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PHOTO: By B.A. Nilsson

A Family of Fare

 

Parillo’s Armory Grill

67 Bridge St., Amsterdam, 842-2004. Serving dinner Wed-Sat 5-10, Sun 1-8. AE, V, MC.

Cuisine: traditional Italian

Entrée price range: $10 (many pasta dishes) to $24 (frutti di mare)

Ambiance: old-world comfortable

 

By B.A. Nilsson

Amsterdam’s south side hugs the shore of the Mohawk River; it’s a community that has seen fewer upheavals than the mill town to the north, but one that nevertheless continues to bleed away its ethnic identity. But you can’t blame the Parillo family for that.

They opened the Armory Grill, above which the Amsterdam Armory towers sit, in the early 1970s. They have since added another restaurant nearby, and family members operate other Montgomery County eateries. A cheerful amalgam of restaurant and bar, the Armory Grill is a neighborhood watering hole, meeting place, party location—it’s eager and versatile, and serves the kind of food that makes it an ongoing destination.

“You didn’t have the Jack Daniels steak?” Jackie Parillo asked me. “You have to try it. You’re just going to have to come back and try it.” She and her husband, Ralph, own and run the place, which also means they run the kitchen, aided by a young and enthusiastic crew. And while it’s true that I didn’t have the J.D. steak (which is marinated in the titular beverage, served with a stuffed baked potato, $22), I pleaded that a review visit to an Italian restaurant should involve a signature pasta.

Vodka rigatoni ($14) is such a dish. It’s a simple preparation, rich with heavy cream and a cheese, Jackie assures me, that is fanatically chosen. You can have it with chicken for $16; I elected to add a link of spicy sausage for just a dollar extra.

It’s a full-bore dinner, with soup or salad and a side of potatoes or pasta, depending upon the entrée you order. And there’s plenty to choose from, arranged by category: pasta, chicken, veal, seafood and steaks & chops.

Not too many surprises await. You’ve got your basic pasta—spaghetti, linguini, rigatoni—with tomato sauce and meatballs or sausage ($10). Linguini with red or white clam sauce is $15; cavatelli with broccoli is $12 (add shrimp for another $5); and fettucini Alfredo, that classic cousin of vodka rigatoni, is $13, rising to $19 if you want to dress it with broccoli, shrimp and mushrooms.

And, of course, there’s parmigiana. Eggplant or chicken parm is $13; veal will run you $15. Other chicken dishes are named to salute family and friends: Belle Jacqueline ($15) is a breaded cutlet cooked with artichoke hearts, mushrooms and roasted peppers, and topped with mozzarella; pollo alla Gina ($15) features prosciutto and mushrooms in a cream sauce; chicken Parillo ($15) is sparked by olives and pepperoncini in a garlic-enhanced wine sauce.

Standard-issue veal dishes include Milanese (breaded, sautéed, served with broccoli), Sorrentino (eggplant and mozzarella with a marinara), carciofe (see Belle Jacqueline) and saltimbocca (spinach, prosciutto), all in the $16-$18 range; add shrimp (veal Theresa) for $19.

The haddock-based seafood dishes are priced around $14 and even include a parmigiana. Shrimp scampi (served with cappellini) is $17; swordfish (blackened or charbroiled) is $15, and an all-out seafood fest of frutti di mare, with calamari and scungili in the mix, is $24.

And, of course, there are steaks, along with a couple of pork chop dishes.

Tricia, our server, was familiar enough with the offerings to steer me where I needed to go, and I took her nod of approval as I requested a starter of roasted red peppers and provolone ($8) as a reinforcement of my wise and discerning way with a menu. Then I saw her do the same thing at a neighboring table. But the appetizer was a good one, with appropriately sharp provolone and a few anchovies to set off the flavors. My friend Richard took the opportunity to order escargot ($8), which arrived somewhat anachronistically in shells, topped with traditional garlic butter.

And that gave us a buttery superfetation at the table. The bread served with dinner is already spread with garlic butter, making it all the easier to plow through a carbs-rich basketful before any other courses arrive.

But arrive they do, with our salads preceding the appetizers because Tricia worried that we might get too hungry while the snails cooked. By the time our entrées were served, we felt daunted by the portion sizes. Not huge, but certainly a sufficiency.

Veal Francese, Richard’s entrée, is a $16 classic, an egg-enhanced sautée that finishes the meat and its accompanying mushrooms with a garlicky wine sauce. He didn’t even make a stab at the pasta served with it.

That we were talked into dessert is another tribute to our server, whose manner suggested we’d be downright ungentlemanly were we to eschew the sweets—which turned out to be good but standard-issue stuff (chocolate layer cake, cheesecake).

We showed up on a Friday evening without a reservation, and waited a few minutes to get a table. By the time we left, the dining room was emptying but the bar was full. Throughout the evening, Jackie emerged periodically from the kitchen and greeted everyone (or so it seemed to me) by name. Soon enough, we were included. It’s a family-run place with an extended family of customers, proof that a restaurant’s longevity is based as much on its sociability as it is on culinary arts.

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.


TABLE SCRAPS

It’s pretty much Christmas from now till the end of the year, a good time to enjoy a holiday wine dinner at Parisi’s Steakhouse (11 N. Broadway, Schenectady). It’s a five-course dinner that takes place at 7 PM on Monday (Dec. 3), and features a collaboration with Cornell’s Restaurant, which is sending chef Armondo Cioccke to join Parisi’s chef Steve Morgan to craft a meal paired with an appropriate selection of wines. Courses include sliced tenderloin crostini with roasted-tomato vinaigrette, sesame-encrusted salmon served over a bed of spring mix, a surf-and-turf risotto and more. And save room for tiramisu. Dinner is $60 plus tax and tip, and reservations are required— call 374-0100. . . . Champagne will be on tap (so to speak) at a special dinner on Dec. 7, 7 PM, at New World Home Cooking Co. (Route 212, Saugerties), where chef Ric Orlando has created a menu that includes duck broth with Asian greens and scrambled duck egg (paired with Langlois Estate Cremant de Loire), lobster tamale with corn smut crema (Iron Horse Vintage Brut 2002), hot smoked salmon (Taittinger Brut La Francaise), pheasant Kiev (Charles Heidsick Brut Reserve) and more. It’s $85 per person, by reservation only, so call 845-246-0900. . . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland.


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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