During the harsh winter and chilly spring, dining outdoors seemed downright unimaginable. And that’s why you should head outside as soon as possible and enjoy the short warm season while you can. Nico’s is a perfect place to do just that.
Nico’s Pizza has operated for 17 years on State Street in Schenectady. Last year, they expanded into the second floor and roof area, with a separate menu. You can still get everything on the Nico’s pizza menu; the Tavern has a separate, casual menu that goes beyond wings and pizza.
Looking around from Nico’s second floor rooftop, you can see the Parker Inn, the shiny glass windows of the Quirky offices, and the gleaming golden City Hall dome. Lean over a bit and there’s Proctors and the foot traffic on State Street.
We arrived on the day of the new menu rollout. There’s a long list of above-average appetizers, like fried Wisconsin cheese curds and bruschetta with feta cheese, enough salads to make it interesting, hot and cold sandwiches and burgers with fries, and reasonably priced dinners.
The chicken Parm will set you back $13.50 with salad and bread, and it’s enough for two or three meals. There’s a ribeye steak I’d go back for another night even though it comes with brussels sprouts, and a healthy/unhealthy mashup of broccoli and Alfredo sauce. We had trouble deciding what to get.
Nico’s Rooftop Tavern and Pizzaria
WHERE: 441 State St., Schenectady, 372-6024, nicospizzaria.com
WHEN: 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday to Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday to Saturday
HOW MUCH: $35.16, with tax and tip
MORE INFO: Credit cards: Master Card, Visa, American Express. Children’s menu. Wheelchair accessible downstairs only.
Dinners include salads, and Nico’s gets points for theirs. In addition to a crispy iceberg lettuce with black olive slices, red onions, grape tomatoes and peppers, there’s a hunk of fresh sliced bread from a bakery in Albany on the rectangular plate. It’s a feast for the eyes as well. We were off to a good start.
Nico’s is a friendly place, and we chatted easily with the server and other guests. Our meals arrived just as we were finishing our salads.
When I asked the server to describe the chicken Parm, she put her hands wide apart, and said, “It’s huge.” It’s also very popular, so I thought it would be a good choice. It was two boneless breasts topped with lots of bubbly melted cheese on a mountain of ziti tossed in marinara sauce, served in a big, wide-brimmed white bowl.
It looked fabulous, and I headed straight for the crispy edge of the chicken, my favorite part. The two boneless breasts must have been a half pound of meat together, but they were not very moist or easy to cut. They looked better than they tasted.
However, the cheese was good and melted just right, and I liked the mild homemade marinara sauce. But it was way too much to eat, and the leftovers were so plentiful they barely fit into a stuffed take-out container.
Lisa hit the jackpot with her dinner, Buffalo Mad Mac ($13.50): sliced pieces of seasoned, breaded chicken tossed with ziti and a creamy, spicy Alfredo sauce that had just the right amount of hot sauce flavor. Swiping a piece of pasta or chicken through the thick sauce gave it a rich, cheesy, spicy coating.
And as if it needed it, there was melted mozzarella over all, which settled into the nooks and crannies between the pasta and the meat. It was cheesy hot sauce heaven, and I wished I’d ordered it. It’s not the healthiest choice on the menu, but it was out of this world.
cheesecake if you can
If we weren’t so full we would have tried the homemade cheesecake, but you shouldn’t miss it, especially when it’s topped with liquor-soaked cherries.
Our server took good care of us and knew when it was time to wrap up the leftovers. She couldn’t have been nicer, or more helpful. The tab for our meal with tax and tip but without the wine came to $35.16.
Nico’s is a must-visit place on a warm night in Schenectady. And don’t forget to leave room for cheesecake.