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Photo by: B.A. Nilsson

Movin’ On Up
By B.A. Nilsson

Lippera’s Bistro
25 Hudson Ave., Chatham, 392-6200. Serving lunch Thu-Tue from 11:30, dinner Mon-Tue, Thu 5-9:30, Fri 5-10:30, Sat 3-10:30, Sun 3-9. Brunch Sun 9-3. AE, MC, V.
Cuisine: continental with an Italian touch
Entrée price range: $13 (linguine puttanesca) to $34 (filet mignon and lobster)
Ambiance: small-town friendly
Clientele: big-town friends

Lippera’s, as it is, soon will be no more. This bodes well, because the entire operation is picking up and moving to the adjacent building, a former hotel that will house the restaurant, a separate baking operation, and much, much more. “We hope to be in there within eight months,” says Monica Lippera. “And we’ll have much more room, including a wrap-around porch for warm-weather dining.”

The family has been in the business for more than 25 years, many of them as proprietors of the Italian Delight, a Columbia County mainstay in its heyday. They owned a property in Chatham that was home to a succession of failed restaurants, “and we finally decided to do it ourselves.” They opened Lippera’s Bistro nearly two years ago with the goal of combining fine dining and a family-friendly atmosphere. This they’ve accomplished by offering two dining areas, the less-formal one a tavern that’s intended for casual use—but where the emphasis is on relaxing, not boozing, with families more than welcome—and a nicely appointed room with more formal settings.

We dined in the fancy room on the occasion of a couple of visits and thus were able to contrast two types of meal, one of them surrounded by a chaos of extended family on a busy night, the other as a threesome with the place pretty much to ourselves. Those are restaurant business extremes that tend to expose the service shortcomings; happily, in neither case were there problems.

It’s nice to have a pair of bakers in the family, and it’s even possible that Lea Lippera-Harvey and her husband, Robert Harvey, will have their own storefront in the new (or old) building. Meanwhile, flip up the napkin on the basket that arrives early in your meal and inhale the aroma. Focaccia with onions was served the first night; it had a touch of spinach the next time we visited.

The menu covers two pages and balances Italian-inspired classics with newer ideas. Mussels provencale ($7), for instance, arrived in a large bowl, the occupants of which were steamed to melt-in-the-mouth tenderness, the flavors accented by a garlicky tomato broth. Among our large party were a number of stubborn traditionalists, which caused an appetizer of shrimp cocktail ($10) to arrive. It turned out to be the classic array of chilled jumbo shrimp with a homemade, horseradishy cocktail sauce.

Clams I typically enjoy more in the anticipation. If they’re terrifically fresh or creatively cooked, I like them. But I rarely order them. Whatever madness persuaded me to order an appetizer of baked stuffed clams ($6) was rewarded by a impressive dish: three fat shells stuffed to the brim with a clam-rich filling, and not the usual festival of breading.

Soupmaking, as I like to insist, is the mark of a kitchen’s ability, and the creamy mushroom-zucchini compote proved that chef Kenneth Lammer enjoys and understands the pleasurable ways in which ingredients combine. The soup was thick and creamy without relying overmuch on cream, rich with mushrooms but not oppressively filling, which is a magical combination.

Entrées include a salad, and you have a choice of a classic Caesar, which is just that, or mixed baby greens and any of the excellent dressings.

Vegetarian items include sautéed tofu, the firm variety, drizzled with a cranberry-ginger sauce ($14), which seems to suit the otherwise flavor-challenged curd quite well. It’s served with a pilaf of white and wild rice. Eggplant rollatini ($15) is a feast of cheese, a large bowl of eggplant slices wrapped around ricotta and parmesan and topped with marinara and mozzarella, a kid-pleasing dish with a side of spaghetti.

The pain-in-the-neck quotient was high with the large party, what with three takers for Wiener schnitzel ($19), none of whom wanted the accompanying spaetzle. You might as well take the corned beef and dismiss the cabbage. In any event, the server was happy to oblige with extra vegetables (grilled mixed squash) or potatoes as requested, and supplied our prime rib eater with an order of well-made spaetzle.

Prime rib ($20), of course, is the least challenging of entrées, both to prepare and to consume, and it requires no analysis from me. But the Wiener schnitzel deserves acclaim. It’s a menu rarity, and an elegant dish when classically prepared, as was the case here. Two large veal cutlets are floured, egg-battered, breaded and sautéed. It all has to be freshly done, and the flavor, accented by lemon wedges and capers, is superb.

Another little-seen item—a special during our slow-night visit—is brasciole, here prepared by rolling beef with a thin slice of prosciutto around raisins and mozzarella cheese, lightly sauced with marinara.

Pasta and poultry items tend to overlap, as in the chicken fettuccine ($15), a huge portion that mixes sautéed chicken with good fettuccine in a large bowl, dressed with sun-dried tomatoes in a very creamy sauce. Chicken Lammer ($17) is a corn-rich specialty presenting cornmeal-breaded cutlets served over a tomato-rich polenta, along with sun-dried tomato and onion demi-glaze.

Other classics include chicken Marsala ($17), veal saltimbocca ($19), linguine with white clam sauce ($15), plenty of steak—you’ll find something you like or they’ll help find it for you.

Desserts are equally impressive. A vanilla caramel cake sported three layers of dense white cake with a creamy frosting; meringue shells are served with fruit, and the crème brûlée was a perfect confection of creamy sweetness under that candied crust. The restaurant is a jewel, worthy of its larger location.

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.

We want your feedback

Have you eaten at Lippera’s Bistro or any other recently reviewed restaurants? Agree or disagree with B.A.? Let us know what you think...

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* E-mail address not required to submit your feedback, but required to be placed in running for Nicole's Bistro Gift Certificate.

What you're saying...

It's me again B.A. The Chain Restaurant loving fat guy who loves big, heaping helpings of prepared, marketed fried things. Even Chicken Fingers.

I could care less about Daniel's at Ogdens to be perfectly honest. I read the review mostly because my office stares right at it's front door and we all watched as the refurbishing was done. My problem here today is with your first two paragraphs.

The kind of news article that bugs you is what percentage of Americans spend 30 minutes or less preparing food!?!? You know what kind of news article bothers me? "Remains of a woman found stuffed in a barrel......" or "....Albany Police Lt. dies from injuries sustained in shootout with suspect." I realize food and it's service and preparation may be the all consuming obsession in your life, but please tell me you have a bigger heart than that.

Maybe the reason "44 percent of weekday meals in the U.S. are prepared in 30 minutes or less.." is that some people work 2 or 3 jobs. Some people may be a single parent with young children, who may only have less than 30 minutes to spare.

But I promise you this, the next time I get 35 minutes or so.........I'll order some Kobe Beef, puff pastry, shitake mushrooms and the ingredients to make a proper buerre blanc....dim the lights, put on a bowtie, apron and plenty of snotty attitude and invite you over for dinner.

Are Chicken Fingers ok for an appetizer?

Mark Eriole
East Greenbush

I really love this guys knack for picking "the best kept secrets" in the Capital District. Way to go B.A.! Keep up the good work!

Mike Aldrich

Laura Leon's review was wonderful. Her descriptions of the various selections made me hungry. I am saving the review and putting it on my refrigerator to remind me to take a busman's holiday to Great Barrington for melitzana.

Joanne Lue

Having eaten here twice- I agree with all said by Nillson- HOWEVER- No authentic Mexican place should be totally rated without mention of their Margarita quality -which is superior-very limey with just the right ingredients- and their selection of Mexican Beers-Tecata-Negro Modello and Dos Equis Dark and Amber. Excellent Selection. Another mark of good Mexican cuisine is the freshness of their pico di gallo-the true MEXICAN salsa- again excellent. If it were not for the diner atmosphere I would have rated it 4 stars- and yes- please bring back the star rating system which I relied on heavily.

William Hyde

A surprisingly nice effort for a city which seems to only allow Italian restaurants to thrive.

Bill Graper

I very much enjoyed eating dinner at Daniel's at Ogdens. You review described my dining experience perfectly. This wasn't the case with Pancho's. I much prefer Garcia's or Lake View Tavern for Mexican fare. I agree that a restaurant can have an off night so I'll give the second unit on Central Avenue a try.

Mary Kurtz

First, yes I miss the star ratings, bring it back. Second, I haven't had a chance to visit Poncho's yet, but I especially like reading the reviews.

Pat Russo
East Greenbush

I would travel to Amsterdam to this restaurant - it's not that far away. People traveled from all over to eat at Ferrandi's in Amsterdam. From his background, I'm sure the chef's sauce is excellent and that is the most important aspect of an Italian restaurant. Sometimes your reviewer wastes words on the negative aspects of a restaurant. I'm looking forward to trying this restaurant - I look forward to Metroland every Thursday especially for the restaurant review. And by the way Ferrandi's closed its Amsterdam location and is opening a new bistro on Saratoga Lake - Should be up and running in May. It will be called Saratoga Lake Bistro. It should be great!

Peggy Van Deloo

So happy to see you finally made out!! Our experiences have always been wonderful, the staff is extremely professional, the food subperb, and the atmosphere very warm and comfortable. Let us not forget to mention "Maria" the pianist on Friday and Saturday nights.

Charlie and Marie
Michaels Restaurant

I have been to Michael's several times and each time I have enjoyed it very much. The food is delicious and the staff is great. Also, Maria Riccio Bryce plays piano there every Friday and Saturday evening, a nice touch to add to the already wonderful atmosphere. It is also easy to find, exit 27 off the thruway to 30 north for about 5 miles.

N. Moore

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