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PHOTO: B.A. Nilsson

Neighborhood Comforts

 

Village Pizzeria & Ristorante

2727 Route 29, East Galway, 882-9431. Serving Mon 4-10, Wed-Sun 11:30-10. D, MC, V.

Cuisine: family Italian

Entrée price range: $9 (pasta with marinara) to $27 (filet mignon)

Ambiance: rustic and cheerful

 

By Byron Nilsson

We arrived in the midst of a party, a significant event for Village Pizzeria. Along with being a Galway neighborhood mainstay that serves loyal clientele with a surprising range of food and drink, the restaurant actively supports breast cancer causes—initiatives born of owner Sandy Guerrera’s own experience with and triumph over the disease.

She’ll be joining other survivors at the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in Manhattan on Oct. 6, which explains the throng of pink-clad women. The party was accordingly themed, with pink decorations and pink-accented shirts for the servers.

Trays of delicious appetizers went by as guests tasted wine from a variety of distributors, wandered from table to table in the comfortable outdoor dining area, studied the items available for silent auction and generally celebrated the camaraderie such an event inspires. Bringing people together for a common cause defines a neighborhood, and a good restaurant maintains that.

The restaurant started 20 years ago as a pizza joint, an unlikely venture for Sandy, a former hair stylist, and her husband Joe, who worked in sheet metal. They relocated from Connecticut, opened their little eatery, and watched the business grow.

They recount this with surprise in their voices, but it’s easy to see that they offer the most indefinable requirement of a good restaurant: personality. You can’t train it into people, which is why even the best chain restaurants have a Stepford quality.

At Village Pizzeria—greatly expanded in size and scope since its inception—you find an enthusiastic staff furthering the Guerreras’ vision of the place, a staff that probably knows you because you’re a regular visitor. Add to this the keep-the-party-going exuberance of Ralph the bartender, who might let you taste some of his excellent home-brew anisette at the end of your meal.

A labyrinth of dining areas opens before you, as you travel from front door to back. When the weather serves, out back there are more tables alongside a boccie court. Settle in, order some wine, study the menu.

Let’s start with the pizza, which was difficult for us, seeing the breadth of the menu offerings. Still, we squeezed in an order for a four-cut Buffalo wing pie ($7.50). It was a good selection, revealing not only the good foundation (crust, sauce) for pizzas here but also the restrained hand of the chef, generously applying the chicken without overpowering the pie with its own sauce.

A whole menu page is devoted to pizza possibilities, allowing you to decorate your four-, eight- or 12-cut pie with any number of toppings. Stromboli and calzones also are available.

Lighter fare includes sandwiches, leaning toward Italian-style cold-cut combos and hot grinders. Alongside wraps, panini and burgers are specialty sandwiches like focaccia portobello and focaccia Sicilian, the latter filled with chicken and eggplant. (Sandwiches are in the $5 to $8 range.)

You won’t be surprised by the appetizer list, with its standard offerings of shrimp, steamers, wings, calamari and more ($7 to $11). A variety of salad offerings includes a Greek salad ($11) and one made around ahi tuna ($14).

Here’s where we get down to business. The meat entrées include pork osso buco ($24); in a departure from the classical dish, here they add mushroom gravy and mashed potatoes. A sirloin steak will cost you $20, filet mignon $27. Plenty of the usual veal dishes are available, all in the $19 range.

Being indecisive, we chose the Village Pizzeria Sampler ($16), a bounteous plate of pasta dishes, including spinach-stuffed shells, chicken parmigiana, eggplant rollatini and more, all set on a base of pasta.

You can order such items separately, from a pasta list that also offers fettuccine Alfredo ($15), baked lasagne ($15), rigatoni alla vodka ($14) and more, some of them sporting sauce that’s also sold by the restaurant. Clams, shrimp and lobster figure among the seafood dishes, many of which are brought together in a cioppino (market priced); chicken dishes: more of the usual suspects.

What distinguishes these familiar foodstuffs is the hand of chef Brian Maxwell, who has been with Village Pizzeria for three years and made himself very much at home with the family’s favorites. The night we visited he was offering specials of veal saltimbocca ($24), pork Chianti served with portobello mushrooms ($20), and my entrée, cavatelli aglio olio ($19), in which he added broccoli rabe, sliced sausage and sundried tomatoes to a traditional toss of pasta in olive oil.

Lots of little touches enhance dinner here, from the warm bread with its accompanying oil to the fresh salad and the frequent visits from servers, owners, bartender—anyone passing by. By the time we reached dessert—there was no alternative for my daughter but tartuffo ($5.50), a chocolate-covered ice-cream ball—we already felt like old friends, and were pledging to return.

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.


TABLE SCRAPS

You can’t get more in touch with the roots of close-to-the-ground dining than in Italy, so why not enjoy a spring tour of Venice, Florence and Rome? It’s a trip that benefits Living Resources, which provides aid to people with disabilities, and it’s a bargain: $1,829 for a weeklong stay, including airfare from NYC, accommodations for six nights, daily breakfasts, some fancy dinners, sightseeing and more. The trip takes place March 8-15, 2008. You can get more info by calling 218-0000, ext. 5314. . . . 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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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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