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Photo by: Martin Benjamin

Raising the Steaks
By B.A. Nilsson

Parisi’s Steakhouse
11 N. Broadway, Schenectady, 374-0100.Serving lunch Tue-Fri 11:30-2, dinner Tue-Thu 4-9 (or later), Fri-Sat 4-10 (or later). AE, CB, D, DC, MC, V
Cuisine: Continental steakhouse
Entrée price range: $16 (prosciutto chicken) to $29 (24-oz. Delmonico)
Ambiance: exotic warehouse
Clientele: fine diners and families

I don’t enjoy being mean to Schenectady, even though I put in a decade as a resident there. These days I’m most aware of it as a location of physicians and restaurants I need to visit, and usually looking forward more to the former.

But just up Broadway from that great embarrassment OTB, you’ll find Parisi’s in a pair of once-shabby buildings, spruced up by a tasteful (and no doubt costly) makeover by Schenectady’s Experience and Creative Design.

Inside is an airy bar with a few small, high tables, set off by neon and sporting the expected variety of vodka; colorful draperies separate the three dining rooms, each looking like a clever mix of warehouse chic and Son of the Sheik.

When it first opened, it was called Bar One and the emphasis was on nightlife, but it didn’t work out to be what owners Michael and Lisa Parisi really wanted. “We had a bar menu,” says Lisa, “and that was taking off. So we decided to emphasize the dining. It turned out to be so much better.”

Renamed Parisi’s Steakhouse, it reopened in March 2003 with an emphasis on fine dining. With beef, of course, the feature, but Parisi’s fleshes out the menu with an impressive range of other items.

“We have people who come just for the seafood,” Lisa assures me, and the swordfish preparation I sampled would be a good incentive. Swordfish is a strong-flavored fish that stands up to a lot of accompaniment—demands it, in fact—and a puttanesca, that bitchin’ Italian mix of olives and capers and anchovies in chopped tomatoes, did the trick in a generously portioned $16 entrée.

Parisi’s scored a culinary coup by acquiring chef Danny Petrosino, most recently helming the kitchen at the Stockade Inn but known for his years at the Executive Suite and the Hall of Springs. Petrosino isn’t bashful about bold flavor combinations, which always sit well on my palate.

There’s pork osso bucco ($18) for instance, with an apple-balsamic demi-glaze; prosciutto chicken ($16) that adds a marsala wine sauce; and a seared salmon with a maple-chipotle glaze ($18) served with cilantro-lime butter.

Perhaps all this carefree Atkins-izing has led to an upsurge in beef consumption; whatever the case, the steakhouse remains a popular concept. Although the classic model includes a salad bar, here you’re delivered a house salad, and the house balsamic vinaigrette is a worthy companion. When I first visited Parisi’s, I switched it to a Caesar salad ($3 as a substitute, $10 for a meal-sized platter) and I wasn’t disappointed: Short of smashing your own garlic and mixing the dressing yourself, this is about as good as you’ll find.

A tempting chateaubriand for two ($56) heads the list, but I was alone and contented myself with a N.Y. strip, which comes in 16-oz. ($22) and 24-oz. ($29) sizes. Even the smaller of those makes a tummy-stretching meal.

It was served; it was beautiful. But, for a steak I’d ordered on the rare side of medium rare, it was well on the road to medium. A classic diner’s dilemma. Not the worst of problems, in the long run, and my exploratory samples were delicious. But I’ve complained so often about customers who don’t speak up in a timely way that I felt it my duty to point this out to the server when she returned to check on my entrée.

“Then you’re going to get a replacement!” she declared, leaving my plate so I’d have something to eat, returning shortly with the new one, which was perfect. Throughout the meal, I was well attended, something I put down to the fact that I was dining alone and am astonishingly attractive—but the same buoyant, careful service prevailed during my next visit, this time with my wife and daughter.

Although the appetizer list sports a few shrimp items, my shrimp-loving daughter opted instead for French onion soup ($4), a baked crock with a dark, dark stock and sweet and meaty flavor. The bread and cheese have all they can do to compete with that flavor.

Some shrimp did get passed around the table when the shrimp and scallops prosciutto ($9) was served. The seafood is wrapped in thin slices of the spicy cured ham and then grilled, served with a thick drizzle of a balsamic vinegar reduction as well as a creamy horseradish sauce.

A signature appetizer, I was told, is the dish of sautéed artichoke hearts ($7). It was fairly unremarkable—artichokes have a subtle flavor that’s easily overwhelmed—but the accompanying garlic cream provided the necessary tongue-coating fats to prolong what flavor there was.

Cream figures heavily into many menu items, one of the most popular being the veal and lobster combo ($20). Small medallions of veal and large chunks of lobster meat get the sauté treatment, along with mushrooms, ending in a rich cream sauce that does extra duty on the garlic-infused mashed potatoes.

And what’s fettuccine Alfredo without cream? That’s a garnish for the chicken rolotini ($17), a presentation of rolled, stuffed chicken breasts. Spinach and goat cheese and fontinella cheese are among the inner components, and the breaded cutlets are sautéed and served with the aforementioned pasta. These entrées were large enough to require a capacious leftovers bag.

Downtown Schenectady never has managed to hold on to a good restaurant for very long, but this place is just different enough—and the necessary couple of blocks from State Street—that it stands an excellent chance of endurance. Right now it has everything going for it.

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.

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What you're saying...

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


Elaine Snowdon

We loved it and will definitely go back.

Rosemarie Rafferty

Absolutely excellent. The quality and the flavor far surpasses that of other Indian restaurants in the area. I was a die-hard Shalimar fan and Tandoor Palace won my heart. It blows Ghandi out of the water. FInally a decent place in Albany where you can get a good dinner for less than $10 and not have tacos. The outdoor seating is also festive.

Brady G'sell

Indian is my favorite cuisine available in the area--I loved Tandoor Palace. We all agreed that the tandoori chicken was superior to other local restaraunts, and we also tried the ka-chori based on that intriguing description-delicious.

Kizzi Casale

Your comments about the Indian / Pakistani restaurants being as "standardized as McDonald's" shows either that you have eaten at only a few Indian / Pakistani restaurants or that you have some prejudices to work out. That the physical appearances are not what you would consider fancy dancy has no bearing on the food. And after all, that is what the main focus of the reviews should be. Not the physical appearances, which is what most of your reviews concentrate on.
A restaurant like The Shalimar, down on Central Avenue, may not look the greatest, but the food is excellent there. And the menu has lots of variety - beef, lamb, vegetarian, chicken, and more..

Barry Uznitsky

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