Ballston Ave., Saratoga Springs, 580-8700, Serving dinner
from 4:30 daily. AE, D, MC, V.
price range: $15 (pennette all’Arrabbiata) to $30 (filet
mignon with porcini mushroom sauce)
season is upon us, and you easily could tempt me, late on
a pleasant night, to sit on the patio at Limoncello and sip
the drink for which the restaurant is named—a drink that they
craft themselves and avoids the cloying sweetness that often
clogs the commercial versions. But I’d like you to promise
me a night free of motorcycles and semi-trailers. Limoncello
sits by the intersection of Routes 50 and 9 in Saratoga Springs,
and a recent Sunday dinner on the patio was too-often punctuated
by the external roars of internal combustion.
It’s our own fault for not moving inside. The former KFC was
transformed, for a while, into an Indian restaurant before
getting a Tuscan-style makeover for its current occupant,
now in place for nearly three years. This came after Limoncello
put in an initial year on Saratoga’s Broadway.
Chef-owner Giancarlo Balestra runs the place with his wife,
Nancy, and offers a menu that breaks no ground in the northern
Italian realm but offers a broad array of items in classic
Italian multi-course style. Thus the pasta list offers penne,
pennette, fusilli, spaghetti and even gnocchi in a variety
of preparations, priced from $15 to $23 and offering clams,
scallops, chicken and a variety of tomato sauces, including
Bolognese, puttanesca, alla Vodka and more.
e vongole ($20), for instance, is the classic white-clam-sauce
preparation, but here the clams were deliciously sweet littlenecks
that oozed their juices into the garlic and olive oil that
coated the pasta. This was where simplicity worked very nicely.
Fettuccine capesante e gamberi ($22) is a big bowl
of shrimp and scallops tossed with the aforementioned pasta
in a garlic and oil mix finished with tomatoes. Again, simple,
but with nothing outstanding in the flavor department. What
did I expect? Something that would lift it from the background
of so many similar dishes in similar restaurants.
Simplicity was the watchword with the salads, too, where classic
ingredients were mixed into preparations livened by their
freshness. Insalate fresca ($9) is a plate of mixed
baby greens with fresh mozzarella and good roasted tomatoes;
gorgonzola, pear slices and walnuts (pere, $9), took
the concept to that place where cheese and fruit dance across
Our dinner party enjoyed the spontaneous growth of a run-in
with friends and decided to parlay that meeting into a meal.
Ironically, the last time I’d dined with them was in Tuscany.
So I think it was in the back of our minds to re-create that
Ah, but that’s a high expectation. Tuscany—at least the hillside
outpost we visited—was languid. Sara toga was hurried. And
it showed. As the tables filled, service efficiency dropped
off. It’s a youthful staff that doesn’t seem to have mastered
the rhythms of the business. A succession of servers can pass
your table without glancing your way, unmindful of the maxim
I was taught: Someone at each table needs something at any
The plates took ever longer to emerge, and the entrées looked
a little harried. The presentation bar is high these days,
and something as simple as string beans need to be cooked
until still-crisp and neatly arrayed, not splayed in a too-moist
pile. Similarly, the parsley garnish needn’t look as if it
were flung at the plate from a considerable distance. Small
points, but it’s in such details that virtuosity is reckoned.
The dozen antipasti include bruschetta ($8), mussels
sautéed with garlic and oil ($12), tortino di verdure,
a stack of grilled vegetables layered with gorgonzola ($11),
calamari grilled with chorizo ($13) or fried with zucchini
($12) and other preparations of shrimp, clams and more. Polenta
e porcini ($10) marries grilled polenta with porcini mushrooms
in a truffle-scented cream sauce, and the components in this
dish came together splendidly. The polenta was crunchy, the
porcini chewy, and the sauce was rich, so this one made the
rounds of the table with appreciable damage at every stop.
classico ($13) is a plate of raw filet mignon sliced so
thin that it’s almost like a paste. Although you also can
get it al gorgonzola (also $13), with melted cheese
and pine nuts, I figured it was worth sampling it unadorned
this visit. Arugula and grated parmesan are the only accompaniments,
and it proved an ample showcase for the brief, intense flavor
And then there was secondi, the post-pasta, typically
meat-based course. Here’s where the beef fan gets a bigger
fix, with a porcini-cognac sauce as one option ($30, and if
it’s like the sauce on the polenta-porcini appetizer, go for
it), a peppercorn-cognac sauce as another ($30), and a dish
of sliced filet with arugula, cherry tomatoes and balsamic
vinegar as a third ($28).
Pollo alla Mediterranea ($21) puts strips of chicken breast
in a characteristic array of roasted red peppers, olives and
pine nuts, with tomatoes, of course. Saltimbocca alla Romana
($29) is based on one of those fortuitous discoveries that
liven the culinary arts: that a combo of veal and prosciutto
and sage becomes more than the sum of the ingredients. The
veal should be sliced and pounded so that it’s as yielding
as the butter in which it’s sautéed, but I was served what’s
unfortunately more common: scaloppine that fights back.
The flavors were great, with a big hit of that puckery sage
flavor. The plate was garnished with string beans and carrots
and a dollop of mashed potatoes.
We sampled a couple of homemade dessert cakes, one of chocolate
with a coconut filling (called “crazy Italian” on the dolci
list) and a straightforward lemon cake, both of which
were good of their kind. My dessert, as I noted, was a glass
of limoncello, a very satisfying way to conclude the meal.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
Day Nursery’s 11th
annual fundraising event, “A Little Bit of Jazz
& More,” will take place from 5:30 to 8 today
(Thursday, April 29) in the Fenimore Gallery at
Proctors Theatre (432 State St., Schenectady).
The “more” part of the proceedings includes a
cornucopia of food, including a carving station
with turkey breast and roast beef, a pasta station,
an hors d’oeuvres display and, if you don’t want
to fetch your food, circulating trays with even
more hors d’oeuvres, including sesame chicken,
a Mediterranean artichoke tart, shrimp Wellington,
spanakopita and more. There will be complimentary
beer and wine and Chocolates by Lindt. The jazz
part is a performance by Colleen Pratt and Friends.
The event includes a benefit drawing with a choice
of a $500 gift card at either Town TV or Empress
Travel, and gift baskets sponsored by the Schenectady
Day Nursery Board of Directors. Reservations are
$50 per person or $100 for honorary committee
status, and may be made by calling Jim Kalohn
at 894-6305. . . . Remember to pass your scraps