SCHENECTADY — Guy Sementilli can finally put extra flavor into his espresso.
"For years I could never have served a little sambuca in an espresso," said Sementilli, who has owned Scotti's restaurant on Union Street in Schenectady since 1994. "A lot of people like a little anisette or sambuca. Without a liquor license, you can't have that stuff."
Sementilli secured a liquor license in early 2018, so cordials and cocktails are now served inside the cozy 40-seat restaurant that opened in November 1966. According to earlier stories published in The Daily Gazette, the restaurant was previously a menswear shop. Before that, it was a grocery store.
Scotti's has always offered bunches of Italian-style flavor in the kitchen. Entrees include chicken, veal and eggplant parmigiana, veal Sorrento and veal Gaetano, chicken cacciatore, shrimp scampi, baked scrod and an assortment of pasta.
One of the specialties of the house is the hot antipasto.
"There's shrimp, clams and calamari," Sementilli said, "tossed in our homemade marinara sauce with fresh eggplant, mushrooms and peppers."
The head chef recommends the hot dish with a warm loaf of his new artisan bread. He's now using a higher-protein flour and some sour flavoring. "My bread, from all my customers, they always said it was good," Sementilli said. "This bread is great."
It's great for antipasto, too.
"You get a loaf of that delicious bread that just comes out of the oven," Sementilli said, "you don't need any pasta, you just dunk away. You make it a meal."
Gourmet pizza and hot sandwiches are also in the mix.
While Sementilli remains excited about drink and dinner options, he's especially thrilled about his new room in front of the restaurant. It's the patio, something the original Scotti's had during the 1960s.
"I wanted to bring that back and have outdoor seating out there," Sementilli said. "As the years went by, by November we had to take our seasonal tent down."
But the place was always popular. So Sementilli cooked up an idea.
"I said, 'You know what, let's keep the same amount of tables, the same dining out there, but let's put radiant heat in the concrete and design it where we can have more or less like a three- to four-season room, if there's such a thing,'" he said.
Eleven "patio" tables can seat 22 people.
During pleasant April weather, people have ordered their espressos - with anisette - and plates of ravioli Isabella for the front room. The latter dish is named after daughter Isabella - who owns the homemade cookie concession at Scotti's. Small bags of the sweets are available in the front of the house.
Sementilli knows people come in for their favorites; they don't even need a menu to order. The restaurant offers three or four specials a night, a move Sementilli said pleases his customers and also presents welcome challenges for his kitchen crew.
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Scotti's watches trends. Gluten-free foods are popular, and Sementilli and staff are careful when severe food allergies are involved.
"For pasta, we designate its own pot, fresh boiling water," Sementilli said. "We make sure the strainer is gluten-free. We take this stuff to heart, big time."
Contact Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected]