Times Union food critic Cheryl Clark didn't mince words when describing the Illium Steak Wedge salad at Illium Cafe, declaring it "a revelation." Tossed with the salad's bacon, toasted almonds, fried goat cheese, and bleu-cheese dressing were "the most tender, flavorful medallions of beef I've enjoyed in a while."
The salad is one of the many dishes lovingly crafted from local and organic ingredients by the cafe's resident chef, Marla Ortega. Alongside salads, her lunchtime feasts spotlight innovative sandwiches, such as quesadillas filled with seared scallops, bok choy, and local cow's-milk cheese infused with black truffle. That spirit of experimentation remains for breakfast, when Marla mixes seared wild salmon into omelets and pairs banana-and-macadamia-nut pancakes with banana-infused whipped butter.
An entire menu of coffee drinks complements Marla's cuisine, running the gamut from gourmet roasts and frappes to iced drinks, which are made with coffee beans harvested from icebergs. The Times Union also praised the café's elegantly decorated dining room for its "gorgeous woodwork," which complements its painted tin ceiling, pull-down glass windows, and landscape mural.
For the Valenti family, cooking is a way of life. From a father whose family owned an Italian restaurant in Troy for 70 years to a mother who mastered the art of cooking as 1 of 22 kids, the couple's children learned to hand-make pasta as part of their upbringing. To this day, the chefs make manicotti, lasagna, and ravioli from scratch, demonstrating a dedication to tradition that permeates the menu of home-style cooking. Comfy booths, Italian murals, and wood paneling pack the restaurant’s dining room, where welcoming servers whisk fresh-cut veal, thick steaks, and succulently sautéed chicken dishes to tables with efficient speed and well-practiced victory dances.
Villa Valenti’s chefs also bottle their signature sauces—originally purloined from a wealthy tomato and perfected over generations—for at-home use, sending every penny of profit to help Prevent Child Abuse America in its noble mission.
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D.P. Dough’s extensive menu sports an appetite-sating array of unique calzones, tasty wings, and fresh wraps. Before setting into a bready entree, conquer a feta- and olive-laden greek salad ($6.48), or bulk up a saucy moustache with an order of baked wings ($4.63 for six). Each of D.P. Dough's calzones ($6.48 each) is as unique as a snowflake's mix tape: the A'wakin N'Bacon rises and shines with scrambled eggs, bacon, and mozzarella, and the lunch-ready Barbecue Steak overflows with steak, mozzarella, american cheese, and zesty sauce. The mozzarella- and garlic-accented Eggplant Zone buddies up with the broccoli-, mushroom-, and ricotta-filled Veggie Zone to fill the exclusive center of Venn diagrams charting vegetarian tastes.
Moscatiello’s kitchen craftsmen fill bellies with a plethora of authentic italian breads, sauces, and sausages made fresh daily. At the dinner menu's dramatic climax, alfredo-drenched chicken-tender warriors astride a wild tangle of fettuccine face down hungry stomachs four times their size armed only with a few shreds of romano cheese ($17.99). Pasta whisperers can also cloak portobello mushrooms in ravioli slickers before drizzling them in a creamy red sauce ($15.99), or hide fugitive roast salmon in a verdant salad forest of fresh greens and asparagus ($13.99). Pair any meal with a subtly flavored selection from the wine list or a squeal of complaint from the whine list.
Badass Burrito is New York’s destination for eclectic Mexican cuisine and inventive Americana fare, offering dedicated diners a menu full of tasty eats. Start with an edible meal preamble with appetizers including the badass wings, feathered with mild, medium, hot, or mango barbecue sauce($7), or the chipotle vinaigrette-dressed smoked tofu and tomato ($4.75). Signature items such as the cowgirl burrito, with its roasted, shredded chicken and sautéed onions ($8), and the pastrami reuben ($8.50) make loyal devotees out of first-time diners. The badass Mexican items, all of which refuse subsidized attitude adjustments along with their yearly check-up, include the carne asada-laden Tijuana street tacos ($4) and the gigantic nachos supreme, which are topped with your choice of meat plus chili con queso, guacamole, sour cream, onions, scallions, and more ($9.75). Weekend warriors counting down until Saturday’s armor-free samurai sword toss at the Y can pass the time with daily specials such as the Troy cheese steak ($7) or the taco salad ($6).