around the table frequently as we
quarreled over ownership.
By which time we were on a first-name basis with our server,
the chef, and the folks sitting nearby. It’s a social as well
as gastronomic commitment to dine here, and it’s well worth
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 firstname.lastname@example.org).
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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..