Dove St., Albany, 462-9176. Serving lunch Mon-Fri 11:30-2,
dinner Mon-Wed 5-9, Thu-Sat 5-10. AE, MC, V.
price range: $9.50 (pasta with oil and garlic) to $27 (seafood
stew with lobster tail)
legislators and neighbors
first I decided that it was
the building and its location that inspired the long-lived
success of Bongiornos. Strolling along Dove Street on
a balmy Indian Summer evening gives you the best of Albanys
downtown residential ambience, and the cheerful restaurant
easily draws you in.
I thought it was the food and service, a winning combo smoothed
by so many years of experience. Finally, it seemed obvious
that it was the personal attention given by owners Rosanna
and Felix Bongiorno, who check in with the customers, regulars
and newcomers alike.
already smiling to yourself, Ill bet. Because you know
that what makes a place a customer favorite is a blend of
the above, so artfully woven that you cant separate
the component strands.
into a onetime private home, the restaurant has the cozy feel
of visiting a friends dining room. Some of the customers
enjoy a cocktail at the bar on the left before taking a table
in the room to the right, a habit probably born of waiting
for one of the 10 tables to open up. Theres also seating
upstairs, in a banquet room that opens for regular business
when the Legislature is in session.
extraordinarily innovative happens here in a culinary sense.
Rosanna Bongiorno, who boasts about the activities of her
grown kids while maintaining the fresh-faced appearance of
someone barely out of her 20s, is the chef, specializing in
veal and seafood while turning out first-rate versions of
standard Southern Italian fare.
in at one of the white-linen-topped tables. A cruet of basil-enhanced
olive oil sits near the center. Youll use it with the
crusty bread that will arrive shortly.
quartet of fettuccine-based dishes are on the menu as specialties
of the house: Alfredo, of course, the grown-ups version
of macaroni and cheese, in which egg and cream and parmesan
cheese combine to produce a rich, silky sauce; primavera,
which adds fresh vegetables; carbonara, with prosciutto and
white wine; and al cognac, flavoring a prosciutto-tomato cream
with brandy ($13.50-$14.50). The primavera that we sampled
featured both green and white noodles tossed in a mixture
of broccoli, carrots and mushrooms, in a sauce rich enough
to anoint the components, but not so thick as to be oppressive.
small blackboard previews the days specials for you
just outside the restaurants front door; a recent listing
included an appetizer of bocconcini (little mouthful), a name
given to fresh balls of mozzarella. In this case, they were
sliced and served on equally small tomato slices surrounding
a center of salad greens ($5.25).
chops with mushrooms ($16.50) was an entrée special,
and arrived at the table as a simple plate of two reasonable-sized
chops in a light wine sauce that complemented the meat well.
Nothing very fancy here, but as satisfying a serving as you
appetizer list gets to the point quickly. Three sizes of antipasto
(for one, $6; for two, $10.50; for the family, $18.50); shrimp
cocktail ($7.25); a few salads, including a $5.25 plate of
artichokes and olives that modestly sets the mouth watering
for more, just as it should; a few tortellini-based dishes;
soups (pasta e fagioli and minestrone among them); and a plate
of broccoli sautéed with oil and garlic ($5.25) thats
another effective way to wake up the taste buds.
a half-dozen steak preparations are featured ($20.50 each),
we skipped them in favor of more indigenous fare, like one
of the 10 veal dishes. The veal dishes start with a simple
breaded cutlet ($14.50) and culminate in the classic saltimbocca
($17.50)that prosciutto-and-mozzarella-enhanced classic.
Scalo-ppine marsala is a sauté of veal medallions with
mushrooms and marsala wine; for the same price ($16.50), you
can get this as scaloppine piccante, in which capers and other
seasonings are carefully added to give the dish a more striking
flavor. Again, its a simple, unadorned presentation,
a side dish of linguine with tomato sauce completing the entrée.
are preceded by salads, chilled and crisp; a vinaigrette with
crumbled blue cheese was my favorite of the dressing options.
chicken dishes cover the same ground as the veal preparations.
We examined another classic, cotoletta parmigiana ($15.50),
with a tomato sauce and mozzarella topping, and it was just
as expected and therefore quite satisfying.
couldnt have been friendlier, with plenty of attention
when needed and discreet visits from the owners. We finished
with a pair of dessert samples ($4.50 each), both commercially
obtained: a chocolate mousse cake too rich to finish, and
a splendid limoncello sorbet that passed along the flavor
of that liqueur without as much of the kicka nice finish
with a cup of espresso.
its understated elegance and superior food, Bongiornos
transcends the role of neighborhood Italian restaurant enough
to make it worth a trip into Albanys downtown. Once
you find that all-important parking space, youll be
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.