A wise friend once reminded me, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The aphorism should hang on the wall of Peter Pause Restaurant in Schenectady.
It is a small diner/restaurant with an Italian flavor run by a family. Up until a year ago it was owned and operated by Lucy and Bruno Sacchetti. Now it is owned and operated by Dean Plakas and fiancée Amie Phillips.
This is an establishment where the patrons tip the server — and give her a kiss on the cheek. Customers tend to be regulars. Elizabeth was at the counter the morning I visited. Now in elementary school, she has been a customer with her dad, Pete, since she was an infant in a carrier. Teachers, now retired, still come for breakfast.
Had I not known the restaurant had changed hands, I would have observed little difference. Perhaps the menu looks a little different but it’s hard to remember because I rarely look at the menu.
Had I been perceptive, I might have noticed that the Sacchetti family pictures were no longer on the walls. Closer scrutiny would have revealed slight changes in the menu. It has been streamlined; there are a few additions, a few price adjustments (some even decreased).
Peter Pause Restaurant
WHERE: 535 Nott St., Schenectady. 382-9278, [email protected]
WHEN: 6 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday; 7:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday
HOW MUCH: $28.45 with tax and tip
MORE INFO: One flight of stairs to front door, street parking. All major credit cards accepted.
But everything else was intact: knotty pine walls, grill behind the turquoise counter, a neat line of eight round swivel stools.
Same efficient service, same quality food in abundance at reasonable prices.
Nearly all the restaurant’s dozen tables were occupied by men. I chose an empty one against the wall. Server Donna was at my table almost immediately to bring menus and take my drink order. Former colleague and breakfast buddy Anne and my coffee arrived simultaneously.
The breakfast menu was divided into the usual categories: Eggs ($3.50-$5.75), Omelets ($6.25-$7.25), Sandwiches from the Grill ($2.50 for a single fried egg to $5.25 for a pepper and egg), Pancakes and French Toast ($3.95-$7.25).
The menu also lists side orders, juices and beverages. A small table tent announced three additions: fresh fruit cup, apple cinnamon pancakes and apple cinnamon oatmeal.
To honor Union College’s recent hockey championship, Peter Pause has renamed their breakfast special “The Dutchmen” ($5.95 for three eggs, bacon, ham or sausage, with home fries and toast).
Anne eats carefully. So it did not surprise me that she ordered the fresh fruit cup ($3.50). I chose a small orange juice ($1.50). Fresh fruit cups can become “unfresh” quickly. But this lovely mound of golden pineapple, red grapefruit, oranges and grapes looked like a stash of glistening jewels.
And Anne, whose own diet includes large quantities of fruit, reported that the flavor matched the appearance.
From among a half-dozen three-egg omelet offerings, I chose broccoli and cheddar ($6.95). It arrived almost too hot to eat, fresh green crisp-tender broccoli nestled in perfectly cooked eggs, folded in half with three slices of white cheddar cheese melted on top. Simple. Elegant.
The omelet was served with a generous portion of home fries, browned on one side with a hint of garlic. I chose whole wheat toast, which was a cut above the usual diner offering.
Anne asked server Donna which she recommended, French toast or pancakes. “Our pancakes are cakey,” Donna said, and that clinched it.
When the short stack arrived with the requested side of ham ($6.25), Anne knew she had made the right choice: “These pancakes are outstanding!” Her only criticism: “The ham doesn’t live up to the pancakes.”
Peter Pause is open for breakfast and lunch. Soup and meal specials for Monday through Friday are hung on the wall. Soup prices are $2.50 a cup or $4.25 a bowl, while meals are in the $7-9 range.
For example, on Monday, in addition to the regular menu, you might order Chicken Pastina Soup, Spaghetti with Mushrooms ($7.25) or Chicken Parm with Ziti ($8.25). Rumor has it that the popular kale with sausage soup has returned to the lineup.
I recently read that the way to evaluate a restaurant is to judge how close it comes to succeeding on its own terms (Pete Wells, The New York Times, Dec. 26, 2014). In other words, does it do what it promises to do?
Peter Pause does not bill itself as a trendy venue with nouvelle cuisine. It has been a mom and pop restaurant/diner for years, featuring good food with an Italian twist at reasonable prices, served with care in a friendly atmosphere.
Is it a little noisy? Sure. But what extended family isn’t when they are gathering for home-cooked food?