By B.A. Nilsson
Restaurant & Pizzeria
2850 River Rd., Niskayuna,
347-0002. Serving Tue-Fri 11-10, Sat 4-10. AE, D, DC, MC,
Food: * * * *
true that the predecessor here was called Mari’s, a Japanese
restaurant now located in Burnt Hills. But the current restaurant
didn’t choose its new name on some economical basis of adding
an O to the signs.
joke about that,” says Katrina Isopo, who owns Mario’s with
her husband, John. “But we named it after our son, who’s named
after John’s father.” The restaurant has been open for four
years, tucked into a corner of Niskayuna you’d have no reason
to explore if you didn’t live there.
But the place does a terrific business. My wife, Susan, heard
about it from a friend, and we tried a couple of times to
get in over the past few months, but were stymied by the crowd
packing the place—and this was on a couple of weeknights!
gets a little slower during the week when school starts,”
Katrina explains. “But Friday and Saturday are still awfully
It’s a small, very unprepossessing place, nicely appointed
to make anyone from a dating couple to a full-fledged family
feel comfortable. Everyone seemed happy to be there, from
the hostess who seated us to the bartender who cheerfully
helped jump-start my car when we left.
There are a dozen or so tables in the room adjacent to the
bar. When we visited, there were almost no tabletops on view,
what with all the food plates and platters. And the aroma
of fresh bread only added to the appeal.
Here is a case where the antipasto for one ($7) really is
sized for a single eater, albeit a hearty one. Nothing terribly
special here: The meats are standard-issue sliced salami,
with pepperoni slices and provolone, served over an OK mix
of lettuce. Dressing is a vinegar-rich vinaigrette.
And, because my entrée entitled me to a salad, I got a salad
as well. There’s a routine to be followed. I can’t really
complain, however, because service was so cheerful and attentive
that this hardly seemed to matter.
My daughter, Lily, and Susan shared an order of 10 chicken
wings to start ($6), crisp and moderately spicy, as requested,
with celery sticks and blue cheese dressing on the side. Appetizers
are otherwise impressively varied, aimed at light dining and
beer accompaniment as well. You can get an order of fries
for $3, mozzarella sticks or bruschetta for $5, calamari rings
for $6 or a small, generously topped pizza for $7.
Hot submarine sandwiches, which range from $6 to $8, feature
a variety: pepper and egg, sausage, meatballs, grilled chicken,
veal or chicken parmigiana, and a few variations on the aforementioned.
Cold subs, in the $6 range, offer a typical range of sandwich
meat and/or cheese, and all of the sandwiches are on fresh-out-of-the-oven
bread—similar, I expect, to what’s served with the dinners.
We didn’t order a pizza—there was so much else to sample—but
noted lots of pizzas going by, including John’s own creation,
a large, long Sicilian ($12) that should feed several. Stuffed
breads ($7) can include broccoli, sausage, ham, pepperoni—you
get the idea. Plenty of pasta choices, including ziti, ravioli,
lasagna, gnocchi and rigatoni, with all manner of toppings
and stuffings. I like the combo of gnocchi with garlic-enhanced
broccoli ($11), but was lured elsewhere on the menu.
My daughter, however, a big fan of restaurant-served spaghetti
and meatballs, was on the verge of ordering that when her
mom pointed out that sausage was another companion option.
She decided that, having never paired the two before, she’d
The vast serving that appeared had a Bunyanesque log of sausage
over the Matterhorn of pasta—but we were charged $5.50 for
a supposed child’s portion! As a leftover, it provided two
Susan chose one of the evening’s specials, a why-didn’t-I-think-of-that-before
zucchini parmigiana ($11) in which breaded strips of the squash
get the full parm treatment. It’s an incredibly effective
way of dealing with the overabundant vegetable, and the portion
size guarantees that the garden will empty quickly.
I chose Veal Mario ($15) chiefly because it was named for
the restaurant, which I figure means it’s considered extra
special. The promised sautéed veal turned out to be small
but tender strips well-mixed with tri-colored tortellini,
all of it tossed in a cream sauce featuring flavors of garlic
And that was it for us. It was the end of a long day, so we
had our leftovers wrapped, passed on dessert (although the
lineup sounded appealing) and made our way to the car, which
has since acquired a new battery.
Dinner for three, with tax and tip, a beer and some sodas,
Daniel’s Café offered a
terrific, eclectic mix of continental and Middle Eastern
fare in Albany’s downtown—and then vanished. Moved,
it turns out, to 4 Central Ave., Albany, occupying the
ground-floor space and serving the same great menu every
day from 11-10. Steaks, veal, poultry and lamb, shish
kabobs and vegetarian entrées—and the Israeli platter
salad is a knockout. Call 694-5320 for more info. .
. . Justin’s (301 Lark St., Albany) has a new
autumn menu. Among the entrées are grilled escolar (a
rich fish also known as walu) on a parsley and parmesan
noodle cake; roasted salmon filet with a tamarind barbecue
glaze; acorn squash stuffed with corn and red rice risotto;
and old faves like Jamaican jerk chicken and ropa
vieja. Call 436-7008 for info and reservations.
. . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland.
Use the handy e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
fax info to 922-7090)
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