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Photo: B.A. Nilsson

Bread Is Just the Beginning

By B.A. Nilsson

A poster on the wall of More Perreca·s reproduces an article about Jack Nicholson·s discovery of Perreca·s bread while he was in Albany filming Ironweed, and the lengths to which he·d go to keep supplied. What never got chronicled (so you·re reading it here first) is that his onetime costar Kathleen Turner also became a big fan of the stuff. This was when a longtime friend of mine named Christine worked as a personal assistant for Turner, and took a couple of Perreca·s loaves back to Manhattan after a visit here. From then on, as long as Christine was in her employ, she was under orders to do the same after every such excursion. I even recall a time when I put a couple of loaves on a bus to the Port Authority Terminal, where Christine retrieved them.

Perreca·s bakery has been operating for nearly a century, for most of that time turning out one thing only: bread, dense, crusty loaves of Italian bread that have defined the way this bread should break and taste. Eventually, the small North Jay Street shop began to offer a small selection of deli-type goods, including pizza slices, and the even-more-recently added cupcakes have been a success. So it stands to reason that, as Schenectady·s Little Italy takes shape, Perreca·s should add a restaurant.

But that·s almost too intimidating a word for what·s there. It·s like an outdoor café brought inside, airy and casual with an engagingly retro feel; and there are a couple of sidewalk tables, too. You line up to order breakfast and lunch items, from blackboard menus that hang over the far end of the counter, requiring you to pass the cupcakes display en route. Dinner is full-service.

Pancakes or French toast ($4) lead the breakfast list; add meat for $2.50. Or rein in the appetite with a $3.25 short stack. A number of egg-based dishes range from a single, any style, with potatoes ($2.50) to a frittata with potatoes and fontinella ($6.45). And there are bagels, muffins, panini and more.

Lunch includes meatloaf or Italian chicken wings ($8), eggs in purgatory, a spicy tomato-based sauce ($5.50; more below), coal-fired pizza for one ($8), salads and a number of sandwiches. Even macaroni and cheese ($7). Most days there·s also a special, such as Tuesday·s stuffed shells ($8) and Thursday·s roast lamb ($10), as well as an imaginative array of pizza styles.

At dinner, four personal pizzas are featured, each a generous four slices, cooked in the coal-fired bread oven. We tried the eggplant ($9), deemed a customer favorite, and enjoyed a thin-crust pie with breaded, fried eggplant rounds atop the tomato sauce and mozzarella. Margherita, sausage, and plain old cheese also are offered in the $8-to-$9 range.

Baked eggplant is a weekend dinner special, along with roasted chicken, and sausage and peppers ($12 each). Thursday·s specials are roasted lamb ($13) and penne with broccoli ($10, add chicken for $2). On Wednesday, it·s penne with vodka cream sauce ($10, add chicken for $2) and braciole ($13). Ours was a Wednesday visit, but we arrived a half-hour before closing and so were unsurprised to learn that the braciole was gone. I·d gone over the who-orders-what with my family, but because my wife hates being assigned such things, she switched to the chicken purgatory ($13) with a small sense of triumph.

We started with soup and salad. The soup ($3/$5, but included with many entrées) was a potato- vegetable mix that sported large chunks of everything, squash and tomatoes included, in an excellent broth.

Antipasto ($9) arrived atop iceberg, which certainly stands up to the other ingredients but adds little in the flavor department·especially unnecessary this time of year when there·s so much fresh harvest around. But the toppings featured a generous amount of slices of capocollo wrapped with provolone, pickled carrots and cauliflower, pepperoncini, slivered onion, red pepper slices and tomato wedges, in oil and vinegar.

Other salads include Tuscan chicken ($8), mayo-based, with cranberries, and a chick pea and cucumber mix ($7) that my daughter ordered, a dish where something other than iceberg would have been very welcome.

The biggest surprise was in my wife·s chicken dish·or wasn·t in it. It lacked chicken. It arrived in a large, appetizing-looking bowl, with a spicy, vegetable-enhanced tomato sauce over penne. But not a bit of chicken to be found. No servers either, at that point. There seems to come a time in many restaurants when the floor staff, having presented the last of the entrées, hangs out elsewhere, or zips by too fast to beckon. Fortunately, Susan was able to track down one of the cooks and persuade him that the chicken would be a worthy addition.

We finished the meal amid the cleanup bustle, and thus felt it prudent not to linger. A sturdy pile of leftovers went home with us, including what was left of the signature bread, served at the start of the meal·and it vanished before bedtime.

More Perreca·s is a terrific addition to the neighborhood, and I·m eager to try breakfast and lunch. I·d like to see a more conscientious cooking and floor staff, because even casual dining should be a serious business.

More Perreca·s

31 North Jay St., Schenectady, 377-9800. Serving 7-3 Mon-Tue, 7 AM-8 PM Wed-Sun. D, MC, V.


Cuisine: Italian diner

Entrée price range: $7 (pepper and egg sandwich) to $13 (chicken purgatory)

Ambiance: bistro

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.


TABLE SCRAPS

Of course we·re a co-sponsor·it·s about local stuff. And so, along with Honest Weight Food Co-op, we·re pleased to announce the Second Annual Local Harvest Festival, taking place from 1 to 6 on Sunday (Sept. 19) at Albany·s Washington Park Lake House. Enjoy a farmers-market-style event featuring local vendors, restaurants and artisans, local bands and more. Among the participants are the Beancake Company, serving akara, a Nigerian beancake; nuts from Delmar-based Our Daily Eats; Elderberry Mary·s home-grown and homemade jam; cookies from Vegan Creations (a Troy Farmers Market favorite); milk from Battenkill Valley Creamery; cheese and probiotic ice cream by Amazing Real Live Food; Catskill-based Grandpa Pete·s gourmet pasta sauce; Bettie·s Cup Cakes, and such local restaurants and businesses as Bros Tacos, New World Bistro, Casa Visco and Honest Weight Food Co-op. . . . Carney·s Tavern & Irish Pub (17 Main St., Ballston Lake) will hold its annual Halfway to St. Patrick·s Day party from 11:30 AM through the evening on Saturday (Sept. 18). The party features Irish Music by St. James Gate, Carney·s corned beef and cabbage, Reuben sandwiches, and Irish potato soup. Wear some green to offset the fall foliage. More info: 399-9926. . . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland.



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