CLIFTON PARK — From a modest storefront came the best chicken wings I’ve had in a long time. Veneto’s Pizza & Pasta serves a respectable thin-crust pizza, as well.
Luckily, there’s a light at the corner of Fire Road and Route 146, or getting to Veneto’s would not be so easy. On the north side of 146 opposite The Crossing, Veneto’s is in an unprepossessing strip mall that has certainly seen better days. Next to a busy gas station you’ll see two tables with attached orange benches outside the place, and a neon sign in the window.
Veneto’s Pizza & Pasta
WHERE: Veneto’s Pizza & Pasta, 4 Fire Road, Clifton Park. Phone 371-7253.
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, noon to 9 p.m. Sundays.
HOW MUCH: $15.50
MORE INFO: Free delivery. MasterCard and Visa only.
Veneto’s is more about the food than the surroundings, as I am. The small restaurant is at maximum capacity with two table-and-bench booths, a couple of coolers, and some gum machines. The decor is faux brick, pizza boxes are stacked to the ceiling, and the ovens looked well-used, but the tables and the counter were clean, and a variety of fresh cooked pizzas displayed behind glass on the counter looked very promising. A television carried CNN for the benefit of the staff and customers.
Because rising costs of both cheese and flour have caused many restaurants to constantly update menu prices, consider the information given here a snapshot. An eight-cut round cheese pizza is $10.95, toppings $1.35. In what is surely a sign of the times, the topping prices vary with pizza sizes.
Joey Faizy, who opened Veneto’s about five years ago, bemoaned the price increases of his ingredients. “We used to pay seven dollars for fifty pounds of flour. Now, it’s around thirty-five,” he said. “But we haven’t raised prices,” he added.
A persistent trickle of customers stopped by Veneto’s, mostly for pizza, on a recent day at lunchtime while Mom and I waited for our order. A gentleman from a nearby business stopped in for the lunch special — two cheese slices and a can of soda for $3.99 — and was greeted by name. The shop does have its repeat customers.
Pasta dinners seem a bargain. For $5.50 you can get pasta with sauce, garlic bread, and a side salad. There are hot and cold subs, Italian specialties such as calzones, burgers and a fry-vat full of appetizers from jalapeno poppers to seasoned curly fries. And then there are the wings.
All of that includes tax, and delivery is free.
I ordered a small ham and cheese sub ($4.45), dining companion Mom got the lunch special, and we ordered a dozen wings, mild ($6.50). We watched strips of dough expertly twisted into garlic knots and neatly arrayed on a baking pan.
Working on wings
We shared Mom’s diet Pepsi and got to work on the wings. They were outstanding — plump, meaty and juicy. Crisp skin is arguably the most important element of an authentic wing, and Veneto’s had got it right. There was enough vinegar in the sauce to waft up your nose, and the balance of flavors was pleasant. Pay no attention to the boneless wings on the menu and head right for these. Mom didn’t care for the bleu cheese sauce that came with crispy, fresh carrots, and said it was a bit bland. Wings are messy to eat, but these were worth the cleanup.
Because everything comes wrapped to go, we soon decided to pick up our meal and head out. It was a sunny, beautiful afternoon, too nice to spend inside.
I liked the bread used for my sub. It was not too heavy, and the crust was pleasantly chewy. A thin layer of shredded lettuce was topped with sliced tomato, ham, and one lonely slice of cheese. I thought there could have been a little more filling, but where I come from, a sandwich has to have an inch of meat just for starters.
Mom finished one slice of cheese pizza, and said she would have liked it to have more sauce. The crust was thin and nicely browned on the bottom, and though she said she wasn’t satisfied with it, she finished every last bit of it.
I sat down with husband Eric at home a later and finished the meal. The sandwich improved considerably on the ride home: the crust dried out just a bit and became crisper, the interior softened by the filling, and the room-temperature sandwich tasted so much better then it had been ice cold.
Eric, famished from a morning of unaccustomed physical labor, devoured the last two wings and the pizza. While he and Mom agree on most things, especially food, his opinion on the dressing diverged from hers: he thought it was delicious. He also gave the pizza higher marks, commenting favorably on the flavor of the sauce.
I’m sure he is hoping that his divergent opinion will not affect the flow of homemade baked goods from her house to ours, but he stands firm in his assertion.
The cost of lunch was $15.50. I don’t live within the delivery area of Veneto’s Pizza & Pasta, but I hope to order in sometime when we’re at Mom’s.