GUILDERLAND — Our visit to Cafe Calabria was delightful from the moment we set foot in the restaurant. There was the authentic deli smell, Italian opera playing softly and a warm welcome from the hostess. It remained so throughout the rest of our visit.
Cafe Calabria occupies a converted house on Western Avenue. The luminous golden walls and arch windows in the dining room evoke the sunny region of Southern Italy. Owner Michael Futia’s father is from Reggio, the capital of Calabria.
Where: 1736 Western Ave., Guilderland,
WHEN: 11 a.m.
to 9 p.m. Monday
to Thursday, 11 a.m.
to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, closed
HOW MUCH: $56.50
for food, before tax and tip
MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover. Makes
for children’s meals. Parking lot in back.
My friend Lisa and I caught up on news while perusing the menu, which is divided into pasta, meat, fish and chicken, along with the classics you’d expect to find at a southern Italian restaurant. A hot antipasti ($20) of clams casino, eggplant rollatini and roasted red peppers combines several appetizers. Classics like chicken parm ($20), Mamma’s lasagna ($20) and linguini with meatballs or sausage ($18) are joined by the grander pork osso buco ($25), grilled salmon butternut squash ($29) and veal scallopini ($29).
I think prices are very reasonable, given that entrees are accompanied by the most outstanding bread and salad I’ve had in a long time.
We had almost finished the delicious small loaf of crackly-crusted bread, with both butter and fragrant, almost floral olive oil, when the server offered to bring us more. “No!” we answered at the same time, afraid we’d spoil our appetites.
Late summer, when we visited, is the best time for Caprese salad ($12). Calabria uses ripe beefsteak tomatoes topped with ribbons of basil and the softest fresh mozzarella drizzled over with thick, sweetened balsamic vinegar that Lisa mopped up with the last bit of bread.
Then came the best house salad ever. The croutons are well seasoned and lightly toasted, and crumble easily. The house balsamic vinaigrette is poured over, not too much; it’s pleasant and quite mild. Chopped Romaine mingles with mesclun, cucumbers slices, and small tomatoes in the most agreeable way. I could eat this salad every day.
Lisa ordered the tortellini carbonara ($20), tricolored, cheese-filled pockets and soft bits of bacon, which gave a smoky flavor to the dish. The creamy sauce was enhanced with egg and Parmigianno Reggiano.
“It has so much flavor,” she said. I tasted it and agreed. She really enjoyed it.
The eggy coating on the chicken Francese ($21) was perfect. It’s one thing I just can’t do right, and I despair of ever making it as well as it is done here. Two good-sized pieces of chicken breast were fork-tender and delicious, especially when dredged in the thickened lemon and butter sauce. There was enough linguine for another meal. It was an excellent execution of the dish.
Many desserts are homemade, and we shared the most wondrous pastry ($3.50) made in their kitchen: a perfect peach made from two soft cookies held together with Bavarian Cream, with an intense peach liquor drizzled over and rolled in sugar. It even had a little plastic stem. It was the perfect ending to a big meal, what my father would call “a little sweet.”
Our service was considerate and attentive throughout, we sat and talked well after the meal was done. The tab for our food came to $56.50 before tax and tip. We had a wonderful meal and a delightful evening, and look forward to visiting Cafe Calabria again.