CLIFTON PARK Another excellent restaurant has been added to the Angelo Mazzone stable. When Mom and I found out that the restaurant in the new Hilton Garden Inn in Clifton Park near her apartment was going to be an Angelo’s, we watched and waited eagerly, reading every tidbit we could find in the newspapers. “Angelo knows how to run a restaurant,” Mom said.
We weren’t disappointed.
It’s literally in the lobby of the new hotel at the refurbished Clifton Park Center. “It’s bigger than I thought,” Mom said, looking around. The restaurant’s website photos make the dining room appear chilly and severe, but it’s not. There are walls of windows on two sides, a biscuit and paprika decor, soft lighting and bouncy music along with comfortable padded chairs and well-spaced tables. A banquette divides the dining area, and there’s a bar off to one side with small tables.
We recommend you go early on a weeknight because they’re not taking reservations. “The busiest time is Saturday around 7 or 7:30,” the chatty hostess told us. “Come early if you don’t want to wait.”
Angelo’s Prime Bar + Grill
WHERE: 30 Clifton Country Road, Clifton Park. Phone 631-6500. www.angelosprimebarandgrill.com
WHEN: Breakfast Monday to Friday 6:30 to 10 a.m., Saturday and Sunday 7 to 11 a.m. Happy hour Monday to Friday 4 to 6 p.m. Bar menu daily 4 to 10 p.m. Dinner daily 5 to 10 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $87.27, including tax and tip.
MORE INFO: Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover, Diners Club. Parking in front and mall parking lots. Children’s menu available. Wheelchair accessible.
Servers are professionally dressed in khaki button-down shirts and black slacks, and the engraved metal name tags convey a sense of commitment on the parts of both management and staff. Service was top-notch, and the place ran like a top, as is the case at all of Mazzone’s restaurants. I like to think there’s an Angelo’s boot camp somewhere in the Capital Region.
Our affable server performed admirably and was attentive throughout the meal. He even brought out all of the plates himself, a task restaurants often delegate to runners. I like that because if there’s any problem with the order, the server is right there to correct it.
We’d vetted the menu on the website but still examined the paper menu closely, and we talked about how much we enjoyed meals at Angelo’s other restaurants. At Prime Bar + Grill are three steaks and favorites like the Caesar salad and seven-hour cherry pepper pork, but this menu represents a departure, with lower price points and a variety of more casual selections. “You want to try everything,” said Mom.
Much ado about bread
The bread course is an event. Along with slices of plain and olive-studded baguette is a thin sheet of sesame-flavored cracker the size of a sheet of paper. Sweet butter is shaved and served in a tidy pile on a block of quartz-like pink Himalayan sea salt.
Start with bites or with jars, an innovation that works well. Mom got the bruschetta in a jar ($8), which could serve as a meal or a starter for several people. “The fresh basil and red onion is delicious,” she said, dunking the spoon into the jar again to load up another slice of toasted baguette. The server added the bread from the table to the leftovers.
There’s a big wheel of parmigiano reggiano in the kitchen, and if you order the parm chunks with almond honey ($7.50) as I did, they hack off agreeable-sized bits for dunking. There were toasted sliced almonds atop the honey, whose almond flavor was, perhaps, too strong. I was reminded of marzipan every time I got close. Salty cheese plus honey is a good if unusual pairing. I liked the sweet, thick balsamic vinegar on the fluffy pile of arugula that rounded out the plate.
Mom didn’t know where to begin on her stuffed burger ($14), two 5-ounce prime ground beef patties sandwiching braised short ribs and bleu cheese on a poofy toasted onion roll. You need the toothpick to keep it all together.
The fries are made from Sheldon Farms potatoes, cooked in some tasty oil and tossed with sea salt and served in a stainless steel cup and crisp paper, the Angelo’s equivalent of the paper-lined plastic basket.
I’d make a terrible reporter: I stashed my notes as soon as the Philly steakwich ($14.50) arrived, distracted completely by salty fries and chilly ketchup. The Angelo version of the Philly sandwich combines shaved rib-eye steak, caramelized onions and sautéed peppers on an ethereal roll — all crust and air. There’s a fresh cheese sauce spooned over, its flavor greatly improved after a night in the refrigerator.
I can’t tell you anything specific about our meals; suffice it to say we were overjoyed. I finished my fries. I started Mom’s fries. Thankfully, the server came and took them away.
Desserts can be over the top. We passed up the can o’ gooey cake (serves 4 to 6, $22) cooked in your very own take-home can and ordered mortal desserts instead. Mom’s featured feather-light corn cake ($9) topped with butter pecan ice cream, house-made caramel corn and fresh caramel sauce. My slender slice of lemon raspberry cheesecake ($8) with Limincello-scented raspberries and mousse-like whipped cream was divine.