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Marotta's Bar-Risto is located on 611 Union Street in Schenectady. From the moment you see the building on the street, through to when you walk in and are seated, the decor, atmosphere keep you guessing. It looks like a bar on the outside. When you enter the vestibule, and are greeted by the (very stoic) host, it suddenly takes on a very snooty feel. There was also the matter of an odd, unpleasant, odor from the restaurant that had Brian and I exchanging worried glances about what could possibly be in store.
Then you're led through the inner door, to your seat, and everything changes. You're surrounded by warm, welcoming, comfy tones that strike a balance between upscale Italian restaurant and modern bistro. Additional details that bring it over the top include the frosted glass signage towards the back of the seating area, the open style kitchen complete with wood fired oven, and the iPads at select tables that offer a visual menu (pictures of what you're ordering, before you order it? Yes please!).
Our visit was during Schenectady Restaurant Week, so we chose to order from the Prix Fix Menu. When we first looked at the menu, I'll admit to being confused and disappointed. I'd chozen Marotta's from the Restaurant Week menu that was posted online, but the one in front of us was almost entirely different.
For appetizers, Brian and I ordered the Crab Cake. For entrees, I ordered their Gambari Tuscana (Tuscan Shrimp) artisan pizza, and Brian ordered the Pan-Fried Tilapia over Spinach Risotto.
The Crab Cake had an amazing flavor. There was a very good amount of crab inside, and it came with a chipotle remoulade of sorts that added a great kick while not overpowering the flavor of the crab. Our main issue was that one crab cake, does not an appetizer make. While we understand that Restaurant Week's 3 course Prix Fix is a mere $20.13, we were still very disappointed by the portion size of the appetizer.
The entrees were a completely different story. My pizza was their full size gourmet pizza listed on their menu. The crust was perfectly done. It was crispy on the outside, without being dry. It was also thin and delicious. The shrimp were delectably juicy. Managing that, in a hot pizza oven, takes skill. Other toppings on the pizza included spinach, a tomato pesto, mozzarella, and shaved parmesan. Every flavor worked perfectly together, complementing each other, making every bite as good as the last.
Brian's dish had great points, and some detractors. The tilapia was cooked perfectly. The batter was light, which added flavor while keeping it moist. The texture was flaky, and light. The spinach risotto, while tasty, was just a bit overcooked. The dish was topped with a lemon butter sauce. This was the main detractor, because the concentration of lemon arguably overpowered everything else in the dish. I enjoyed the couple of bites I had, more than Brian. However, I can see how - had I eaten an entire dish of it - I would also find the lemon to be too strong to be complementary.
Also not to be overlooked was our experience with the service. Without question, this was by far the best service we've had in a very long time. Our server, Jessica, was attentive and not overbearing. She was wonderfully pleasant and made sure we had everything we needed. She also explained why the menu was vastly different than the one that was online. The earlier dishes were so popular, that they ran out and had to make substitutions.
The entire experience makes Marotta's a gem that deserves attention. This was our first visit there, and we can easily see being repeat customers. We were so impressed, that we asked if the owner was available. Chris, the owner, came out to greet us and was very glad to hear our feedback. He was personable, pleasant, and conversational. We greatly enjoyed chatting with him.
If you haven't visited Marotta's yet, you should.
Note: cost per plate below is based on their normal menu.
|Crab Cake||Gambari Tuscana Pizza|
|Tilapia over Spinach Risotto|