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Ciao Italia

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I was hanging out with a friend, and we were hungry, after discussing where to go for far too long, I drove to Ciao Italia.  I had been to this location when it had a different name and owner, it was time for a visit to this new restaurant.

There are two sections to Ciao Italia.  When you first walk in, you are in a take out area.  To the left is a formal, classy looking dining room.  It took a couple of minutes for someone to come out and seat us, but we were there a bit before the typical dinner rush, so I would guess they didn't expect people for sit down service yet.

I ordered the chicken alfredo and my friend ordered the saltimbocca di pollo.  We also shared a side of calamari.  The calamari was pretty good.  It was cooked well, and seasoned, but could have used additional seasoning.  My chicken alfredo was amazing - the fettuccini was homemade, a nice touch.  The chicken was breaded, which was a little strange, but it worked with the dish and kept the chicken incredibly moist.  The alfredo sauce was plentiful and was creamy and amazing.  I loved this dish.  It did have onions in it which I'm not a huge fan of, but you didn't taste them, it just made for a strange texture once in a while.  My friend's saltimbocca was also delicious, we had no complaints about this dish.  Serving sizes were on the larger side, so it also served as a good lunch for me the next day.

The servers seemed understaffed for the bulk of the time we were there, but our service wasn't adversly affected too much by it.  Ciao Italia is close to my home, had great food and reasonable prices.  I will definitely be back - 4 forks.

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Chicken Alfredo Saltimbocca Di Pollo
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Calamari

4fork

cost15-20
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Ravenous

985

After a fantastic weekend in Saratoga, my sister and I wanted to have brunch before we headed home. Ravenous, a crepery on Phila Street, came highly recommended by the locals and the internet. A few people we met the night before strongly advised us to go as early as possible because it fills up fast. And right they were. We arrived at the restaurant 20 minutes after it opened, just in time to grab the last table. Ravenous is a cozy spot, with limited table seating, and room to sit along the windows and at the counter. Unfortunately service was a bit disorganized. On arriving, it is unclear if you should sit down or wait to be seated, since there is no signage for guidance. Several diners who arrived after us were ignored for several minutes while the staff ran around -- until they attempted to sit at a recently vacated table and were told that it had already been reserved by another party by phone. Frankly, I’m surprised they stepped outside and continued to wait. From the time we were sat till the time we had our drinks took about 11 minutes. The servers were very nice, but extremely harried.

Luckily, the food was excellent. We were very torn between the sweet and savory menus, and in the end my sister opted for savory and I decided I needed to try both. You only live once, right? I chose the Zorba the Greek Crepe, which was filled with spinach, feta, scrambled eggs, tomato, onions and fresh basil. The filling was perfectly portioned, and the crepe was surprisingly savory in of itself, and not just a vehicle for the filling. It was really tasty. My sister chose the Lumber Jack crepe containing scrambled eggs, bacon and cheddar, which she deemed excellent. Almost better than the crepes was the homemade pommes frites and the selection of dipping sauces available. We had ours with the BBQ Mayo and the Mango Chutney, which was surprisingly creamy. The pommes frites were delicious and the sauces were good enough to eat with a spoon. For dessert, we ordered the Lemon Blossom crepe, filled with their house made lemon curd and topped with whipped cream. I was happy to see that they use sweeter and fluffier version of the crepe batter for their sweet crepes. And when I tried my first bite of the filling, I was in heaven. It is, far and away, the best lemon curd I’ve ever had.

If you have the time and the patience to wait, the food at Ravenous is excellent. But make no mistake, you’ll be waiting outside, so you definitely don’t want to go on a day that calls for rain. I give them 2 forks for service, but 5 for food. Since the food is the ultimate focus, I compromised on 4 forks and being an impatient person by nature, I doubt I’ll return.

983    

Zorba the Greek Crepe

 

 

  4fork      cost5-15

 

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Comfort Kitchen

 981

While in Saratoga Springs over the weekend, my sister and I decided to try Comfort Kitchen, in the Saratoga Marketplace at 454 Broadway. The online reviews were very good, and most of them raved about the Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese and the homemade Tater Tots in particular. When we arrived at our hotel, I made a point of asking the front desk about it and they hadn’t heard of it. But we stuck to our plans and walked down to check it out. The Saratoga Marketplace is a small indoor mall, and the Comfort Kitchen is one floor down from the Broadway entrance, in the back of the building. There are tables set up both in the restaurant and just outside it. You first order and pay for your selections up at the counter, and then your food is delivered to you at your table. I chose a Chicken Taco, a Carnita, and a side Caesar Salad to start. My sister ordered the Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese and also got a side salad. We decided to split an order of the Tater Tots and get some hard cider, which was on special, to wash it all down.

The Caesar salads arrived first and we could tell right away that the dressing was homemade. Garlicky and lemony with crisp greens, it was really refreshing. It set the stage for the rest of our order, which did not disappoint. The Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese was fantastic. Sharp cheese flavor and perfectly cooked pasta mingled with bites of pulled pork and a tangy barbeque sauce. And the portion was so large, my sister had to take half of hers to go. My Carnita had pulled pork, red cabbage, pickled jalepenos, and cilantro on a corn tortilla. The Chicken Taco was made up of shredded chicken, avocado crema, pickled red onion and fresh cilantro on a corn tortilla and was my favorite of the two. But the real star of the night was the homemade Tater Tots. Crispy and crunchy on the outside with soft flavorful potato on the inside. If we weren’t so full, we would have ordered more. They are worth stopping for on every future trip I make to Saratoga.

I would absolutely return to Comfort Kitchen. The staff was friendly, the hard cider was crisp and refreshing and, most importantly, the food was nothing short of amazing. I am thrilled to give them my very first Five-Fork rating. The entire bill including tax and tip was $40, which makes it an economical choice as well. You don’t always get what you pay for. At the Comfort Kitchen, you get a lot more.

976      977

                   Side Caesar Salad                                           Carnita and Chicken Taco

 

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                Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese                                     Tater Tots

 

 

      5fork        cost5-15

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Hilltop Restaurant

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Hilltop Restaurant is located in Watervliet in a little strip mall.  It was recommended to us for their pancakes.  When we wandered in late morning on a Saturday, there was only one customer there.  We were immediately greeted and told we could sit wherever.

Since we were directed to Hilltop because of their pancakes, I ordered those with a side of bacon.  Josie ordered her usual French Toast with a side of hash.  When I ordered the bacon the waitress asked how I would like it (soft, crisp or in the middle), I ordered it in the middle.  Sure enough, the bacon came out and it was just that - in the middle.  Often places will ask how you want it and then just ignore it and make it however they like.  It was a nice touch.  The pancakes were heavy.  Very heavy.  I think I was able to eat just about one of them (maybe not even that).  But they were cooked really well, with a slight crisp on it and a golden brown.  I would order them again, but probably get a short stack.  Josie's food on the other hand was not nearly as good.  Her French toast dish was incredibly small - just two pieces of thin white bread.  The bread was dipped so fast that nothing soaked in, and they even missed major portions of the bread so it was incredibly dry.  The hash was ok, but lacked seasoning.  I think she ate it primarily because her French Toast was so difficult to digest.

 I felt the service was quite good, and the staff was very friiendly, even as we were leaving the Chef was outside having a smoke break, she said, "thanks for coming, have a great day".  The friendliness of the staff and the pancake were the only things keeping Hilltop from getting 1 or 2 forks.  So, 3 forks for them and probably no return trip for us.

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Pancakes with side of bacon French Toast
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Corned Beef hash

3fork

cost5-15
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El Loco

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A good friend of mine and his wife have a rule called, "no cook Friday".  In honor of this, we often meet up to go out to a new place.  This week it was El Loco in Albany (on Madison near Lark).   El Loco doesn't take reservations for parties less than 6, and was absolutely packed on our Friday outing.  After waiting for about 45 minutes, we were seated and our dining experience began.

We all ordered a few margaritas, and browsed the 5 page menu.  I settled on the Pollo Flauta - corn tortillas filled with turkey rolled into flutes and deep fried until crispy served with guacamole while Josie ordered the Chimichanga and Taco combo.  (our dining companions ordered enchiladas and another combo plate, pictures below, but they are not part of this review)

The Pollo Flauta was cooked well, but very dry, the guacamole helped to offset the dryness, but didn't completely do the job.  The cornbread that came with it was moist and flavorful and the rice and beans were ok, but lacked seasoning.  Josie's Chimichanga and Taco were both good.  The chimichanga was cooked perfect but was missing something, while the taco needed cheese instead of just meat and lettuce.  The taco had shredded beef on it instead of ground, and that was a nice touch.

Service was good based on how busy they were and staff all seemed polite.  Both the service and the good was good, but not amazing, so El Loco gets a 3 fork rating from me.

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Pollo Flauta Chimichanga and Taco

3fork

cost15-20
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