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Photo by:B.A. Nilsson

A Stone Genius for Pizza

Loffredo’s Fifth and Fifty
By B.A. Nilsson

279 N. Ballston Ave. (Route 50), Scotia, 372-4668. Serving Mon-Thu 11-9, Fri-Sat 11-10, Sun (only during football playoff season and Super Bowl) noon-9. Cash and checks only.

Cuisine: of the pizza and wings variety

Entrée price range: $4.75 (spaghetti or ziti) to $33 (100 wings)

Ambiance: very little

Clientele: very hungry

Bob Loffredo slides the fully constructed pizza onto a wire disk slightly larger than the pie, and this goes into the aged oven. “New pizza ovens look much nicer,” he notes, “with a lot of stainless steel. But this is what was here, and it works well, and the ovens are lined with good stones.”

That’s one pizza-baking key: a stone that will passively regulate the heat distribution. It wasn’t until I added a couple of pizza stones to my own oven that I lost the hot spots that once plagued all of my baking, so I’m sold on the concept.

Another thing: the wire disk. “I make a thick crust, New York-style pizza,” Loffredo explains. “That has to cook longer. So I want some air circulating around the bottom of it.” He pulls out another pie and makes a shallow cut around its circumference of toppings, giving it a more attractive appearance. “I’m also releasing air bubbles,” he explains. This one finishes its oven time directly on the stone.

The pies emerge golden and redolent of the oregano in Loffredo’s homemade sauce. Mine sports broccoli and sausage on a red pizza ($13), a combo devised after a torturous discussion with my daughter. Who, I should note, proceeded to eat the pizza without first tearing off the top layer of ingredients, a rarity.

This was also true of the barbecued-chicken pizza we shared on an earlier visit, but that’s long been her favorite despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that it’s hard to find. Small bits of chicken are interspersed with a dark, sweet sauce, then covered with mozzarella.

Loffredo’s offers that and more. We didn’t explore the Greek, Hawaiian, taco or lasagna pizzas, but I suspect I’ll get around to them, because I’m sold on the place.

Bob’s current restaurant is celebrating its first anniversary, but his work is familiar to Schenectady-area pizza lovers who patronized his old place in Sheridan Square (now run by the city’s former police chief). Loffredo wanted to get out of that city, and his current restaurant is not far from where he had his first restaurant job: Carm’s, on Freeman’s Bridge Road.

There’s not much to speak of in terms of ambiance. The dining area is large—too large for the tiny parking lot in front of the place—but most of the business is takeout and delivery. Too bad, I think, because our experience as dine-in customers is that the staff couldn’t be more attentive.

During our first visit, we also lit through an order of wings (12 for $5), which were worth the attention. A “regular” Greek salad ($4.75) turned out to be a whopping affair: mostly iceberg, no surprise, but rich with feta and a good contrast to the pizza.

On a recent Friday, there was a line at the counter that stretched to the door, and, as the skies darkened, the pizzas were flying. Pickup, delivery—it was a steady stream of boxes of red, white and green.

This caused my dine-in order a little delay, but we (a threesome now, with my wife along) were always kept apprised of the progress of our too-large meal. For your sake—of course—I ordered a cross-
section of items.

A cup of chili ($3, but huge) turned out to be your typical beef-and-kidney-bean stew with some added heat. Jalapeno poppers ($5)—well, there’s no need to report on them. They’re all the same, it’s a silly excuse for a foodstuff, and I’m addicted to them. Sweet potato fries ($3) were crisp and sweet, a pleasant alternative.

Dinner items are available, such as baked ziti ($6.25) and eggplant, chicken or veal parmigiana ($6.25, $7.25, $8.25). You can also get your parm in a hot sub, a smaller portion that costs a couple of bucks less. We sampled the Italian hero ($5.35), which sported salami with provolone on a torpedo wedge.

The list of cold subs includes what you’d expect, as well as variations like triple cheese and a vegiwich, all of them priced around $4 for a small, a dollar more for a large.

When you find pizza, calzones can’t be far behind. I’m happy to report that the capacious sausage calzone ($6) kept me going for three days.

Where I live, there are only a couple of pizza joints nearby, and they’re just not consistent. In a more urban area, the threshold of difference among pizza restaurants can get quite small, so a friendly, accommodating staff can make all the difference.

Bob Loffredo’s philosophy about food and food service is another key ingredient: “It’s all hands-on here. First of all, all of our ingredients have to be fresh, have to be the best. And I’m involved with it every step of the way. I want to see your face when you come in.”

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.


TABLE SCRAPS

Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp, authors of The Book Club Cookbook, will be at the Schenectady County Public Library (Clinton and Liberty Streets, Schenectady) from noon-5 PM Sunday, Oct. 17, to discuss and sign their book. The event is a fund-raiser for the Capital Campaign to expand the downtown library to include a new children’s center, gallery and performance space. Samples of food made by area restaurants from The Book Club Cookbook recipes will be offered for sale. Gelman and Krupp interviewed book-club members all over the country to see what they were reading and eating; the result is a collection of 100 entries, each focusing on a literary masterpiece. . . . The Hudson Valley Council of Girl Scouts will hold its third annual Cookie Cuisine event from 6-9 PM Tue, Oct. 26 at the Italian-American Community Center (Washington Ave. Ext., Albany). Honorary Chair Carmine Sprio, Ric Orlando and a host of talented culinary teams take on the challenge of preparing gourmet entrées and desserts using Girl Scout cookies. This year’s participants include the Arlington House, Aromi D’Italia, Capital District EOC, Carmine’s, Crowne Plaza, Magnolia’s, New World Home Cooking, Real Seafood, SUNY Cobleskill and 333 Café. Tickets are $35; pony up $75 and you’ll be part of the honorary committee. For reservations, call Sharon Smith 489-8110, ext. 105. . . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland (e-mail food@banilsson.com)


We want your feedback

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

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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
Castleton

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
Schenectady

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
Albany

Wonderful!

Elaine Snowdon
Albany

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
Albany

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
Guilderland



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