By B.A. Nilsson
1475 Route 9, Clifton Park,
371-1650. Serving Sun-Thu 11-9, Fri-Sat 11-10. AE, MC. V.
Entrée price range: $7 (burger) to $20 (seafood fra
Ambience: Family dining
Clientele: Neighborhood stalwarts
Recently I spent a fun afternoon talking to sixth-graders
about the career of food-related writing. They were full of
questions and tales of their own experiences, and especially
eager to learn the behind-the-scenes secrets. Their most frequent
questions had to do with my own restaurant favorites, so I
turned it around and canvassed them.
Although the fast-food emporia merited a few mentions, the
hands-down winner was the Olive Garden, with places like Applebee’s
and Old Country Buffet close behind.
Not a single locally owned restaurant was mentioned.
This should send a little chill down the spines of local restaurateurs.
The chains are winning the hearts, minds and pocketbooks of
the next generation of diners.
Romano’s Family Restaurant has the potential to attract the
same fan base as any old Olive Garden. The food is better
and the dining room is more comfortable, but it needs to have
the consistency that places like the Olive Garden offer. Let’s
face it: Chain restaurants have studied the stuff of food
service and hospitality to a fare-thee-well, and have put
a happy face on an assembly-line approach. Local restaurants
can beat that with better food and service as well as the
comfort offered by a place with a distinctive, owner-driven
In the food department, Romano’s has a lot going for itself.
Chef Jerry Menagias made a good reputation for himself at
Lucia’s, his Delmar restaurant, after establishing an estimable
standard at Schenectady’s Olympic Diner.
In his hands, an entrée like veal saltimbocca ($17) asserts
its heritage with a classic preparation that features a rich,
meaty sauce surrounding tender medallions topped with prosciutto
and melted cheese, missing only the sage leaf that gives extra
earthiness to the flavor. It’s a generous portion served atop
sautéed spinach, too much for a single meal.
Side dishes can include pasta, which gets an excellent sauce,
or potatoes and vegetable, which, we noted, can run the danger
of being steam-tabled too long.
But these are variables that can easily be fixed. The six-page
dinner menu splits one of those pages between veal and chicken
with much that’s traditional on view, such as parmigiana,
marsala and piccata for both ($14-$16, with chicken a dollar
less than veal). All of the chicken dishes feature boneless
breasts, even the cacciatore ($15), a recipe with lots of
regional variation but typically calling for onions and peppers
and such mixed with chicken pieces in a tomato sauce. Romano’s
offers a good example, with mushrooms and an aromatic blend
Pasta and pizza also share a menu page, with an array of pasta
formations offered in a variety of preparations: $7.25 for
marinara or meat sauce, $9.25 with meatballs or sausage, ditto
for broccoli, olive oil and garlic, among others. Baked items
include lasagna and eggplant parmigiana ($10 each); pizzas
start at $8. The steaks and chops listing covers the expected
realm, along with original items like filet mignon Shannon
($19), in which the tenderloin is topped with roasted peppers,
shiitake mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes; over on the seafood
page, shrimp, scallops, haddock and lobster are the features,
with a surf-and-turf combo priced however lobster is priced
The Italian specialties listing boasts a dozen preparations,
most of which feature pasta. Pasta aristocrat ($18), for example,
combines sautéed shrimp with green peppercorns and a cream
sauce laced with brandy that goes over angel hair; fettuccine
Roma ($13) adds porcini mushrooms, peas and prosciutto to
the fettuccine’s cream sauce.
A salad bar is offered with the entrées or is available as
a $5.50 appetizer; it’s a small but sufficient mix of greens,
toppings and some already-dressed side salads. Other appetizers
include antipasto ($8), steamed clams ($8 for a dozen) and
fried calamari ($8), the last-named of which turns out to
feature an excellent batter and wonderful consistency to the
squid, served with marinara.
In terms of winning future generations, Romano’s does the
right thing with its children’s menu, offering a scaled-down
sampling of regular menu items instead of aping a fast-food
Owners Vicky and Steve Arrington moved from Schenectady’s
Broadway Restaurant a couple of years ago, and seem to bring
a family feel to Romano’s. Certainly the decor has been spruced,
although the tables remain battle-station ready with clear
vinyl atop the white linen. A large banquet room is separated
from the smaller main dining area; the cocktail lounge is
on the other side of the wall against which the salad bar
I had the odd experience, when visiting on a recent Sunday
evening, of feeling unusually unwanted. Arriving 45 minutes
before the kitchen closed, all seemed to be fine—but the staff
began breaking down and cleaning up about 20 minutes later.
This included the nearby groans of vacuuming and increased
volume on the cocktail lounge TV; and as I still was finishing
an entrée, a server blew out the candles on nearby tables.
Our waitress left before collecting the check, and without
saying a word to us. This kind of behavior never would be
tolerated at any of the chain restaurants that are taking
business from local owners, many of whom would profit from
a trip to the Olive Garden’s likes.
believed it was time to get back to some basics,
and offer the kind of food our customers have
come to expect over the years,” says Sharon Taylor,
innkeeper at the Friends Lake Inn in Chestertown.
With that in mind, chef Kirk Gibson has put together
a spring menu that includes such entrées as seared
salmon filet with wild rice, cherry sauté and
beurre rouge; frutti di mare with
chorizo, shrimp, scallops, mussels, calamari and
squid ink risotto; prosciutto-wrapped chicken
breast with sage butter and Marsala jus,
and much more. As always, sommelier Tom Burke
will help pair wine for you from the inn’s amazing
list. Call 494-4751 for more information and reservations.
. . . You have the option of spending April in
Paris in Albany when Nicole’s Bistro (Clinton
Avenue and Broadway) presents a so-themed event.
It starts at 6 PM Tuesday (April 22) with a cocktail
reception and continues through four more courses,
each paired with an appropriate French wine. Cream
of fresh pea soup, quenelles of lobster
and monkfish and charred loin of spring lamb are
among the foodstuffs. It’s $65 per person, and
you can reserve seats by phoning the restaurant
at 465-1111. . . . Remember to pass your scraps
to Metroland (email@example.com).
fax info to 922-7090)
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.