Photo by Leif Zurmuhlen
Western Ave., Guilderland, 452-9200. Serving Sun-Thu 10-9,
Fri-Sat 10-10. AE, D, DC, MC, V.
Cuisine: Italian experimental
price range: $10 (Capellini Con Rappini) to $20 (Seafood Linguini)
By B.A. Nilsson
The tone of your dining experience is set during your first
few minutes in a restaurant; the memory you carry away forms
at the end of your meal. Aromi d’Italia knows how to get you
coming and going.
The Guilderland restaurant is in a strip mall a few storefronts
down from Dorato’s. During a recent visit on a freezing night,
even the quick dash I took from car to door was enough to
fog my glasses once I reached the warm inside. So it was through
the clearing mist that I saw the displays of desserts, a rainbow
array of gelato among them.
In fact, you can’t reach a table without passing the desserts,
which left my party, at least, with a vision of ice cream
throughout the meal. Owners Chris Varner and Savas, Jon and
Michael Ermides planned it that way, giving the 60-seat café
some of its café authenticity.
The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner; its daytime menu
features grilled sandwiches known as panini, along with pizza,
salads, soups and some specials. For dinner, add an array
of Italian-inspired entrées, many of them pasta-based.
My first few minutes consisted of walking the sweet gauntlet
to my seat, at a booth in the cozy dining area, and a brief
conversation with Brian, our server (who, thankfully, had
no set speech to recite). He guided me to a glass of wine
that he promptly served. With the first flush of that wine
warming me, I sought Brian’s help with menu questions. Then
and throughout the meal, he proved impressively adept at being
available when needed and enthusiastic about the food, one
of those (unfortunately) rare servers who obviously takes
pride in his work. And it was that spirit that turned a terrific
meal into something memorable.
Lunch items begin the menu—salads, ranging from a $3 mixed
greens and veggies plate to an $11 antipasto, soups, panini
and pizza. Panini are built on the house-made focaccia, a
rosemary-scented bread with an airy consistency. Priced in
the $7 range, they boast a variety of meat selections and
garnishes—and there’s even a meatless panini with eggplant,
portobello mushrooms, roasted red peppers and more.
Pizzas also use the focaccia, and are available in three sizes.
We ordered one of the smallest, a four-slice, six-inch individual
serving, in this case with Italian sausage and pepperoncini
($6.50). Focaccia makes a fantastic crust and adds a unique,
sweeter dimension to the flavor that offsets the spice or
pungency of the toppings.
The restaurant also provides a basket of focaccia at your
table, with seasoned olive oil for dipping. Much too easy
to make a meal out of it: Pace yourself.
Appetizers ($6 to $9) include bruschetta with roasted bell
peppers, a fresh mozzarella platter, melon and prosciutto
and a fresh fruit array. Baked Romano scallops ($9) arrived
in a gratiné dish, a group of giant, tender scallops bubbling
in a just-baked cream sauce with plenty of Romano cheese;
crab-stuffed portobello ($9) was a giant mushroom cap well
filled with fresh, real crabmeat, unexpectedly flavorful because
there was little wasted filler, all of it set off by a tangy
Soup or salad is offered with the entrées, and thus we were
able to sample a large portion (euphemistically termed a “cup”)
of chicken and black rice (otherwise $3), that was much, much
more than its name suggested. This verged on a full-bodied
stew, a hint of sage in its seasonings and lots of vegetable
Chicken also figures into the tequila tramonto ($14),
presenting slices of roasted chicken amid penne with garlic,
onion and bell peppers, tossed in a cream sauce flavored with
tequila and sparkling with the heat of cayenne pepper. It’s
a common enough chicken-and-pasta style made beautiful upon
the mountains by a stellar sauce.
Other entrées include a few penne combos (sausage or prosciutto
or simply plum tomatoes), baked eggplant rolette, roasted
vegetable kabobs, and a couple of seafood-and-pasta combos.
Supplementing the menu is a specials list, which described
the day’s panini (turkey and smoked mozzarella, $6.50), the
day’s soups and a pasta entrée: lobster-stuffed ravioli served
with red onions and citrus fruit segments ($16). Grapefruit
and orange, specifically, and they add a puckery sweetness
to the chardonnay grapefruit butter sauce that pulls the elements
together. It may take some persuading for the faint of palate
to try this, but you’ll have no regrets. Chef John Fonti deserves
prolonged applause for his work.
We toured the dessert counter and chose a couple of gelati:
cookies and cream, which delivered what it promised but in
a far richer style than the commercial ice cream versions,
and gianduia, a chocolate-hazlenut mix that complements a
hot espresso. We couldn’t help but carry away a contented
end-of-the-meal feeling, daunted not at all by our return
to the bitter cold.
by popular demand, the Van Dyck Restaurant (237
Union St., Schenectady) offers a pasta station in its
tavern Wednesdays from 4 to 8. Start with a large bowl
of pasta and add veggies, sausage, chicken and/or meatballs,
then have it sauced with marinara or an Alfredo mix.
And the $9 pasta is served with Van Dyck garlic bread.
Call 381-1111 for more info. . . . Saratoga’s Springwater
Bistro (139 Union Ave.) offers a night of Japanese
cuisine along with a sake tasting from 5:30 to 9:30
Monday (March 3). Sagamore Resorts chef Tony DeStratis
will be the master sushi chef, joining Springwater chef
David Britton as the latter creates a menu including
tempura, yakitora, stir fry dishes and more. For more
information and reservations, call the restaurant at
584-6440. . . . Remember to pass your scraps on to Metroland.
fax info to 922-7090)
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.