WHERE: 11 N. Broadway, Schenectady
WHEN: 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday-Friday for lunch; 2 to 5 p.m. for pub menu; 5-10 p.m. for dinner; 4:30-10 p.m. Saturday; 4-9 p.m. Sunday
OTHER INFO: 374-0100, parenzositaliano.com Major credit cards accepted. Handicapped-accessible
Parenzos Italiano, which opened in the spring on the site of the former Parisi’s Steakhouse on North Broadway, is not what you would call a traditional Italian restaurant.
Don’t go there looking for spaghetti and meatballs, for example, but you can order potato gnocchi, gorgonzola cheese tortellini or mafalda with a variety of sauces and sausage, veal, grilled chicken, shrimp or fried eggplant.
Chef Danny DeLorenzo, who owns Parenzos with his fiancée, Rene Pardi, has fashioned an imaginative menu that offers some traditional dishes with new twists and some nontraditional, signature dishes of his own.
DeLorenzo, a Schenectady native, is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and worked for a time for Wolfgang Puck in San Diego and at Mandalay Bay’s Trattoria de Lupo in Las Vegas. He also operated Lorenzo’s on Van Vranken Avenue here and worked at Angelo Mazzone’s Aperitivo Bistro on State Street, as well as Parisi’s, where he was a part owner.
We made reservations for early on a Saturday night, thinking we could avoid a crush, but as it turned out, we were the only customers in the place for 45 minutes.
As we perused the evening’s specials, our server arrived at our table with an amuse-bouche “compliments of the chef,” lovely little medallions of white meat chicken topped with cheese and fresh sage, crusted with panko and fried to a golden crisp. It was a great temptation to start off our evening.
We ordered two of the appetizers — pancetta wrapped shrimp and beef spring rolls — and enjoyed both, the salty pancetta wrapped around king-sized grilled shrimp and the savory beef in crispy spring roll, each of the appetizers was nestled in spring arugula, which served as a delicious foil for the main events.
Parenzos has a daily menu of specials that include a soup of the day, appetizers, entrees and desserts, and it offers a weekly featured wine.
Special entrees on the night we visited included an ahi tuna of the day for $21 — panko-crusted fresh tuna with roasted fingerling potatoes, garlic spinach, toasted wasabi sesame seed vinaigrette, a filet au poive for $26 with horseradish mashed potato, grilled asparagus and brandy cream sauce, and a broiled seafood trio for $25, consisting of salmon, sea bass and monkfish with gorgonzola herbed polenta, grilled asparagus, herbed lemon butter garlic sauce.
Besides the soup of the day — broccoli rabe and Italian cheese for $5 — Parenzos features a seafood bisque with creme fraiche and chives for $6.
For our entrees we chose the Truffled Shrimp and Scallops ($21) and the Chicken Scarpiello ($18).
The seafood dish featured outsized scallops beautifully caramelized with spinach, exotic mushrooms, peppadews, truffle oil and truffled cheese risotto. The shrimp, and especially the scallops, were grilled to perfection, and the truffled cheese risotto was rich and complex in flavor from the mushrooms, peppadews and truffle oil. My only complaint was that the cheese risotto was overseasoned — salty — for my taste.
The Chicken Scarpiello — breaded chicken breast, roasted red peppers, smoked mozzarella and pesto cream sauce — was served with a delicious risotto milanaise. The serving was generous enough that my dinner guest took home half of it for lunch the next day.
Our entrees came with a fresh salad of spring greens, predominantly delicious, tender and slightly bitter arugula, with sliced cherry tomatoes and a piquant balsamic vinegar reduction dressing. It was refreshing and a great palate cleanser.
Dinner also came with warm bread — an option — and a saucer drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and sprinkled with fresh pepper for dipping. And dip we did.
Parenzos offers a daily dessert special ($8) — a creme brulee del giorno, cheesecake del giorno and, on the night we visited, Banana Nut Bread Pudding with vanilla bean ice cream all drizzled with cinnamon syrup. We shared the bread pudding, which was warm and gooey and, with good strong coffee, a great ending to a good meal.
Our tab, for two appetizers, two entrees, soda, coffee and dessert, came to $79.40 with tip and tax.
Peppadews are featured in several dishes on Parenzos’ menu. What are peppadews? They’re peppers from South Africa that are often described as a cross between a pepper and a tomato, though they are not that. They’re a relatively new food to us — like the kiwi — and they’re described as piquant and sweet and great as a sandwich topper and, according to a New York Times recipe, in martinis.