Van Vranken Ave., Schenectady, 393-8460. Serving dinner 5-close
Wed-Sun. AE, MC, V.
homemade southern Italian
price range: $8.50 (fettuccini al filetto di pomodori)
to $27 (seafood platter)
no surprise that Gina and Anna Montova, passionate chef-owners
of Schenectady’s Appian Way Restaurant, have been right all
along. During their 30-plus-year legacy running the city’s
finest source of traditional Italian fare, they’ve stressed
the freshness of everything possible, to the point of baking
their own bread and rolling their own pasta. And making their
By the time I wrote my first review of the place, in 1987,
the restaurant had expanded by buying the former Via Veneto
next door and merging the buildings. Now they’d be just as
happy to unload the extra building (it’s up for sale) because
the taxes are too prohibitive—which seems to be the unfortunate
price of doing business here. Twice they retired and passed
the business to others; both times the successor ended up
going under. Appian Way’s most recent return was five years
ago, and I’m delighted to report that a recent visit proves
not much has changed.
Since they still own the adjoining building, that’s where
you enter. The dining room itself sports a fireplace that
was cutting the autumn chill during my early-evening arrival.
As is usually the case, Gina’s niece, Maria, was there to
welcome my party and tend to our meal. “Unassuming” hardly
describes this place. The dining room is simple, pleasant,
appointed in easygoing whites, decorated with occasional artwork.
Family photos line the mantelpiece. Italian tenor arias play
in the background.
Try to resist the bread basket that soon hits the table. Although
you may share my sense of fool’s virtue by dipping it in the
seasoned olive oil instead of slathering it with butter, it’s
still bread (homemade, I repeat), and it’s still going to
Most of the entrées include the house salad, which is served
family-style, tossed in a gentle vinaigrette. This is the
form in which salad makes the most sense.
In the early days there wasn’t much of a menu. You could learn
the offerings from your server’s recitation. Eventually, a
photocopied page appeared; now it’s a laminated fold-over
menu. Some menu prices have crept up since my last visit,
but the fettuccine al filetto di pomodoro is still
$8.50. And it’s homemade fettuccine. That alone would be reason
enough to visit.
Of the six listed appetizers, which include fresh mozzarella
and tomatoes ($8.50), fried eggplant stuffed with mozzarella
($7.50), and mussels in marinara ($9.50), I find the antipasto
($8.50) irresistible. You could share it, but then you’re
giving up unfettered access to the prosciutto slices they
cure themselves. Combine it with a slice of the cantaloupe
that’s included and you have a classic starter right there.
The roasted eggplant and peppers, marinated mushrooms, and
slices of aromatic provolone are what push this over the edge.
And no lettuce! That’s in the salad.
If you want to go beyond lettuce, there’s a salad of orange
slices (insalata di arancia, $6.50) that gives a much
different taste of the fruit, seasoned as it is with garlic
Fettuccine dominates the pasta selections, available with
shrimp and asparagus, sausage and ricotta, prosciutto and
broccoli or mushrooms ($12.50 to $19.50)—and, of course, Alfredo
($12.50), in which the traditional cream sauce, made correctly
with a tremendously engaging flavor of cream and cheese, is
enhanced with bits of prosciutto.
Sautéed chicken and mushrooms ($17) begins the meat-dish selections;
you can get your chicken Cordon Bleu, Francaise, Bolognese
and cacciatore ($15.50 to $19.50). There was a
time when no beef dishes were on the menu; now there’s a brief
selection running from a $21 strip steak to filet mignon alla
pizzaiola ($24.50). Veal and seafood have long been the
specialties, so we sampled one of each. Passing the piccatta,
the Milanese, the Sorrentino ($16.50 to $19)—most
of which I’ve enjoyed on past visits—we chose veal Campagnola
($19), yet another opportunity to score some prosciutto,
which mixes with eggplant in a marinara sauce touched with
a bit of mozzarella.
The shrimp gracing the shrimp marsala ($19) were extraordinarily
large, buttery and tender, but it was the sauce, invading
the many mushrooms that also decorated the plate, that gave
this dish its amazing flavor. There’s shrimp all over the
place: stuffed, in garlic butter, with chicken, grilled, even
alla parmigiana ($18.50-$22). And there are clams ($19),
calamari ($19), and an all-inclusive seafood platter ($27)
to satisfy your ocean-based needs.
I visited once in the company of an Italian chef who declared,
“This type of cooking is insane,” upon being served the side
dish of pasta—homemade spaghetti with marinara, deliciously
over the top. This time it was something I could barely find
room to taste, opting to hold out enough room for gelato.
Fig gelato, in fact—light, rich, and crunchy with fig seeds.
We also sampled tiramisu gelato and finished with espresso
from a stovetop percolator, which many purists insist is the
best way to produce the strong coffee.
Appian Way remains unchallenged as the area’s best source
of traditional Italian fare. Insane? Perhaps. But the food
makes it worth it.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
chefs Michael and Carm LoPorto and Habana Premium
Cigar Shoppe’s Scott Bendett for a special cigar
night at LoPorto Ristorante Caffé (85 4th
St., Troy) at 6 PM on Monday (Oct. 26). The meal
includes antipasto, beef tenderloin, chicken cacciatore,
an abundance of pasta and more. You’ll also get
four cigars from CAO (Soprano, Italia, Gold and
MX2) and one hand-rolled cigar assembled right
on the premises. It’s $100 per person, including
tax and gratuity; call 690-2222 for more info
and reservations. . . . Remember to pass your
scraps to Metroland.