Paradiso il Ristorante
S. Broadway, Saratoga Springs, 580-1717. Serving dinner daily
5-close. AE, MC, V.
family-style Mediterranean Italian
price range: $18 (chicken scarpariello) to $48 (porterhouse
pizzaiola), priced for two
Ambience: Old World
Clientele: families with money
Paradiso rattled me on the first visit. It was too friendly;
service was too skillful. True, the season had yet to erupt
in Saratoga, but this was clearly the work of a team that
knows how to approach the floor with appropriate teamwork.
Visiting again on a busier evening netted the same care, the
same attention, the same level of friendliness.
Because there were two of us, the server explained, “You might
want to start with an appetizer, then choose one pasta dish
and one entrée.”
This we did—on both visits—and both times the bread that arrived
first threatened to scuttle our appetites. It was your usual
crusty Italian loaf, but warmed and easily doused with the
olive oil that sits on the table (alongside the balsamic vinegar).
The servings at Paradiso are usually a generous for-two (three
could do fine on most of the items), priced on the high side.
This is somewhat justified by the excellent service and accommodating
ambience, although I think $15 is a high price for a tomatoes-and-mozzarella
appetizer that offers only a few slices of each, and not an
especially luscious tomato at that.
Along with daily specials, appetizers also include a salad
($15!), shrimp cocktail, zuppa di clams or ditto di
mussels, and fried peppers and onions—all priced in the $12
to $18 range. Shrimp marinara tops it at $25. Your best bargain
may be the stuffed mushrooms ($13), which are a generous portion
of oversized caps with a pleasantly buttery bread stuffing.
Understand, however, that part of what you’re paying for is
very elegant French service. This may be family style, but
they’re going to make sure everyone at the table has the desired
Leftovers began to accumulate with the next two courses. On
the pasta list you’ll find several linguine preparations,
in which the pasta is paired with calamari, shrimp sauce,
white or red clam sauce or just a marinara, priced from $16
for the last-named to $21 for the fancier accompaniments.
An $18 order of linguine with red clam sauce netted a gleaming
sauté pan heaped with perfectly al dente pasta, topped
with a sauce in which small bits of chopped clams shared space
with sweet roasted garlic (lots of it) and fresh basil.
This pasta preparation was no accident. An order of fettuccine
prosciutto ($18), enjoyed on another visit, also was cooked
to just the right state of doneness, and its tomato-rich topping
was generously shot through with the chopped spiced ham.
A short, separate entrée column lists three porterhouse steak
options at $42 to $48. I trust they’re prepared well, but
I think of beef items as crowd pleasers. More interesting
are the other meats and seafood. Among the latter are shrimp
or calamari marinara ($25 each), as well as some market-priced
Chicken scarpariello is typically a sauté with sausage,
sweet peppers, mushrooms and garlic, although the menu here
offers two versions, and it’s the $30 one that adds the sausage
and peppers. Again, the dish is served in a shiny sauté pan,
brim-filled with the meats and vegetables and, as we had by
now learned to expect, plenty of garlic.
They offer lots of veal dishes, not surprisingly, and some
of the preparations are available with chicken or veal. You
can get either of them parmigiana, pizzaiola, marsala,
or campagnola. We tried that last one, chicken variety
($26), which emerged as breaded cutlets, pounded thin, served
with chopped, seasoned tomatoes—the kind of topping you’d
find on good bruschetta.
Vegetables are offered separately, such as escarole ($10.50)
or spinach ($15), both of them with plenty of garlic, the
latter adding golden raisins and pine nuts for added sweetness
Canoli, tartufo and tiramisu have long been signature
desserts ($7 each), and with good reason. The tiramisu takes
it back to basics, with ladyfingers and marscapone
in the mix. A special dessert we sampled was an out-of-this-world
custard (they likened it to a crème brulée) served on a puff
pastry shell with added strawberries.
Joseph and Carmella Balsamo, whose namesake restaurant in
Ballston Spa has been superseded by Paradiso for daily service
(Villa Balsamo is available for banquets), are from Sorrento,
and the food reflects this, going lighter on the cream and
butter, and paying more attention to what’s in the garden.
The family shuttled for many years between restaurants in
Queens and the Saratoga area, opting eventually to stay up
here full time.
They brought the family spirit with them. It’s evident in
the high spirits among the servers, and it’s evident in the
way Joseph and Carmella continue to fuss over the clientele.
If our first visit wasn’t welcome enough, we were greeted
like prodigal children the second time we arrived. It’s the
kind of treatment that guarantees future visits.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
Day Nursery’s third annual Lobster & Steak
Fest takes place from 5 until 8 PM on Aug.
14 at the Picnic Pavilion in Schenectady’s Central
Park, Schenectady. Enjoy a 20-ounce lobster or
14-ounce steak along with potatoes, corn, a drink
and dessert for $35 ($30 if you buy your ticket
in advance). There’s even a surf-and-turf option
that gets you both lobster and steak for $60 ($50
in advance). A hotdog meal is $5, and participants
may eat in or take out. Entertainment by fiddlers
Jane Rothfield and Allan Carr will be featured
during dinner. You can buy tickets in advance
at the Niskayuna or Eastern Parkway Price Choppers.
For more info, call 378-3360. . . . Remember to
pass your scraps to Metroland (e-mail email@example.com).
fax info to 922-7090)