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Shannon DeCelle

Can We Be Frank?
By B.A. Nilsson

My Way Café
Routes 9 and 67E, Malta, 899-4196. Serving dinner Tue-Sun 4-close. AE, D, MC, V.

Food: * * * * ½
Service: Excellent
Ambience: Publike

Doing it your way requires you not only to assert your independence but also to stay flexible. This is what John Bove has done for nearly 20 years. He calls it a “1940s roadhouse atmosphere.” To me it looks like a comfy British pub.

The My Way Café hugs a corner of Route 9 on an oddly sparse stretch between Clifton Park and Saratoga Springs, just above Round Lake. As you enter, you’ll see Bove’s compromise on the smoking issue. It’s not allowed in the restaurant itself, but he has fashioned a gazebo to one side of the place at which you can puff away—although it displayed more snow than ash the night of our recent visit.

Thanks to a recent redecoration, there’s a freshness about the walls and tables and memorabilia. As before, the decor is strictly Sinatra, with customer-contributed galleries of album covers taking up much of the space, alongside movie and concert posters and every other imaginable Sinatra tie-in.

And who’s that singing in the background? When time allows, your server will be happy to honor requests, and thus I got to enjoy selections from the Sinatra-Ellington collaboration.

I can’t overstate how comfortable it was in the dining room—actually, one of a few smallish rooms within sight of the bar. The night was cold and customers, typical of midweek, were few, but we couldn’t have felt more welcome—and our server, Craig, proved to be a spirited professional, knowledgeable and attentive.

A small dish of pasta salad and a clay pot of warm bread arrived first, and the bread was especially appealing both in its butter-melting temperature and yeasty flavor. This also made it an excellent companion to the minestrone ($2.50 per cup), in which hand-cut vegetables mingle with excellent stock.

Bove’s most recent innovation is his pricing scheme, which plays into one of my prejudices. I like one-price deals. Partly because I’m easily annoyed by the fussing that drives people to order on the basis of cost alone; partly because a fixed-price deal feels more like a family dinner.

Drawing from a Sinatra album title, Bove offers a Trilogy Menu that gives you three schemes. Trilogy I ($17) gets you any entrée with a cup of minestrone or a salad. For $27, the Trilogy II deal adds an appetizer, dessert and coffee. Dinner for two is covered by Trilogy III, where $68 gets you a pair of Trilogy IIs and a bottle of wine. No pricing surprises.

Appetizers alone are $7 and include Italian-inspired combos like artichoke hearts and mushrooms, peppers and salami, and antipasto; mussels, shrimp, smoked herring and eggplant also appear in various guises—eggplant, for instance, is available as a mini-parmigiana or sliced and breaded and turned into fries.

We started with prosciutto-wrapped scallops, a broiled dish that gives the bland sweetness of scallops a salty, smoky edge with a wrapping of thin-sliced meat. A pleasant wine sauce makes for good bread dipping.

You’ll find plenty of entrée variety for such a small, informal place. Bove’s own creations, the skillet pasta dishes, lead the list with four fettuccine-based compilations: carbonara (with spinach, prosciutto and cheese), shrimp fra diavolo (spicy!), puttanesca Napoli (anchovies, olives, capers, pine nuts, tomatoes), and with mussels.

Cutlets of eggplant or veal receive a variety of treatments; chicken and beef and seafood dishes include the expected and the innovative. And there are the Tuscan grills, giving an extra char to chicken or shrimp, tuna or steak.

In the realm of the traditional, chicken parmigiana gives two breast cutlets’ worth of meat gently layered with a pomodoro sauce that’s the real thing, rich with flavor. The addition of provolone cheese to the top layer also fills out the flavor, and a side dish of penne completes the more-than-a-mealful array.

Nightly specials included ossobuco Romano, named for Bove’s friend John Romano (onetime proprietor of Albany’s Fountain Grill) and developed while Bove was running the Roma Restaurant in Cohoes in the 1960s. It’s made with a pork cutlet, and thus has a lighter flavor than the traditional version with veal shanks. But the sauce is deep and complex and gives that murky ossobuco flavor while the flakes of roasted pork do a commendable veal impression. Better to think of it as a pork dish, in which case it’s spectacular. A side of sautéed vegetables and good mashed potatoes completed the dish.

Bove makes his own desserts, and the list usually includes cheesecake, strawberry shortcake, apple bread pudding, a peanut butter sundae and hot chocolate-chip pie. Then there’s “chocolate chocolate chocolate,” which adds chocolate ice cream and chocolate sauce to the pie, and is unfinishable even by two.

We finished with coffee and tea and a pleasant Sinatra ballad. Dinner for two, with tax and tip, dessert and a glass of wine, was $64.

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.

Metroland restaurant reviews are based on one unannounced visit; your experience may differ. Food Rating Key: * * * * * An exciting, fulfilling experience; the food and service are everything they set out to be. Brillat-Savarin would be proud. * * * * Way up there with really good food, definitely worth your dining dollar. Julia Child would be proud. * * * Average, with hints of excitement. Your mother would be pleased. * * A dining-out bogey; food probably isn’t the first priority. Colonel Sanders would be disappointed. * K-rations posing as comestibles. Your dog would be disgusted.

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