ALBANY The Fountain Restaurant, an institution on New Scotland Avenue dating to 1962, is like a comfortable old friend who immediately puts you at ease, even though it’s been years since you last saw each other.
There’s an expansive bar with friendly barkeeps and a long aisle flanked by tables for those looking for more than a beer.
Beverly and I were having a Saturday date night recently and went to the Spectrum to see “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and then to the Fountain for dinner. We found the place buzzing with an eclectic crowd that ranged from senior citizens to college students who were definitely there for the pizza.
The big table in front, where some kind of family celebration was taking place, is removed on Fridays and Saturdays the second weekend of each month for the late night performances by Skip Parsons and the Riverboat Jazz Band.
The Fountain Restaurant
WHERE: 283 New Scotland Ave., Albany; 482-9898, www.sites.google.com/site/thefountainrestaurant/home
WHEN: 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Sunday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Friday-Saturday
OTHER INFO: Handicapped accessible; all major credit cards accepted
The menu is typical pub fare, but there are nightly specials on the blackboard over the bar that you’ll want to peruse before you make up your mind. Besides its famous pizza, the Fountain on any given night might be serving up a spicy chili or a chowder or little neck steamers, which was the case when we visited.
SOUPS FOR STARTERS
Beverly wanted to try the Turkey Chowder ($3.50 for a cup) and was pleased to find it studded with turkey meat and potatoes in a light but flavorful cream base. I chose a cup of the chili ($4) and was rewarded with a spicy version of homestyle chili: ground meat, kidney beans, tomatoes and jalapeños in a tomato broth, accompanied by crackers.
You can also order Pasta e Fagioli at $4 for a cup or $4.75 for a bowl, and the ubiquitous French Onion for $5.75.
Salads are basic: a tossed salad in large or small ($3.75 or $6.25), chef salad ($7.75 or $9.25) or antipasto (priced as chef salad), and there’s a house macaroni salad for $3.25.
From the appetizer menu, we sampled a Spicy Mixed Platter of jalapeño poppers, shrimp poppers and Buffalo chicken fingers for $8.50 that were deep-fried, spicy as promised but otherwise unremarkable.
Beverly’s choice of the steamers — a dozen for $7.95 — was a good one. They arrived in a lovely broth and were delicious even without the melted butter provided for dipping.
My entrée was the house corned beef Reuben (you can also get a turkey version) for $7.75. It was the standard recipe — slices of corned beef, layered with cheese and sauerkraut on rye bread that was buttered before it was grilled. I managed to eat only half of it, but I carted off the other half for lunch the next day.
The Fountain’s pizzas come in large or small and are priced at $8.25 and $10.75, respectively, for cheese versions. Additional toppings — like chicken breast, shrimp or meatballs — are priced anywhere from $2 to $4.25, depending on the topping and the size of the pizza.
You can also order sandwiches, like a Steak and Cheese with Onions and Peppers for $7.50, a good old BLT for $5.95, or an Italian Mixed for $7.50, and there are open-face sandwiches smothered with sausage, meatballs, sauce and cheese before baking for $8.75.
A variety of burgers and cheeseburgers also is offered with various toppings, and you can find the usual suspects among the finger foods — chicken wings, breaded and fried mushrooms, zucchini and mozzarella and breaded stuffed ravioli, along with potato skins, chips and salsa and nachos.
For those in search of dinner entrées, the cuisine is Italian. Dishes like Veal Parmigiana, Chicken Fingers Parmigiana, Eggplant Parmigiana, Baked Ziti with Meatballs or Sausage and Shrimp Scampi range in price from $9 (for spaghetti) to $16.25 (for the Veal a la Fountain).
Service was exceptionally good, especially considering it was Saturday night and business was brisk. Our server, Kimmy, kept us quite happy without being overly obtrusive. Our tab, not counting the grown-up beverages, came to $47.45 including tax and tip.
Skip Parsons and the Riverboat Jazz Band have called the Fountain Restaurant home base for more than 40 years, starting in 1971. Their performances — Friday and Saturday the second weekend of each month — begin at 10 p.m.