I remembered the venue in Stuyvesant Plaza from when it was Creo a few years ago.
While I wasn’t paying attention, it morphed into Jacob & Anthony’s Italian restaurant. So on our way home from a charming presentation at Cap Rep, we decided to investigate the transformation.
I was confused at first. On the right front of the restaurant was Jacob & Anthony’s Italian TO-GO, including & Pizza Pie on the Fly. But the main entrance on the left led to the restaurant’s full-service venue, which included a complete bar and tables. While most of the offerings in takeout and dine-in were the same, the experience of fine dining could be enjoyed only at the restaurant.
Gracious hostess Jennifer sat us away from the bar near windows at the rear of the divided room. The area felt private without being isolated from the rest of the action. She also showed exceptional consideration to us when we were leaving. Hostessing was clearly more than just a job for her.
Not counting dessert, the menu is divided into five sections: small plates, salads, pizza, pasta and classics. The J&A website boasts that the restaurant “trends to a modern, yet upscale-casual dining experience with a sharp focus on traditional Italian cooking. These carefully created dishes are complimented by an array of hand-crafted cocktails in a trendy, spacious and open-concept atmosphere.”
Dinner Guest ordered a small Tuscan salad ($9) as an appetizer, consisting of shredded kale, Brussels sprouts, spinach, prosciutto, charred grapes, New York apple and candied walnuts, lightly dressed with balsamic vinaigrette. So light, in fact, that I drizzled a little of the pesto/olive oil that accompanied the warm crusty bread on the salad, immediately sparking it up.
My cup of chowder ($9) was cream-based and exhibited impressive seafood flavor, a hint of thyme and a touch of tartness. While it might have been hotter, the overall result was seaworthy.
Co-Diner chose his entree Sunday Gravy ($18) because its description sounded like traditional Italian comfort food: Italian sausage, homemade meatballs and slow-roasted pork with rigatoni and marinara/cream sauce. After a server hand-grated a generous helping of parmesan cheese on top of the dish, my guest dug into the rich combination with Iberian enthusiasm.
My grilled salmon was perfect — a word I rarely use to describe anything. Fish is easily over- or undercooked. Too much time on the grill can render otherwise flaky salmon like cardboard. Under cook it, and you might as well serve it with seaweed wrapped in rice.
Salmon might be pink or coral. The Jacob & Anthony’s version — seasoned with herbs, branded with grill marks and topped with threads of yellow lemon rind — made the flaky fish shine. Set upon a bed of possibly the best risotto I have ever eaten and surrounded by crisp-tender pieces of green asparagus, quartered baby artichoke hearts and strips of red roasted peppers, the dish reminded me of the Italian flag.
We considered dessert — five Italian offerings ranging from $7-$10 were listed — but our appetizers and entrees had rendered superfluous anything more to eat. I’m always ready for espresso, however, and Jacob & Anthony’s was hot and strong. Had I located even a pocket of room left, I might have chosen the affogato ($7 and not to be confused with the large-pitted green fruit from California). Affogato is espresso and vanilla gelato, generally served in a clear glass cup.
Throughout the multicourse meal, server Bridget was close at hand without suffocating us. Used tableware was automatically removed and or replaced when needed with no cue from us. Conversation was friendly but not excessive. A balance prevailed and Bridget allowed us to set the pace.
The Jacob & Anthony’s menu offers other tempting dishes: arugula salad with beets and goat cheese ($9 for smaller portion), vodka pizza ($17), mezzi (roasted chicken with wild mushrooms and vodka sauce, $21) and pettine (pan-seared scallops and shrimp, sautéed spinach and linguine with lemon cream sauce, $26).
In 1959, at the age of 24, Anthony Marrello opened his first restaurant, a 24-seat Italian eatery on Delaware Avenue in Albany that served pastas and sandwiches as well as breakfast fare. From there, his organization has grown to at least a half-dozen venues.
Jacob & Anthony’s Italian
WHERE: 1475 Western Ave., Albany, 12203; 518-599-5331; [email protected]
WHEN: Monday-Wednesday 11 a.m-10 p.m., Thursday-Saturday 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $75.50 (for two appetizers, two entrees, one sparkling water, one espresso) without tax and tip
MORE INFO: Large parking lot, major credit cards
accepted, noise level permits conversation, accessible, private parties, takeout, full bar, gluten-free items available, catering, gift cards.