by: Shannon DeCelle
The Barefoot Gypsy Bistro
342 Delaware Ave., Albany, 462-7876. Serving
lunch Tue-Fri 11-2, dinner Tue-Thu 5-9, Fri-Sat 5-9:30. AE,
D, MC, V.
Entrée price range: $13.75 (Mediterranean pasta toss)
to $20 (prime rib)
Ambiance: true bistro
Clientele: moviegoers and venturesome families
She greets you silently, as you enter, the titular gypsy,
with her head thrown back as if she herself might be in the
throes of grooving to Van Morrison’s “Caravan.” She’s a visual
quote; literal inscriptions also decorate the walls, amid
the trompe l’oeil distress and comfortable earth tones.
Located a couple of blocks from the Spectrum 8 Theatres on
Delaware Avenue, the Barefoot Gypsy is helping turn that neighborhood
into something more like Lark Street. Its offerings—gourmet
sandwiches, homemade soups, eclectic appetizers, salads, full
dinners and fantastic desserts—give enough variety to satisfy
just about any meal (or between-meals) desire.
Eleven tables fill the modest dining room. At one end you
can look out at the avenue; the other sports a display case
of pastries and preserves. It’s a room you wouldn’t mind being
trapped in for a while, especially if one of the eager-to-please
servers and chef-owner Maria Leonard were there to ply you
with her specialties.
We took a measure of the place with a generous array of appetizers
during a lunchtime visit. The menu (which I have to regard
at arm’s length, thanks to encroaching presbyopia and the
menu’s fussy Riviera typeface) lists seven appetizers and
a couple of soups, one of which is French onion ($3.25 for
a cup, $4.50 for a bowl). Right away we were in good culinary
shape, the soup as fine a rendering of this classic recipe
as I’ve tasted, its tastiness founded upon big-flavored stock.
The olive boat ($10) is more of a long ceramic canoe, generously
filled not only with three types of olive but also artichoke
hearts and strips of roasted red peppers, all of it moistened
with good olive oil. The olives themselves are varied (I’m
no good at identifying them, but some kalamata olives were
there) but uniformly strong in flavor, salty and earthy. It’s
a large for-two serving, but you should consider it more of
an appetizer element.
Bruschetta ($6.25) would add some sweetness to the array,
provided the tomatoes are fresh and ripe. Now isn’t the time
of year to look for that, and we as consumers have been so
content to settle for the bricklike, flavor-free doorstops
the supermarkets provide that there’s no incentive for anything
else to be supplied.
In any event, it’s the basic garlicky grilled bread topped
with an easy-to-spill compote of chopped, seasoned tomatoes.
Mix the chopped tomatoes with the field greens served beneath
the grilled shrimp ($9), and you’ve got something. The shrimp
can stand on their own: They’re rubbed with a house-special
spice blend before they hit the grill, and I used the bruschetta
bread (cleared of tomatoes) for mini shrimp sandwiches.
Moisten the cracked wheat known as bulghur for a while, add
lemon and mint, tomatoes and parsley and whatever secret ingredients
you like, and you get tabbouleh ($7.25), a refreshing salad
that the Gypsy serves in another of their handsome vessels,
with slices of pita bread alongside. It’s a natural complement
to hummus ($7.25), although that’s something I ordered during
a dinner visit. The hummus is very smooth and almost sweet,
although the required tang of garlic shines through.
This doesn’t even begin to touch on the many lunch sandwiches,
both deli style ($7.50 is the top price) and specialties,
like the $9 Reuben or the cheese-rich farmer’s-market sandwich
Dinner is a four-item listing, complemented by blackboard
specials. On Fridays and Saturdays, the nights when you need
a reservation, prime rib is offered, and I was all set to
ignore that until my friend Brian complained that it’s a popular
item, that he’s on the Atkins diet, and who made me the emperor
of entrée selection anyway, blah blah.
Good thing he bullied me into it. His order ($20) was a plate-filling
slab of beef that bore grill marks. Which turns out to be
Leonard’s unique preparation: After applying a dry rub of
her own seasoning blend, she roasts the rib rare. Each slice
is then re-rubbed and grilled to order. Brian deemed it among
the finest. Naturally, I scored his baked potato.
Rubbed shrimp and rice ($15) and lemon chicken ($14) are two
of the other entrées, although the listing will expand soon
when the menu gets a complete overhaul, timed to coincide
with the opening of an outdoor dining deck.
The Mediterranean pasta toss is $13.75 when unadorned by meat;
add chicken for a dollar, shrimp for two. My order (with a
tasty sliced breast of chicken added) was a bowl of bow-tie
pasta enhanced with artichokes, capers, sun-dried tomatoes
and olive slices, all of the extras getting a toss in white
wine and garlic before hitting the pasta. Although the flavor
of olive oil was present, the entrée had only enough for a
good flavor enhancement.
Desserts, also crafted by Leonard, include a can’t-miss upside-down
pineapple cake that might revive this old classic, a creamy
cheesecake and peanut butter mousse cake that uses the peanut
butter-chocolate combo in the best way since Reese’s got hold
Leonard has been an area caterer for many years, even before
she went through Schenectady County Community College’s distinguished
culinary program. As her mother, Rita Good, observes, “This
restaurant has been a lifelong dream for her and it’s doing
extremely well.” Open for just over a year, it’s a warm, accommodating
space with a family feel to it that makes a meal here a must-have.
Add a movie at the nearby Spectrum and you’re set for the
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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!