Saturday, January 28, 2006

Anselmo's: I wish I didn't have to say this

Anselmo's in Troy is on Ferry Street, easily accessible from many routes (Routes 4, 2, and 7). It's in a venerable building that, long ago, according to my sources, used to be an Italian restaurant called Volcano. Then it was a gay bar/club. Now it's Anselmo's, and I'm really disappointed.

It's usually lively there, which is a nice change. It's creepy to go to a restaurant where you're the only patrons. I'm trying to tell you the good news first, but I'm quickly running out. Okay, one more good thing: the garlic bread is really good.

The first time we went, the waiter was pretty scary. It seemed like old Anselmo, the proprietor, just kinda picked this waiter up off the street, and plopped him down in front of the eggplant parm. The waiter kept telling us "You will LOVE the garlic bread. I don't lie! I'm telling you: ask anyone. You've GOTTA get the garlic bread." He had intense eyes and he wouldn't leave us alone. "Now Anselmo's, they cook REAL good Italian food. It's authentic! They use the best ingredients. ANYthing you want, it's gonna be good. Trust me."

I felt like he was trying to sell us on a drug deal rather than wait on us. "Um, could we please have a little less waiter in the soup?" Later I overheard this same waiter talking about women problems (am I surprised?), while he was eating his own dinner with the other waitstaff. He seemed like an angry fellow, and since he looked to be over 6 feet tall and in good shape, we didn't want to make any false moves: we got the garlic bread. And it *was* good. The salad was also good (note to vegetarians: Anselmo's puts slices of bologna in its perfectly good salad, so if this offends you, which it does me, you should tell them "no bologna.")

Now the bad news: the eggplant parm was drowning in cheesy fatty sauce. I didn't get any of that nice smoky eggplant flavor. And on our most recent visit, I had another encounter with the waitstaff that left me feeling intimidated. This time, we had a waitress, and when I asked for the mussels, she just went silent, didn't write it down, and looked at me. She looked dubious but didn't say anything. "What, is that not good?" I asked. She was still quiet. "Um, I could get the shrimp..."I faltered. I quickly looked at the menu again and said I would get the calamari. She nodded, seemingly relieved.

But it left me with a disturbing question: what is wrong with the mussels?! I'm raising my right eyebrow right now, in case you can't tell.

Since the squid was not fresh (it was just the cut rounds, not actually whole calamari), and the pasta it was served on was not particularly al dente, I was disappointed. In my grief, I gnawed on too much garlic bread. Then I was displeased with my lack of self control. I was a cranky diner. And yet I kept trying to convince myself that Anselmo's might really be good: maybe there was something flawed in *me* and I just couldn't appreciate it.

A poor dining experience can put me in a delusional mood. You might not react so extremely, but still I think you'd be better off going elsewhere, even if you live in Troy and are craving Italian. In fact, you're better off cooking pasta at home. This is the trouble with Italian food-- it's easy to achieve great results in our own kitchens. Kinda makes you wonder why so many Italian restaurants, then, get it so wrong. Anselmo's, rather than focussing on fresh food, seems to get off more on its 'atmosphere' (a sort of a grotto in the back, with stucco-ish walls, Green Man heads and foliage, dark lighting), and its prominent bar, where Anselmo himself can be found most nights, insisting you have a drink, on him.

Yeah, whatever. This is Nosher, telling you you do NOT have to settle for mediocrity.

1 comment:

jinxurit said...

Have you tried New World Home Cooking Company in Saugerties? A little far from Troy, but worth the trip.