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Photo by: Ellen Descisciolo

Family Fare
By B.A. Nilsson

Country Inn Diner
3081 Carman Rd (corner of Routes 7 and 146), Rotterdam, 357-0315. Serving Mon-Sat 6 AM-10 PM, Sun 6 AM-2 PM. AE, D, MC, V.
Cuisine: diner fare
Entrée price range: $7 (meatloaf) to $14 (14-oz. N.Y. strip)
Ambience: way casual
Clientele: early birds and other oldsters

The Geloso family has a modest culinary empire along Rotterdam’s Hamburg Street, which reaches back to 1968 when Italian immigrants Joseph and Mary Ann Geloso opened Joe’s Pizza Place on Craig Street, an operation they soon moved to Rotterdam. Thanks to a propitious marriage, they allied with the DeMarco family, which opened Johnnie DeMarco’s Original Pizzeria on Michigan Avenue in Schenectady in 1945. Now their holdings stretch across Curry Road to include the Country Inn Diner and the adjacent Super 8 Motel—and there’s even a branch of the Geloso family as far west as Fonda, operating a pizzeria and a luncheonette.

The Country Inn Diner has a good location, not far from the eastern end of Interstate 890. Positioning the restaurant as a diner suggests a wide array of accessible meals, especially breakfast. It looks as if it could have been turned into a fancier place, but it’s probably better suited to its location as a diner, drawing a steady clientele of locals who can afford repeated visits.

Seating is at a bar or in one of two dining rooms, and the rooms are large and sunny. In fact, they’re better suited for daytime dining: After dark, the main dining room is lighted by a combination of incandescent and fluorescent lights that gives it a harsh ambiance.

Breakfast, of course, is when a diner comes alive, and here you’ll find all the classic eye-opener items such as egg dishes, pancakes, French toast, sausage, hash and so on, all priced in the $3 to $5 range. In fact, five bucks will get you two eggs, meat, home fries, juice and coffee. Add 50 cents and score a couple of pancakes, too.

Soup tells you a lot about a restaurant. Minestre, a frequent soup of the day, is a chunky hodge-podge that revealed a good stock and a nice balance of seasonings ($1.25 for a cup; $2 for a bowl, priced slightly higher at dinner). French onion soup (a dinner item at $3.25) has a lighter stock than I expected, with sweet onions within. It’s been Italianized, however, with a topping of mozzarella cheese.

Like the portions, the lunch listing is larger than average. It starts with a tossed salad and cup of soup for $3.75, or a half-sandwich and soup for $4.50. Your roast beef, turkey, ham, tuna and suchlike sandwiches are in the $5 neighborhood; hot sandwiches, which include corned beef, a Reuben, tuna melt, French dip and the like, are likewise. Burgers, served with fries and a deli salad, range around $6. That’s also the price of the fancy salads.

Triple-decker clubs—a vanishing breed—can be made with turkey, roast beef, ham and Swiss, chicken or tuna salad, or the BLT stuff; they’re a little over $6 apiece, as are the hot open-face sandwiches. We sampled an open-faced turkey sandwich ($6.25), which is practically a turkey dinner served on bread (white) with a side of mashed potatoes that can (and should) share the gravy.

When chicken and biscuits ($9) gets listed as a specialty of the house, we’re not cruising along Gourmet Street. In fact, I have to confess that my childhood was so snob-suffused that I didn’t encounter this particular dish until I was in my 30s and living in a very rural community where it appears at potluck suppers.

Like the potluck fare, it’s something on the order of thick chicken soup ladled over a large biscuit. Huge chunks of chicken meat swim alongside reconstituted-from-frozen peas and carrots, which isn’t as bad as it sounds—but my advice is to use fresh carrots alongside frozen peas (that’s how I achieve that vegetable combo when I’m cooking).

The price of chicken and biscuits drops to $7 on Monday, when it’s a dinner special. Tuesday it’s a $7 meatloaf plate; the $8 specials Wednesdays through Fridays are chicken parmigiana, pot roast and broiled scrod marinara, respectively. Saturdays, roasted pork loin ($9); roasted chicken ($8) on Sundays.

Chicken parmigiana ($10 otherwise) turns out to be a giant slab of meat presented on a giant plate with a big side of pasta—ziti, in our case. Nothing unexpected here. Roasted pork loin is served with a chunk of dressing, and nets you several thick slices of the meat alongside a tower of mashed potatoes. We had leftovers galore after trying these dishes, although the broccoli served alongside some of the entrées was so watery that it didn’t survive the trip home.

Dinner entrées range from meatloaf or calf’s liver to seafood (broiled or fried) and steaks, with an array of Italian dishes as well. None of it tops $14, although a menu special during one of my visits was a 20-oz. slice of sirloin served with mushrooms, peppers, cheese and marinara for $16. This also turned out to be one of the best entrées: The meat was a terrific cut, it was grilled to the right consistency, and all that extra stuff only served to make the takeout container that much heavier.

Desserts are where a place like this should excel, but some of those homemade pies fare poorly after extended cooler stays. I had a slice of lemon meringue that had seen seriously better days, although I can recommend the coconut custard.

Service was brisk and attentive, with a staff of hardworking waitresses treating you like family.

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.

We want your feedback

Have you eaten at Country Inn Diner, or other recently reviewed restaurants? Agree or disagree with B.A.? Let us know what you think...

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Actually one of the things I usually like about B.A.'s reviews, that was missing here, is that he often brings his family, specially his child to these meals and includes their dining experiences in his columns. As a parent who is always looking fo kid-friendly places that also serve good food that I'd want to eat, so I especially enjoy "his take" on what his daughter orders and how she likes it too, as well as the entire dining experience...

Margo Matzdorf
East Greenbush

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