Broadway, Saratoga Springs, 587-3535. Serving dinner Tue-Thu
5-10, Fri-Sat 5-10:30, Sun 5-9. (Open daily during track season.)
AE, MC, V.
price range: $6.25 (tapas croquetas) to $32 (hanger-steak
The Restaurant at the Italian American Community Center,
257 Washington Ave. Ext., Albany, 456-0292. Traditional Italian
fare from the Mallozzi family, including a Grand Italian Buffet
on Mondays. Serving lunch Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30, dinner Tue-Sat
5-9, Sun 3-8. Dinner buffet Mon 5-9. AE, D, MC, V.
about time Max London got his own place. The peripatetic,
self-taught chef has made significant appearances at places
like Chianti and Eartha’s over the years, but attaching his
own name to a place means you’re getting his vision on the
And it doesn’t hurt that he’s adjacent to Mrs. London’s, the
nonpareil pastry shop long helmed by Max’s father, Michael.
In fact, it was a visit to the latter that got me into the
former. Needing sweets with which to celebrate a spousal birthday,
I steered us to that oh-so-dangerous display. And somehow
we eased across the way to a seat in the spacious dining room.
No trace of the former inhabitant, Mabou, remains. “We spent
about three years planning it and putting it together,” London
explains. “It took a lot longer than we expected.” Enter from
the street or the bakery and enjoy a cheerful greeting from
the enthusiastic staff.
There’s a spacious bar for cocktails or late-night dining,
and a dining area beyond, as well as an array of tables on
the other side of a divider. Attractive baskets with dried
flowers decorate one side of the dining room, and copper pots
sit on glass shelves below the high brick wall of the other,
giving the place the look of a swanky Manhattan apartment.
A single-page menu lists regular offerings of antipasto, tapas
plates, salads, pizzas and pasta. Each day a specials menu
adds more tapas, as well as entrée-sized offerings. The Sunday
I visited arrived in the wake of an unexpectedly busy Saturday,
forcing a diminution in the specials menu.
went through everything.” explained sous-chef Dan Spitz. “We
usually have more than the three big plates you see listed.”
But one of them was a grilled lamb burger ($16) of Spitz’s
creation. He formerly was chef at the Beekman Street Bistro,
and so, like London himself, is remaining Saratoga-centric.
Befitting its big-plate designation, the lamb burger was a
good-sized portion of delicious meat, a reminder yet again
of the vast flavor difference between commercial, grain-fed
meats and their grass-fed counterparts. And the burger bun?
A soft slab of focaccia, made in-house, alongside homemade
sweet-potato chips and a serving of greens.
But let’s look at the Saturday specials for a more representative
list. Orecchiette (“little ears”) pasta with prosciutto and
peas ($19), duck confit with wild mushroom risotto ($27),
grilled hanger steak ($32), hebi (also know as shortbill spearfish)
grilled and served with sweet-potato-lime mash ($27), along
with preparations of chicken and veal.
White anchovy crostini ($6.75) is one of the regular-menu
small plates, a pair of homemade toast roundlets topped with
the piquant fish and drizzled with olive oil. If you know
anchovies only from the jar, you’ll be amazed at the broader
and more subtle range of flavor here. Accompanying olives
and roasted garlic complete the Mediterranean-themed array.
An order of garlic shrimp ($9) proved surprisingly plain:
A small terra cotta dish with a handful of paprika-dusted,
tailless crustaceans swimming in oil. Tasty, yes, but not
up to the standards of the other stuff—like the salumi small-plate
special ($9). Lardo is an Italian delight, a thin strip of
cured pig fat served over thin crostini, so subtle in flavor
that you almost need to meditate your way into it. After which,
you can enjoy the stronger flavors of capicola (from the pig’s
neck) and lomo (cured pork loin), all of it made on the premises.
You can customize your salumi order, choosing from always-available
ingredients like speck, serrano, chorizo and finnochiona,
along with a selection of cheeses including parmagiano, manchego,
drunken goat, cana de dabra and more ($6 for each; $16 for
three; $25 for five).
Other small plates include chickpea polenta fries ($7.50),
crudo (fresh raw fish, $8.50), mussels Cazuela ($10) and serrano-wrapped
dates with blue cheese and almonds ($6.50).
Mixed-greens and arugula salads are always available, and
the specials menu promotes what’s especially seasonal. Like
the early-summer vegetable salad ($9) that sported yellow
squash and red peppers alongside sprouts and peas, olives
and feta. The strawberry salad ($9) gives the fruit a refreshing
context of mint and balsamic vinegar, set off with the sweetness
spent some time in Spain, especially in Barcelona,” says London,
“and there’s a completely different way of dining there. It’s
not just the food—it’s the whole tapas approach that lets
you sample so many things. That’s why I decided to do it here.”
He also spent time in Naples, learning, among other culinary
pursuits, to make pizza, which is offered at his restaurant,
baked in a wood-fired oven. They’re personal-size (but large),
priced from $13 to $15, and topped with a variety of exotica,
like the homemade sausage and ricotta that we enjoyed. And
what a terrific crust! Other toppings include salumi, clams,
speck, and mushrooms, each placed in a vivid context of accompaniments.
With a box of Mrs. London’s pastries to enjoy back home, we
forewent dessert, but every aspect of this meal was so enjoyable
that we actually might fight what we foresee as being enthusiastic
crowds in order to get back.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
the 25th anniversary of Café Capriccio
(49 Grand St., Albany), and the restaurant is
saluting the occasion with summer prix-fixe menu
offered in addition to the regular menu. For $25,
you get a salad, a choice of one of four pasta
dishes, and dessert. And those pasta dishes comprise
primavera (pasta tossed with vegetables in cream);
filetto di pomodoro alla Genovesi; calamari fra
diavolo; and risotto with mushrooms, roasted peppers
and spinach. It’s a terrific bargain to enjoy
in the restaurant’s newly expanded space; reserve
seats or get more info by calling 465-0439, or
visit cafecapriccio.com. . . . Remember to pass
your scraps to Metroland (firstname.lastname@example.org).