Clifton Park

At the Table: Raffaele’s in Clifton Park a delicious addition to local Italian landscape

Clockwise from top left: A Calabria roll, a pepperoni and sausage roll, stromboli and Margherita pizza — all sliced in half — at Raffaele’s Italian Deli & Imports.
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Clockwise from top left: A Calabria roll, a pepperoni and sausage roll, stromboli and Margherita pizza — all sliced in half — at Raffaele’s Italian Deli & Imports.

CLIFTON PARK Capital Region residents can’t have too many Italian food purveyors: pizza, deli, groceries, catering — we love it all.
And, as at the family dinner table on Sundays in an Italian household, there’s always room for more.

Italian food and import stores dot our region. Initially established in the inner-city Italian neighborhoods of Albany, Schenectady and Troy, some were transplanted from the cities, some started up new in the suburbs. Raffaele’s Italian Deli & Imports opened here just a year ago.

Raffaele’s is in the brand-new Rexford Landing plaza at the corner of Grooms and Vischer Ferry roads, an inviting, large space with a deli counter, Italian groceries and fresh, hot Italian food to go.

The deli counter is straight ahead as you walk in. A handwritten sign directs you to the left, where you’ll find the pizza and hot-food counter.

You can order at the deli counter, but you’ll end up at the pizza counter to pay.

Raffaele’s shelves and coolers are stocked with imported Italian groceries such as olive oil, pasta, canned tomatoes, traditional nougat candies and limoncello chocolates.

There’s a long counter with stools along the front plate-glass window for folks who want to grab a slice, and wood-topped tables with bistro chairs outside. They’re adding tables for eating in.

Sandwiches are made with Boar’s Head meats, and Raffaele’s gets its crispy Italian sub rolls, ciabatta and soft rolls from Bella Napoli bakery.

The American Pit Bull sandwich ($12) features ham, roast beef, turkey, American cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion with house dressing. Part of the proceeds from this sandwich are donated to Out of the Pits Rescue for pit bull dogs.

Raffaele’s signature sandwich, the Vittorio ($15), is stuffed with salami, pepperoni, ham, capicola, prosciutto, mortadella, soppressata and provolone. Round it out with lettuce, tomato, onion and house dressing.

Try a hot meatball, sausage, chicken parm or eggplant parm sub ($11), or a meal-sized salad. The Martha’s Vineyard is fortified with goat cheese, strawberries and walnuts ($13). Add grilled chicken for $3.

The pizza counter was full of appealing food when Sheryl and I visited. We admired the thin-crust pies and hot stuffed specialty breads. A plain cheese 10-inch pizza is $8; go all out and get a 14-inch Hot Mama pizza with banana peppers, capicola, sausage and capers for $20.

We ordered one of everything at the counter — a slice of Margherita pizza ($3.12), a house stromboli ($8.31), a Calabria roll ($4.15) — and threw in a box of three cannoli ($5.19).

Just as we were set to pay, someone appeared from the kitchen and started to unload a pan of hot, cheesy rolls. What were they, we wondered?
“Sausage and pepperoni rolls,” was the answer. We got one of them, too ($4.99).

We grabbed drinks from the cooler and after waiting just a few minutes for our food, headed outside on a warm, sunny day.

Everything fit in a pizza box. We opened it and dug in.

First, the hot cheesy roll. The staff were nice enough to cut everything in half and we each grabbed one. “That’s amazing,” said Sheryl, who got to the roll first. “This is so good,” she added.

I bit. It was a pinwheel filled with cheese, pepperoni and sausage, hot from the oven. The bits of zippy pepperoni that stuck out were crispy, the cheese was browned on top and crunchy at the edges, too. Inside, the dough was soft, there was so much mozzarella cheese you wouldn’t want more, and the sausage had good flavor and no gristle. It was the best thing I’ve eaten in a long time.

If I created the ideal Italian snack, it would be made of these ingredients in these proportions. Points to them.

Next we tried the pizza. I liked the thin crust, crunchy and almost cracker-like on the bottom, yet sturdy enough to pick up. The sauce was sweet and tangy at the same time, as fresh tomatoes can be. The sauce carries a Margherita pie, so it should be good, and this was. I would have liked more basil.

I reached for the Calabria roll. Raffaele Mele and his brothers come from the Calabria region of Italy. Raffaele and his wife, Melinda, as well as his brother, Frank, are the owners of Raffaele’s.

The Calabria roll is filled with eggplant and spinach, the top crisped from the hot oven, the melted cheese browned. It reminded me of eggplant parm with its fried flavor and seasoned breadcrumbs, which combined nicely with the spinach and cheese. The roll was toasty on the sides and bottom. It had just the right amount of filling.

I cut off a slice of stromboli. If I hadn’t had the cheesy roll first, this would be my favorite. It had plenty of mozzarella cheese and that spicy pepperoni, with pickled pepper. The crust was browned and a bit crispy. Again, a good proportion of bread to filling.

Sheryl moved on to the cannoli. The three small pastries were prepackaged, and filled, which makes the shell soft. A crisp shell is one of the pleasures of fresh cannoli. But Sheryl liked the smooth filling with bits of chocolate.

“It tastes really good. It’s just not crunchy,” she said.

The only thing to take home was a quarter of the stromboli. Husband Eric polished it off later, saying, “That was delicious.”

With two drinks, tax and tip the tab came to $37.47.

But wait, there’s more. Raffaele’s has ready-to-cook meals and other prepared foods in the deli case. I bought a chicken parm meal ($11.99) with four pieces of seasoned, breaded chicken covered in tasty sauce and plenty of cheese. With a green salad and Bella Napoli bread from the freezer, it was an easy, simple meal for two.

Italian food is an important and much-loved component of our Capital Region culture. There’s always room for more. Welcome, Raffaele’s.

Caroline Lee is a freelance writer who lives in Troy. Reach her at [email protected].

Raffaele’s Italian Deli & Imports

WHERE: 675 Grooms Road, Clifton Park; (518) 982-1054; raffaelesitaliandeli.com
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday
HOW MUCH: $37.47, with tax and tip
MORE INFO: ADA compliant. Parking lot. Delivery via Mealeo.

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Categories: Clifton Park and Halfmoon, Food, Life and Arts, Life and Arts

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