Ferrari's - May 2012 (dt)
6.56 - 7.25, 7, 6.75, 6.5, 6.5, 6.5, 6, 6

Manga, manga!

Not even a street closed by a major fender bender, a Do Not Enter sign, and Ken’s not-quite-wavering, not-quite-sure directional scent kept us from Ferrari’s in Schenectady.
               The archetypical Italian neighborhood restaurant, Ferrari’s is a visual, olfactory and auditory combobulation. Ushered in through the building’s triangle apex, we carefully wended our way past the seat backs of the busy bar, waiting a few minutes to be accosted by the holder of reservation names, and finally found “Mama” who directed us to the back room.
               Food, of course, is the main draw, and we witnessed every other person with a stack of take-home boxes (should have been a clue). After perusing the list of twenty appetizers, we surveyed the entrée list. With different combinations of types of pasta and meats, a hundred different dinners could easily have been ordered. A plateful, or equivalent, of pasta (spaghetti, linguine, ziti, cavatelli, and others I barely knew) accompanied each order, most lightly slathered with the homemade sauce—a medium bodied, smooth topping with just the right roasted tomato taste for most of us. Entrées, filling most of the generous dinner plate, and proving the worth of Ferrari’s reputation (one exception), were:

>veal francese: breaded, garlic butter lemon sauce (Tim)
>chicken & broccoli over homemade cavatelli (Deb T: a large bowl; disappointed with the dried-out chunks of chicken and somewhat overcooked broccoli
>shrimp & broccoli over homemade cavatelli, a large bowl (Deb K: a large bowl; excellent)
>chicken Antonio, several flattened breasts of chicken, with a tasty wine-butter-garlic sauce with dozens of mushrooms (Don: excellent, tasty)
>chicken parmigiano: a plate full of chicken breast, a thin layer of mozzarella, with another layer of Ferrari’s tomato sauce (Kriss: excellent)
>veal parmigiano: called “Ferrari’s classic”, another plate full sized entrée, with the layer of mozzarella and sauce (Ken: excellent, and probably what he had the last time he was here)
>shrimp fra diablo: over a half-dozen shrimp with some hot peppers to add some heat, with linguine (Chay: excellent, one of the best)
>veal and shrimp francese, with the garlic-butter-lemon sauce (Judy: very good)

               Each entrée was gigunda enough to feed two people, perhaps three, and most of us imitated the earlier departers cradling the take-home boxes.
               One reason for ignoring the appetizers was the knowledge that a salad, served family-style, came with the meal. Two bowls of greens, cheese chunks, roasted red peppers, celery, with Italian seasoning satisfied the early appetites.
               Within minutes of sitting down, two (again, large) wire cages of bread – dozen slices of Italian loaf, another dozen pieces of ciabatta-type – started the repast, and, for the first time in a long time, DP8 did not ask for a refill and, in fact, still left a sizable portion. Foil-topped packets of butter filled the bottom of each cage.
               Claiming satiety, most chose not to select dessert. Bucking that trend was Don (rich, creamy chocolate cake with chocolate icing, with chocolate drip – a good cake); Kriss (vanilla ice cream, with whipped cream and drizzle of chocolate and caramel syrups); and a canoli (Deb K). Chay had a Sambuca while Ken finished off another cup of coffee.
               If it is soul-satisfying plenty you want, come to Ferrari’s.

Service was an interesting mix – elements expected from a mythic Italian eatery but, if found elsewhere, might have resulted in mumbling. Nathan, our main server, in black shirt, white apron, was friendly, attentive, and prompt. Two water pitchers kept the glasses full, bread cages were delivered within five minutes, Nathan asked for a drink order earlier than we were ready (another minute took care of that), and he delivered each course by himself.
               After the entrées were served, however, attracting Nathan’s attention was not easy. Two bus girls cleared empty plates (again, the question arises about the proper etiquette: do plates stay until the last person is done, or not?).
               Offering desserts seemed almost an afterthought, with the bus girls taking the order, orally listing the choices, and seemed not too sure about some, and needed to be reminded about delivering all of the orders.
               The final offering, gratis – an ounce of Amaretto in a chocolate cup – firmed our sense of local character and affinity.
               As for pacing, the bread, as mentioned, was set within minutes, salads arrived at the half-hour mark, and entrées at the hour mark, a common mark for many restaurants we have visited. The pacing continued as agreeably, with dessert done twenty minutes short of two hours, and the bill paid and our departure at the two hour mark.
               The bill came to $80 per couple, an excellent value at a classic Italian eatery.

Our drink order included a split of prosecco, a bottle of Michael Chiarlo Barbera d’Asti and a bottle of Banfi Chianti Classico, appropriate for this Italian feast. Part of the drink order was (wow) a gin and tonic for Kriss and (wow) a Margarita for Deb T (her birthday, and Cinco de Mayo). The price markup for the wine was one of the lowest DP8 has encountered.
               Off into the Super Moon we drove, out onto Congress Street, back 890 (except Ken’s car, I hear) and around to Coxsackie and the long ride home.
                It was a fine addition to our list of restaurants visited, and a good choice, Ken & Kriss.

Other notes:
               Neighborhood ambience often attracts the eye, and this section of Congress Street was “interesting,” with a residential section that has seen better times, as has much of Schenectady. But to have a well known restaurant fit in the midst, with diagonal parking suddenly confronting you, I guess, is part of a neighborhood’s character.
               The building fills the merger of two streets coming to a diagonal point and thus the building is a triangle, as noted earlier. After “Mama” found us, or we found her, we walked through the regular dining room – a cozy, forty-seat rectangle, with numerous pictures of past attendees, into a second odd-shaped and small room, before entering our intended spot.
               Noise level, from my seat, was almost deafening, amongst the loudest we’ve seen. Without realizing it, most of us were half-shouting to the person three feet away. Still, we managed to be heard, although an extra couple dozen decibels were needed. We chalked it up to Italy.
               Tables were set with glass-covered white linen, with two skinny (less than a yard wide) tables, and no chance for our usual heads of the table. Large dinner plates and sides made for a cramped, perhaps cozy, space. So, four by four was the arrangement. With the noise level, it was difficult for me to hear Chay or Tim at the other end.
               Small-ish water glasses, a linen napkin, and a less-than-sterling knife and fork introduced us to the table. Wine glasses were a stock set.
               Ken’s coffee (assumed to be satisfactory) was overshadowed by a competition of cup sizes, with Ken claiming King of Cups when the last mug-urn was set before him. ...
               The room is a 16x32ish (four four-foot arches by eight arches), with large soundproof panels. Two fans circulated the air, quite cool when we first arrived but acceptable after twenty minutes. Eight chandeliers of five upturned tulip globes comprised the lighting, while three functional windows were covered by non-descript curtains.
               Wood paneling formed a short-board wainscoting look, and the same paneling was shaped to form arches almost to the ceiling, with beige painted walls comprising the faux space behind the faux arches. This beige space was either painted or papered with villa-suggestive scenes, or left bare, or covered with a stray painting or scenery. A faux stain glass covered the width of the entry wall. It was as if 1980s had continued into 2012, and either people accept it as character or dismiss it as old fashioned. I think we took it as character.
               On the way to the car, we retraced our way past the bar, allowing us to smell and hear the warmth of food and neighborliness that Ferrari’s seems to have fostered these past four decades or more.

The Monteverd domicile was the evening’s starting place, with arrivees noting the new trees, which led into the explanation of wrong placements corrected, choices of trees, durability of trees, etc.
               Kriss had gathered a plate of crackers and four cheeses; a dish of fruit and vegetables; and her wooden pineapple bowl with compartments of candied orange slices, cashews, and chocolate covered raisins.
               Meanwhile, Ken kept glasses filled, with diet soda, La Marca prosecco, Luna di Luna pinot gris-chard, and Raisins Gaulois red French wine. Ken, you are getting to be quite the experimenter lately! and a good one, too.
               Thank you, Ken and Kriss, for hosting the pre-session.

Topics at the house, during dinner, and in the cars ran the usual gamut; there are not too many quiet pauses.
               A hot afternoon sun beat on the west wall of the house while we talked of retirement party in a month or so, the other retirees, who is speaking, what words Z could share, invitees, the Super’s attendance, etc.
               Tim’s account of the electrical problems of the new RV filled a chunk of time. Good luck with that, T&J.
               Other topic: Deb’s foot (walking cast), Deb’s testing her foot at Nathan’s, kids, grandkids, the Adamses’ trips, Jen in Singapore, update on the Karnes’ roof, roof bids, Kriss’ opinion of Ken’s driving and her likelihood of flying to Florida, Chay’s wanting a blade, ..., tree-planting, a winter stay in Kissimmee for the Monteverds (a next life stage), the Super Moon, Ken’s certainty he knew where we were going, GPS or lack thereof, the road blockage by the accident, ..., more retirement, more jugs, Schenectady’s plight, school, and ...