SCHENECTADY The Ritz Terrace in its latest incarnation as R.J.’s Ritz Terrace is as good or better than ever.
That was our impression after our dinner there the other evening, which started out as a visit with author Bob Cudmore, who was hosting a book signing in the bar.
While in the bar, we visited with a number of interesting fellow patrons, including one who’s in the process of opening another restaurant in Schenectady, and Rocky Palmer, who at a youthful 93 is now running the Ritz Terrace. (Palmer has owned the building housing the Ritz for nearly two decades, so it wasn’t a huge stretch for him to take over the operation when the last restaurateur bowed out.)
The interior of the place is much as it was when Don Williams ran it as Brandon’s Ritz Terrace for 16 years — lots of mirrors, brass and etched glass and blue and green as the dominant colors in both the bar and the dining areas. There is entertainment Thursday to Saturday, and Palmer has added a game room upstairs.
R.J.’s Ritz Terrace
WHERE: 1725 Van Vranken Ave., Schenectady. 982-0300, www.rjritz.com
WHEN: 5-11 p.m. Monday through Saturday
OTHER INFO: All major credit cards accepted; children’s menu available
STEAK AND SEAFOOD
The menu, presided over by head chef Scott Carlton, is Italian-American, steak and seafood. (On a recent weekend, Carlton was on Facebook recommending appetizers of fried calamari and four-cheese ravioli and entrées of ribeye steak pizziola with peppers, onions and mushrooms in a red sauce or barbecued pork tenderloin with butternut squash risotto.)
There’s a solid wine list that includes several varieties available by the glass. We selected pinot noir for our meal at $5 per glass.
On the weeknight we visited, the soup du jour was a butternut squash — aromatic and perfect for a frosty fall evening. Dinner comes with a choice of soup or salad and, in a reversal of how it usually goes, I ordered the green salad and Beverly had the soup. The salad was fresh and interesting enough with its balsamic vinaigrette dressing to divert my attention, at least momentarily, from the basket of fresh bread that arrived with pats of butter.
We also shared an appetizer — Shrimp Alexander ($12) — a simple but delicious dish of shrimp, sautéed greens and bacon finished in a horseradish, mustard and garlic sauce.
For her entrée, Beverly chose the Grilled Swordfish Puttanesca ($22), swordfish cooked to just doneness in a classic red sauce flavored with anchovy fillets, olive and garlic. She skipped the starch because we’d feasted on the bread, dipped in an aromatic balsamic vinegar and olive oil mixture. The swordfish also came with crisp-tender asparagus, which she pronounced sautéed to perfection.
My choice was the Veal Parmigiana ($18), which came with a choice of pasta, and I picked the capellini. The veal was breaded, then sautéed and then baked in a red sauce with mozzarella cheese. The result was a lovely crisp exterior and tender interior. The pasta was cooked to a perfect al dente.
The portion was generous enough that I carted away part of it for lunch the next day.
I might have finished it, but we wanted to sample some dessert and, in the end, selected our favorite — a crême brülèe — for $6. It was a great choice to top off the meal, along with coffee.
Our tab — for two entrées, one appetizer, soup and salad, a shared dessert and coffee — came to $76.75 with tax and tip but not including the wine.
The new menu, while not extensive, is respectable enough with a good selection of steaks, seafood, chicken and pasta dishes.
On Fridays and Saturdays, you can get prime rib while it lasts. I made a mental note to try the filet mignon on a future visit because its menu description called to me: “Center cut Choice filet, char grilled and finished with an herb butter [and] served with lobster mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus with Bordelaise sauce.”
You can also order Braised Boneless Beef Short Ribs, which are slow-cooked in a red wine-veal stock with root vegetables and served with whipped potatoes.
One Ritz possibility that you don’t see as often anymore is Coquilles St. Jacques, sea scallops with white wine and mushrooms finished in a cream sauce.
And there’s Baked Escargot in garlic and lemon butter, Rigatoni Bolognese, Lobster Risotto or clams in red or white sauce over linguine.
We mentioned Gazette columnist Bob Cudmore’s book signing. His latest, “Stories From the Mohawk Valley: The Painted Rocks, the Good Benedict Arnold & More,” is available for $24.95 (which includes tax and shipping). Send a check to Nero Publishing Co. at 125 Horstman Drive, Scotia, N.Y. 12302. Or visit www.bobcudmore.com. Cudmore has been donating to charities a part of the proceeds from books he sells at signings. At last look, he’d raised $1,000 for local causes.