Congress St., Schenectady, 382-8865. Serving Mon-Thu 11:30-9,
Fri 11:30-10, Sat 4-10. AE, MC, V.
Food: *** ½
you sure there’s a restaurant here?” my wife asked, looking
around nervously as we navigated a series of one-way streets
in Schenectady. Long ago, before the aluminum-siding salesmen
got hold of the place, it must have been a bustling neighborhood.
Now, the houses looked neglected and droopy, and that once-shiny
siding is battered and gray.
Ferrari’s Ristorante is in a wedge-shaped building that once
was a hotel; it opened as a restaurant in 1974 when Francisco
Ferrari abandoned his job as a GE steamfitter and, with his
wife and four sons, went into this business. Now it’s run
by two of those sons, Joey and Anthony, while mama Rose is
still very much a presence in the place.
As we pondered the menu, I ordered a small antipasto Italiano.
It’s $7 and looks fairly compact upon arrival, but it more
than satisfied our need for cheese and sliced meats. There’s
a large one listed for $15.50, but I wouldn’t dare order that
without six or more diners in place. The Italiano has a pile
of roasted peppers at its heart, with generous amounts of
sliced meats—prosciutto, cappicola—fresh mozzarella cheese
(what a happy flavor!), artichoke hearts and pungent provolone.
Not a fancy-looking plate, but that’s not the priority here.
There’s also an antipasto Americano that features lettuce
(iceberg, I’m sure), salami and ham with peppers and cheese,
and a hot antipasto where clams and shrimp, eggplant and mushrooms
join the fray.
When we got down to the business of ordering, I asked for
a small plate of fried calamari ($6), which proved to be a
good example of the typical preparation: battered, fried,
served with a cocktail sauce. Not too chewy and a plentiful
portion, it was consumed mostly by my daughter and me.
I should have been tipped off by the take-out containers going
by. When the entrées arrived, they took up all of the tabletop
space. First there was a plate of spaghetti and meatballs
for Lily ($5.75), which she began working on as we finished
our house salads, an undistinguished mix of the usual suspects
with the usual choice of viscous dressings.
My entrée, veal Pepé ($16), is named for Joey Ferrari: “My
name is Giuseppe, they nicknamed me Pepé,” he says. “You like
that dish? It’s great. People love it.” Of course they do—it’s
ardently bad for you. Medallions of veal are sautéed, then
finished in a cream sauce touched with horseradish. There’s
a lot of butter involved. Sounds simple, and I suppose it
is, but there’s a monster conspiracy of flavors within.
As a side dish, I asked for the homemade spaghetti (there’s
fresh pasta available upon request). I won’t knock the dried
stuff, but I do like the texture of this variety, especially
when joined with a good meat sauce such as Ferrari’s provides.
I also ordered a side of broccoli rabe ($7), a bitter, crunchy
weed that is nicely joined by plenty of garlic in its sautée.
Susan ordered a special that featured many, many sautéed shrimp
over a plate of stuffed rigatoni ($20), where again butter
was a defining characteristic. Too rich for her taste, but
it’s a dish that accomplishes what it sets out to do. All
of our meals the next day derived from these leftovers.
I returned a couple of days later to take the photograph that
accompanies this review, and we dined again. We were recognized
as we entered. Business was a little slower, and we fell into
conversation with people at the adjacent tables. “This is
one of our five favorite restaurants,” one gentleman declared.
“We come back here all the time. Why take chances?” Meanwhile,
my daughter found a coeval sitting behind her, and the two
of them began to draw pictures together, each child changing
tables at least once. Joey came out from behind the bar from
time to time to sweep through the room and see how everybody
This is the essence of an Italian restaurant meal, and there’s
no reason why it shouldn’t happen at other restaurants but
for a sense of restraint (probably Scandinavian) that pervades
so much of dining out—where it’s OK to blow cigarette smoke
in a stranger’s direction but God forbid you should talk.
Joey was checking in with old friends and making new ones
as others in the room shared news of their lives with one
another, buoyed by rich food and friendly wine. It’s not the
same neighborhood it once was, so customers are drawn from
a more generous radius. In effect, it becomes its own neighborhood.
You won’t find this at the Olive Garden. You won’t even find
good food there, so I’m baffled by the appeal of that place.
“I like to get in and out of a restaurant quickly,” one OG
supporter told me, forcing me to slap him silly. That’s not
dining. That’s what the Germans call fressen. It’s
how animals eat.
After both visits, I was startled to emerge and find myself
back in those depressing surroundings. Ferrari’s is world
unto itself, a pleasant tradition nicely maintained.
Dinner for three, with tax and tip and a couple of glasses
of wine, was $98.
Troy Public Library has opened its Café in the Courtyard
(100 Second St.), with food provided by Ann Misir of Annie’s
Catering. It’s open weekdays for lunch from 11:30 to 2, and
the menu includes deli sandwiches, soups and salads. Or just
go for the homemade desserts and the variety of coffee. A
number of special food features also are planned for July
and August; call the library for more info at 274-7071. .
. . The Schenectady Symphony Orchestra presents a Classical
Breakfast at 9:30 AM Sunday, Aug. 4, at Schenectady’s
Central Park Pavilion; the event features music played by
members of the Schenectady Symphony Orchestra, including the
Women of Note string quartet. The event is sponsored by Schenectady
VanCurler Music, with food provided by Sodexho Marriott and
Dunkin’ Donuts, among other local businesses, with pastries,
bagels and muffins, fruit and beverages. Tickets are $10 for
adults and $7 for children under 13. For reservations, call
the SSO office at 372-2500. . . . Remember to pass your scraps
fax info to 922-7090)