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At the Table: Neighborhood joint stumbles on bar-food basics

At the Table: Neighborhood joint stumbles on bar-food basics

At the Table: Neighborhood joint stumbles on bar-food basics
Chicken wings with celery and blue cheese at Costanzo’s Lounge & Restaurant in Mechanicville.
Photographer: caroline lee/for the daily gazette

MECHANICVILLE — Funny story: Guy with a red Corvette is strutting around his car, showing off. Eye roll from me, prompting my writer friend to say, “You’re not the intended audience.”

Nor am I the intended audience for Costanzo’s Lounge & Restaurant in Mechanicville, either. Evidently, folks at the bar who look like they might be regulars like it just fine. Let me tell you about it. Maybe you’ll think it’s just fine, too.

It’s unassuming, with an added-on porch that wraps around from the side street to Saratoga Avenue, where Irish and American flags blew in a light breeze. 

It was a nice enough day, but all the outside chairs were tipped forward into the tables, so Lisa and I headed inside.

Most of the seats at the bar were full, but there was no bartender, or any employee in sight. We stood by the door, trying to be patient and polite, and after a bit, one of the gentlemen seated at the bar turned and explained, “She’s in the back.”

When a woman eventually appeared, she waved us to the dining area to choose our own seats.

We took a high top, with a window that we found was just a little too high to offer much of a view, but the spot was a bit more cheerful than the rest of the room. My chair was a little wobbly.

There’s a cash machine in the dining room, which is handy, and what looked like regulation dartboards on different walls.

Their menu is bar-food focused: burgers, wings, sandwiches and pizza. I like that you can get a grilled cheese sandwich; it’s simple, easy to prepare and such comfort food. It doesn’t even need to be gussied up or “grown-up.” Theirs comes with chips, for $5.

Prominently featured on the Costanzo’s menu are gourmet fresh-baked pizza ($7, $10 and $12 for four-, eight- and 12-cut) and fresh jumbo chicken wings ($13 a dozen). 

There’s a fried seafood basket ($9) with shrimp, calamari, clam strips and French fries, which sounds like a bargain for all that, a fish fry ($7) and clam roll ($5). 

A cheeseburger with French fries is $11. All manner of fried munchies are available.

Lisa and I don’t see each other often enough and had plenty of time to catch up before our food arrived. We started with an order of wings, medium. They looked pretty good, and came with very good chunky bleu cheese that Lisa used all my celery to eat.

Upon closer examination, the wings didn’t look fried, but baked. They weren’t coated, a plus for crispy fried skin, but some breading wouldn’t have hurt here, as the skin toughened. 

Further, there were some irregular pieces, like wing tips and half wings and wings with extra bits, that you don’t expect to see. 

“They grow on you,” said Lisa, who was on her third.

I agreed. I’d had three, too, but wasn’t crazy about them. We had plenty of napkins, but some plates would have been nice.

We were the only ones in the dining room for an early dinner, but some other folks, couples and singles, came in and sat at the bar. Voices reverberated off the walls and the room got noisy.

Our service was carried out exclusively by the one employee, and I suspect she was the cook as well. We didn’t see anyone else working. No problem with that, but it took a while to get our food.

Lisa chose the chicken Costanzo with chips ($11), breaded and fried chicken on a hamburger-type bun topped with red pepper and melted cheese. Like the wings, it came in a paper-lined basket.

It wasn’t a big sandwich for the price, we thought, and I expected Costanzo’s would serve chips in the basket, not in a bag.

The thing about red peppers is, they can be slippery, and they made Lisa’s sandwich hard to eat. She finished it, but didn’t think much of it, and decided to help me with my pizza ($7).

Lisa has the same response as me when I get something out that I think I can make better. “I think I’m going to try to recreate it at home,” she said.

“Look at all that cheese,” said Lisa when my pizza ($7) arrived. 

Indeed, it was a cheese bomb. There was a thick, dense layer and it was melted and appealing. I wasn’t charged anything extra for the slices of pepperoni, which crisped up during the cooking.

The crust was substantial, the sauce was sweet though the cheese didn’t stay melted for long. The first few bites went down well but I lost interest as the pizza cooled.
Lisa had a half piece and agreed. It’s not how we like our pizza. Some probably find it just fine.

There was no dessert on the menu, so we got our check and headed out, me with the leftover pizza and wings. The tab came to $31 for food.

Though some customers had headed out to the porch for about the time it takes to smoke a cigarette, the chairs remained tipped when we left, an opportunity missed on a lovely day, I thought.

It’s always an adventure, as my mom used to say when she went on a review; you never know what you’re going to get.

Some places you like more than others.

A restaurant doesn’t have to be fancy to be good, and neighborhood joints are some of the best around.

Folks using online rating websites described Costanzo’s as a good neighborhood place, but it wasn’t my cup of tea.


Costanzo’s

WHERE: 168 Saratoga Ave., Mechanicville; 518-664-9033
WHEN: 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday and Monday, 11:30 a.m. to 4 a.m. Tuesday, 8 a.m. to 4 a.m. Wednesday to Saturday.
HOW MUCH: $31 for food, before tip.
MORE INFO: Credit cards:
Mastercard, Visa, Discover. Small parking lot in rear and on-street parking. ADA compliant.

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