The brief snowfall had come as a surprise and we slid into the strip mall parking lot where Positano Specialty Foods is located. Our lunchtime refuge in the storm.
This no-frills haven sports seven small, round faux-marble tables, spotless and decorated only with stainless steel salt and pepper shakers, and a table tent announcing that Positano’s has meals to go.
There is no wait staff. You queue up alongside a glass-enclosed cooler to ogle the freshly made salads, such as beets with goat cheese, or artichoke hearts with roasted red peppers. High on the wall are chalkboards listing Positano’s hot and cold sandwiches. Taped onto the showcase glass are the daily specials.
It was a soup-and-sandwich kind of day. At the end of a row of small businesses, Positano’s has windows on two sides for viewing the falling snow. Former colleague Carol staked out a table by a window, and we headed toward the counter to place our orders.
Smiling Paul at the register greeted us. We ordered the two soup specials ($3.50/cup) — corn chowder for me and pasta fagioli for Carol. A glance at the board sold me on the cold Cajun roast beef sandwich and horseradish cheddar with lettuce, tomato and horseradish mayo ($8.99).
Positano Specialty Foods
WHERE: Berkshire Bank Plaza, 1202 Troy-Schenectady Road, Latham
WHEN: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Friday; 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday. 783-3000, www.positanoimports.com
HOW MUCH: $34.57 with tax
MORE INFO: Handicapped accessible, parking lot, all major credit cards accepted
“Is the roast beef rare?” I inquired. “Pretty rare,” Paul replied. Offered choices of ciabatta, sub roll, or loaf bread, I chose whole wheat bread.
Carol opted for the Cold Special Sandwich: chicken salad wrap but requested it unwrapped ($8.29). I added a small side of artichoke and roasted red pepper salad for us to share.
I left my name and we returned to our table.
Steaming cups of soup arrived almost immediately. The chowder was creamy, but not thick, with a hint of cheddar and a touch of heat. Besides corn, the chowder was studded with bits of carrot and bacon. The pale green artichoke salad was enlivened by bright red roasted peppers ($6.99 a pound).
Carol’s pasta fagioli was almost solid with white beans, carrots, green beans, inch-long pieces of fettuccini-like pasta, celery, tomato and bacon. A meal in a cup!
Shredded lettuce dotted with little squares of roasted red peppers was served next to large chunks of tender white chicken punctuated with red onion, celery, all held together with just the right amount of mayonnaise. Carol never missed the wrap, and declared the chicken salad the best she had ever eaten.
My Cajun roast beef “specialty” sandwich was filled with perfectly rare beef as Paul had promised. With shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes, a little cheese, and horseradish mayo, the sandwich was immensely satisfying without being overwhelming.
Paul, our friendly un-waiter popped by several times to check on us.
Service items at Positano’s are basic: paper napkins, plastic utensils, Styrofoam bowls. My sandwich arrived wrapped in deli style butcher paper secured with masking tape.
Containers of picnic salads are available by the pound (macaroni, potato, cole slaw), as well as made to order mac and cheese ($4.99 a cup, $5.99 a bowl), and lighter fare like grilled portabella mushrooms, fresh mozzarella, avocado, oil and vinegar in a sun-dried tomato wrap ($7.29).
There are also a half-dozen regular salads: chef, antipasto, chop chop, Caesar ($5.99-10.99), with additional salads available daily.
Nearly two dozen varieties of take-home meals ($10.99-$11.99 for a single serving or a “bundle” generous enough to serve 4-5 people for $26.99-$29.99) are offered for those not eager to cook.
Selections change daily, from entrees such as Eggplant Parmesan with Pasta, Fettuccini Alfredo with Grilled Chicken, Roast Beef with Mashed Potatoes, Vegetable and Gravy. Family bundles include salad and bread.
At 12:30 the small restaurant was filled. Helpful Paul volunteered that Positano’s caters to workers in the area, but also delivers lunches to local businesses. Their menu also explains that they deliver party platters, and specialize in corporate, event, and wedding catering.
Regrets? To quote the Chairman of the Board, we had a few. But then again, too few to mention. Carol’s regret was that there was coffee but no tea. We chose diet colas from a cooler stocked with water, juices, iced tea, and soda.
My regret? I forgot to inquire about dessert. The menu did not list desserts, but I heard a rumor about cheesecake . . .
Positano’s is not posh. But the food is imaginative, the service is caring, the place is spotless. My test of a good restaurant is always the response to the question, “Would you return?” “Absolutely! In a heartbeat!” replied Carol emphatically, and I enthusiastically concurred.
Positano is a small town located on the Amalfi Coast in the southern Italy. The name may originate from the Italian “posa” meaning refuge. This Positano has been in business since 2010.