WHERE: 2080 Western Ave., Guilderland
WHEN: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $87.55
MORE INFO: Credit cards: Master Card, Visa, American Express, Discover. Fully wheelchair accessible. Children’s menu available. Reservations recommended on weekends. 456-8242.
One of the best things about this job is that it provides an excuse to get together with friends. It’s been almost a year since Ann and I have eaten together and since she keeps me up to date with restaurant news in and around Guilderland, I asked her to come for dinner at Tesoro in the Price Chopper shopping center on Western Avenue.
I’d seen advertisements for the restaurant (the old Nicole’s, Ann told me) and wanted to find out more. The place is roomy and comfortable, “Brighter than it used to be,” said Ann. I liked the abundant linens, candles and comfortable padded wooden chairs. The servers look formal in their black and white uniforms.
Tesoro was opened in September 2008 by Raffaele Sainato, part owner and head chef, who’s been in the restaurant business in the Capital Region since 1984.
We started with half a round loaf of bread, warm and mostly sliced through, and a dish of olive oil seasoned with herbs and anchovies. The bread had a thick, crispy crust and Tesoro gets points for using such good locally baked bread.
For soup, Ann chose the pasta e fagioli ($4.75), a hearty bowl that could have served as a meal in itself. The pasta was firm, not a bit mushy, which can happen pretty quickly in soup. There were dark red beans and lots of vegetables, just the thing for a cold, rainy night. Ann said the onions were tasty and that the soup had very good flavor.
I chose the mozzarella en carrozza ($6.50) to start. Tesoro does it very well, with a flavorful but not salty sauce. It was a picture: toasty brown fried bread outside and soft white bread and mozzarella cheese inside. I would have liked the cheese a bit more melty, but leftovers proved perfect after a quick zap in the microwave, said husband Eric. As with the bread, I could have eaten a lot more, it was so good.
The tables started filling up and the servers got busy. We got our salads after waiting a bit, and I liked the chilly glass plates and the fresh green lettuce, tomato, cucumbers and black olives, and tangy red wine vinaigrette. Nice salads.
The cream sauces were calling me but I chose the pollo rustico ($18.95), chicken and sausage sauteed in a butter and wine sauce. If it sounds plain, let me tell you that the carefully prepared sauce elevated the simple meats to something special. Even without breading, the white meat chicken was soft and juicy and the respectable, just a bit hot, Italian sausage was delicious. There was a dusting of chopped parsley and some bits of red pepper in the sauce, but Ann and I thought the plate could use some more color.
The Italian fried potatoes sounded a little different, so I chose them over a pasta side dish. They really rounded out my entree when I added them to my plate and tossed them in the sauce. They’re peeled, sliced and have that nice flavor that the breading on chicken parm gets from the cooking oil. I’d get them again.
Ann asked if she could substitute shrimp in a chicken dish, and got exactly what she wanted. It was a lovely dish, with eight large shrimp perched atop penne pasta, cooked just the way she liked it. We thought slices of prosciutto would be better than small pieces used in the dish, but Ann said the ham packed a lot of flavor that way.
Tesoro has those sherbet-stuffed lemons and oranges for dessert, and other imported frozen concoctions, but we suggest you go for one of their two homemade desserts, a little unconventional but really good.
Their tiramisu is served in a goblet, cunningly disguised, with layers of cake underneath. It’s a pretty presentation, and good homemade tiramisu, too, for not very much ($5.25). “The cake is perfect, not mushy at all,” said Ann, who declared it excellent.
I don’t really like ricotta cheese, but I tried the ricotta cake anyway ($5.75), and I loved it. Also served in a goblet, it’s layered with cherry-topped whipped cream on top of wonderful pistachio gelato. The whole pistachios were a pretty bright green, and so delicious, and the gelato was creamy and smooth. At the bottom of the glass were slices of cake soaked in Amaretto, with, yes, some ricotta. Holy cow. Tesoro does these desserts very well. Don’t miss them.
The evening came to an end before we ran out of conversation, and we reluctantly folded our napkins and paid the tab: $87.55 with two sodas, a coffee and tip. It was a pleasant evening out, made more so by Tesoro’s fine food.