GUILDERLAND — Spend a relaxing evening at your own table with excellent prepared meals from Chefs Take Out on Carman Road in Guilderland. The fact that there’s no fuss, no water to boil, no pots to clean makes the meal even more enjoyable.
Our friend who sets an excellent table himself recently had a fancy dinner for six catered from another establishment. He spent much of his time in the kitchen beforehand assembling: heating disparate components, pouring sauces over, plating, garnishing.
By contrast, Chefs Take Out gets everything ready for a multi-course Italian meal, and all you have to do is put the dressing on the salad. Voilà. Restaurant-quality food at home, with no fuss.
Chef-owner Gerardo Cunsolo opened his restaurant in 2003, as just a take-out place, “where you can get restaurant food to go,” he said. He expanded into vacant space next door more than a year ago and now has a full-service, spotless and bright dining room that seats 60, but still does a brisk take-out business. Husband Eric and I called ahead and were told our order would be ready in 40 minutes. We arrived in 30 and it was done.
Chefs Take Out
WHERE: 3770 Carman Road, Guilderland (357-2222)
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays to Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Closed Sundays and Mondays.
HOW MUCH: $64.91
MORE INFO: MasterCard and Visa. Fully wheelchair accessible. Accommodations made for children’s meals. Reservations accepted.
Look above the enormous letters spelling PIZZA and PASTA in the Carman Plaza strip mall and you’ll find a more understated sign for the restaurant. There’s a hostess stand for the dining room in the small waiting area, and three upholstered booths in a tiny dining area off to one side. Stride past the coolers of wine and beer, salads and desserts to the counter to pick up your order.
The place was fully staffed that weekend, and the counter staff kept up with the steady stream of customers on what was a very busy night. We were on our way a short time after, an alarming number of steaming white bags in the back seat of the car.
”The staff seemed to enjoy what they were doing. That’s a good sign,” said husband Eric as he drove us to Mom’s. “And they greeted many of the customers by name,” he added.
The food was still very hot when we unpacked it a half-hour later. It helps that the cold stuff is packed separately from the hot stuff, and it’s nice to know you won’t have to reheat anything. We got drinks, put the desserts in the fridge, and settled in for the first course. Dinners come with a choice of salad or soup, a side of pasta and bread.
Eric and Mom said the salads were crisp and fresh, colorful with carrot, tomato wedge, cucumber, black olives, and just enough red onion to make it interesting, said Eric. Mom approved of the large wedge of tomato. “Tomatoes are three dollars a pound, you know,” she informed us. Homemade dressing comes in 2-ounce cups.
I was enjoying the homemade chicken fettuccine soup. The rich broth featured good-sized bits of celery, carrot and tomato, the chicken was soft and tender and the pasta wasn’t mushy or overcooked — it was just right.
We agreed that the garlic knots were the weakest part of the meal. You get a dozen for $3.95, and they come with a small cup of chunky marinara sauce. They looked wonderful, perfectly brown on top, and dusted with grated cheese, but perhaps they cooked too long because they were very chewy. They looked great, but we each had only one and moved on.
Mom’s veal marsala ($17.95) was exceptional, especially the sauce, which tasted like it had been made by deglazing the pan used to cook the meat. It was rich, thick, dark and slightly tangy from wine, with sliced mushrooms that soaked up the flavors agreeably. The veal was pounded thin and tender, and Mom declared it was “out of this world.” Long after she finished her serving, she was still soaking up the sauce with bits of the dense homemade bread.
“Look at this sauce,” she said to me, pushing it around with a serving spoon, “it’s not a bit greasy.” I joined her in dipping bread, and agreed that the sauce was delicious.
Eric had seized upon the chicken limone ($14.95) immediately upon reading the menu. Four pieces of chicken breast were sautéed in white wine with butter and garlic, with lemon, capers, mushrooms and olives. “Wonderful light lemony sauce,” he said, after finishing the third piece. The meat was fork-tender and moist, done just perfectly.
Both meals included a large side of pasta topped with more of the chunky marinara sauce. A dinner could feed two people, and Mom and Eric didn’t make much headway into the huge portion of pasta, despite a half hour of effort. It was cooked through, which was to Mom’s liking because she believes the restaurant industry came up with al dente pasta to save cooking time.
My baked tortellini ($12.95) was still piping hot when it hit my plate. I scooped out about a sixth of it, trying to get as much melted cheese and sauce as possible. It was very filling. The soft tortellini had soaked up much of the sauce, and I poured the marinara from the garlic knots over. Pasta is a sponge, especially when baked, and I would have liked more sauce, but it tasted great. The occasional chunk of beef in the bolognese sauce added flavor. I went back for seconds, but didn’t come close to finishing. This meal would last for days.
Time for dessert
After a short break, we had dessert, a perfect square of tiramisu ($5.25) for Eric and cheesecake ($4.25) for Mom and me. Mom marveled at the golden slice. “What did they do with the crust?” she wondered. You don’t eat cheesecake for the crust, and we minimize it as much as possible, but we’ve never made it without. It was silky-smooth, creamy and rich, with a touch of vanilla flavor.
Eric enjoyed the moist tiramisu, commenting favorably on the soaked cake, soft Marscapone cheese and dusting of cocoa.
You can get pizza at Chefs Take Out; a medium 6-cut round cheese pizza is $9.50, and toppings are $1.50 each. There are large 16-inch specialty pizzas featuring eggplant ($15.95) and shrimp scampi ($19.95) among other inventive choices.
They offer meal-sized salads like salmon herb ($11.95) with artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, asparagus and fresh mozzarella. Next time, I’ll order the mozzarella fritters ($5.95) because they sound like such a good idea.
So take home and savor some of chef Cunsolo’s wonderful food, and the fact that it’s truly ready to go. And as a bonus, the leftovers are already home.