by: Martin Benjamin
By B.A. Nilsson
39-45 N. Jay St., Schenectady, 370-3825. Serving
lunch Tue-Fri from 11:30-2, dinner Tue-Thu 5-9:30, Fri 5-10,
Sat 4-10:30, Sun 4-9:30. AE, MC, V.
Entrée price range: $13 (various pasta dishes) to $22
Ambiance: aggressively cheerful
Clientele: the neighborhood-at-large
in the Oven” descr- ibes an entrée that requires 45 minutes
to prepare, and thus you are warned on the menu. At first
it seemed a too-long wait, but it’s so much the kind of meal
my wife prefers that we took a chance, ordering it before
making up our minds about the rest of the meal.
Was it worth the wait, as the menu promises? It was worth
the wait. It’s amazingly simple—chicken baked with white wine,
herbs, potatoes and a hot cherry pepper—and only $14.50. Moist
meat with a crispy skin, the flavor sneaking up on you, and
the boon of those buttery, chicken-flavored potatoes.
It used to be Schenectady’s Little Italy, this stretch of
North Jay Street where Cornell’s is newly installed, back
when such designations were tautological. Home to Perreca’s,
which has produced the area’s finest Italian bread for more
than 90 years, and to Civitello’s, source of spumoni and pastries
and incredible Italian ices for 83 years, it once was a thriving
It’s going to be Little Italy again, thanks to the money the
city is pouring into the area. There’s no community substructure
to actually make a neighborhood out of it, so it’ll end up,
if the planners and retailers are lucky, as a bustling tourist
The most visible result so far is the relocation of Cornell’s
from its longtime Van Vranken Avenue home where, amid a street
barely passable thanks to a lengthy reconstruction and a resultant
parking nightmare, the Cornell family descendants continue
to turn out their excellent food in a snazzier set of rooms.
In fact, this street is “where it all began,” as the menu
proclaims, when Nicholas and Pasqualina Cornell opened their
first eatery in 1943. Daughter JoAnn eventually joined the
business, and, when she married Ron Cognetta, so did he. He
ran it for a while; the couple split; she remarried and eventually
reclaimed the business.
Now her son, Jim Cognetta, is chef, maintaining the family
recipes, including such longtime staples as the sautéed chicken
livers available as an appetizer or entrée. As a starter ($8.50),
it’s still a large portion, laced with sherry and sprinkled
with onions and mushrooms. The livers are crisp enough to
yield their bounty with a little snap, juicy enough to require
lots of bread for sauce-soaking.
Antipasto Dilusso features salami, cappicolla and provolone,
the three easy to flavor with the accompanying roasted red
pepper slices, artichoke hearts, flaked tuna, olives and anchovies.
(In fact, just to get back at me over an earlier escargot
episode, my daughter brazenly ate half an anchovy and declared
it good.) The tomato segments were unsurprisingly out of season,
but the rest of it made up a very nice starter. No lettuce
confounds the presentation, which is priced at $5 for one
and $7.50 for two, but easily could serve double that amount.
Hot antipasto ($9) features seafood and eggplant, and there’s
plenty of seafood among the other appetizers. Entrées include
various beef dishes, chicken, veal, pasta and more seafood,
and a number of house specialties, from which I chose Veal
à la Raphael (“Jay’s favorite,” the menu tells us, and many
other friends of the restaurant are similarly saluted).
It’s rolled, brasciole-like, from veal tenderloin, with prosciutto
outside and mozzarella inside; the marinara in which it’s
served has mushrooms and more of that sherry flavoring. The
flavors blended superbly, and the presentation was simple
but compelling. I added an order of homemade cavatelli, excellent
stuff, that was commandeered by my daughter (“You have my
That was from her kid’s-menu item, five of which are available
for $9 each, and the intelligent assortment includes no chicken
“tenders,” no hot dogs. In other words, the child isn’t being
groomed for fast-food fare. Linguine and meatballs was her
choice, a serving that included two burger-sized hunks of
breaded ground beef, nicely finished.
Lunch at Cornell’s placed us in the front room, by the bar,
at one of a series of wooden tables baretopped for the afternoon
service. Although a few of the dinner items are available
at reduced prices, including the hot antipasto and its cold
counterpart, the latter now lettuce-enhanced, most of the
fare comprises sandwiches. They come hot, cold, grilled or
as wraps, and you can choose from the classics or try something
new, and not pay more than $7.
My fiercely traditionalist daughter wanted a turkey club,
which is all well and good but hardly unique, so I talked
her into “JoAnn’s Favorite,” grilled and packed to the gills
with chicken breast (also grilled), Monterey jack cheese,
bacon, avocado and sour cream. And it’s on sourdough bread,
for a heady swirl of flavors that pleased my offspring just
fine—I also found the mix of avocado and chicken to be terrific.
The Italian combo ($6) is a sub with a tightly rolled filling
of prosciutto, salami and cappicolla interspersed with provolone
and decorated with roasted red peppers. A squeeze of Italian
dressing gives it just the liquid it needs for a wonderful
sandwich. You get a side of macaroni salad and chips, or crispy
fries can replace the latter for $1.50.
After the meal, we bought a cookie across the street at Civitello’s,
then stocked up on bread at Perreca’s. It almost felt like
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
want your feedback
you eaten at Cornell’s
or any other
recently reviewed restaurants?
Agree or disagree with B.A.? Let us know what you think...
address not required to submit your feedback, but required to
be placed in running for Nicole's Bistro Gift Certificate.
me again B.A. The Chain Restaurant loving
fat guy who loves big, heaping helpings
of prepared, marketed fried things. Even
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.
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.
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.
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.
Chicken Fingers ok for an appetizer?
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!
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.
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.
surprisingly nice effort for a city which
seems to only allow Italian restaurants
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.
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
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!