News of the recent closing of two local diners caused me to be nostalgic about both the venues themselves (over the years, I had enjoyed their food and ambience), as well as diners in general. So it seemed appropriate to stop at Lorenzo’s Café, a diner I had passed at least weekly for more than five years. While it is not called — nor does it look like — a diner, it nevertheless fits the description of a diner: booths; lunch counter; multiple offerings for breakfast, lunch and dinner; friendly and accommodating service; and above all, decent and dependable food.
Owner Matt, wearing a fluorescent orange T-shirt, a black apron and looking like he enjoys his own food, greeted us at the door and directed us to a booth. He returned with menus, an iced tea for me and water for my dependable escort. Though not a massive menu, it featured half breakfasts and half the usual salads, soups, subs and sandwiches. Appetizers, burgers, entrees, pizza and calzones are also available. Kids’ meals are offered for around $6.
Something for everyone any time of day. Isn’t that the idea of a diner?
My “something” that day was breakfast. From a variety of omelets (around $7), eggs, frittatas, pancakes, French toast, egg sandwiches and sides, I chose corned beef hash. “Regular or house/homemade?” asked Summer, server/co-owner with husband Matt. “What’s the difference?” I asked. “Well, do you prefer your hash out of a can or made here with freshly prepared potatoes and corned beef?” she asked. I grinned, knowing Summer already knew my answer.
Three eggs over easy, prepared with yolks to a perfect viscosity, arrived atop the superior house-made hash ($7.50), with a huge side of home fries prepared with a hint of sautéed onions. I could have had the home fries without onions, surprised that I had been offered the choice. Toast was made from Matt’s own Italian loaf, and the only disappointment here was that despite being served buttered, it was on the dry side.
Johnny P was in a lunch frame of mind and ordered the beer-battered fish fry ($10.50) with fries and an additional side order of beer-battered, house-made onion rings ($5). Once again, options were offered. Both fish and onion rings were available breaded or beer-battered. I cannot attest to the breaded alternatives, but the battered counterparts were sinfully crispy. The 4-inch onion rings were sliced so thin they virtually melted to a string in the dominant crunchy tunnel. I did not hear JP complain. My only concern was the abundance of cholesterol-inducing ingredients. Not our usual regimen, it was a welcome diversion from salads.
John’s bowl ($4) of house-made mushroom soup was as good as I’ve had anywhere — minced plus ultra-thin sliced mushrooms were suspended in a creamy matrix that had the heavenly woodsy scent of a deep forest.
Be it breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner, a sweet ending is always de rigueur. Listed on the board, Lorenzo’s dozen or so desserts are all made in-house and are priced in a reasonable $4 range. We tend to share a single dessert these days, for all the reasons you might suspect.
John chose the lemon meringue pie — we both have happy childhood memories of the dessert, but alas! Summer informed us, the last piece had been sold.
Averting a caloric crisis, we chose our second favorite, strawberry shortcake (actually, shortbiscuit at Lorenzo’s). In another week or so, hopefully Matt will use fresh strawberries, but our version utilized the soggy and unlovely frozen variety.
Yet in deference to the restaurant, one must ask himself, just how much can a small mom-and-pop café do? The whipped cream, though ejected from a can, was the real deal. The biscuit had been warmed, causing ingredients to melt slightly into each other.
Lorenzo's is not fancy, but it is indeed homey. It appeared as if several of the patrons had walked to the upper State Street location, and many knew the owners and one another. We were made to feel welcomed and comfortable.
Although the building, inside and out, shows signs of wear, this in no way affected either the more than adequate food or the excellent service.
Though I am saddened by the recent loss of two staple eateries in our area, I am gratified to learn that there is another — not to take their place, but to add to our list of venues that are gentle to our tastes, our pocketbooks and our hearts.
WHERE: 1500 State St., Schenectady, NY 12304, (518) 372-2219, lorenzositaliancafe.com
WHEN: Sun.-Mon. 6 a.m.-4 p.m., Tues.-Wed. 6 a.m.-4 p.m., Thur.-Sat. 6 a.m.-7 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $32.50 without tax and tip
MORE INFO: Accessible, large parking lot, all major credit cards accepted, noise level permits conversation, breakfast all day, takeout, catering, kids’ menu.