Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Ask and Ye shall Receive (Pizza)

Just after I was bellyaching in my last post about the lack of gourmet Italian, what happens? The appearance of some really good, contemporary Italian in Troy. It almost makes me believe that wishes come true if you whine long and hard enough.
Enter: Bacchus, a brick-oven pizza joint downstairs from Daisy Baker's at 33 Second Street in Troy. It's operated by the same folks who do Daisy Baker's. We've been to Bacchus already twice. This is just the kind of spot Troy needs-- casual dining with a little gourmet flair. Somewhere to have a glass of wine with your dinner on a weeknight. There are so many nights when we don't have anything planned for dinner at home, don't want to do take-out, but don't want to go anywhere fancy: and for those nights, Bacchus is the perfect solution.

The menu itself is small-ish: there is basically pizza, or pasta. On the pizza, you can go with their suggested toppings, or create your own. Toppings included artichokes, broccoli, shrimp, some meat toppings, and garlic. We've done our own pizza, both times using ricotta and extra garlic with spinach. I ordered a salad; and the second time there I tried the roasted garlic with foccaccia, which I can't say enough good things about.

The salad is simple but good, made with fresh mixed greens and a lovely oil and vinegar type dressing. It's the perfect foil for the pizza. You can order wine or beer, and the service has been friendly and helpful. They've done a great job renovating the space; it's warm and cozy with authentic brick walls (good old Troy bricks). There are little nook-like spaces with booths, or you can dine in a larger area all the way inside to the left.

I love DeFazio's, but I am a sucker for a good thin-crust pizza. If I could pick only one food to eat day in and day out, it would probably be pizza. What, actually, is there to food besides pizza? It's got all the four food groups: dough, cheese, oil, and tomato.

This pizza is thin-crust, which is great because in Troy we already have DeFazio's, where the crust is more substantial. DeFazio's crust is not deep dish, but it's certainly not thin-crust. You can never really have too much pizza in one town. As they grow, which Bacchus most certainly will because it's already proving a popular spot, I hope they add maybe more dinner-type salads along with more pizza and pasta toppings: for example, things a little more 'upscale' like goat cheese or basil. The ricotta and spinach are great, though.

Until then, though, cheers: we finally have a casual, contemporary Italian joint to call our own.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Verdile's, an old standby

Verdile's has been on my list of places to try, and we finally made it there last week. I was impressed by the spaciousness, the calm decor, and the crowd, obviously made up of long-term patrons. This is truly a family Italian restaurant. It's like an old pair of jeans: you can dress them up or down, making a meal at Verdile's into something casual or fancy, as you wish.

We were three, and although there were plenty of seats, it took them a while to seat us (although granted, we were waiting for our 3rd member for a while, too). While we waited we got to see that everyone who came in was warmly greeted and there was definitely a community feeling afoot.

We were hungry. They brought white bread. It was not warm. I was somewhat disappointed by this. We ordered a salad for two, which really covered all 3 of us nicely. Nothing unusual to report about the salad. Then came the main courses. I ordered fettucine alfredo with shrimp; my friend ordered regular fettucine alfredo. I figure, I never make anything this sinfully rich at home-- why not? If it's truly a family place, then their fettucine alfredo would show it. It was good-- I mean, how can anything with that much cream *not* be good?! The shrimp were fine, too. But again, no surprises here. The waiters wore tuxes, or tux-like outfits-- very formal. Yet there was the crumbly kind of parmesan on the table-- not real parmesan. I found this incongruous. It's sort of like having chef Boyardee on Wedgewood.

My husband got the manicotti, which I tried, and it was perfectly adequate. His portion was a normal-sized portion, whereas the fettucine gave me lunch the next day. We didn't have room for dessert. I gained 2 pounds from my fettucine. (Yes, I've been very weight-conscious lately, as I've been trying to lose some of my significant winter padding.)

Verdile's is located at 572 Second Ave., between 115 and 116th Streets, not far from the Snowman in the 'Burgh. These are their hours:
Mon-Thu 11:30am-10pm, Fri-Sat 11:30am-11pm, Sun 12pm-9pm.

Great hours. Still, I don't think I'm going back there any time soon. The food just isn't interesting enough-- which is a problem I have with so many Italian restaurants here. Where are the healthy greens, the whole wheat crust breads, the many artisanal cheeses that could easily be sourced from NY State? Obviously the vast majority of the ingredients here are shipped in, highly industrialized. The food is formulaic, heavy (tons of veal), and you might as well travel back to 1955, which frankly, I do not care to do. I do understand the sentimental connections people have to places like this, though, and it's good to know that such a standby is still thriving.