LOUDONVILLE It’s early on a weekday evening and D’Raymonds, the Italian-American institution in Loudonville, is filling up quickly with patrons.
Within an hour of our arrival, every seat in the place is claimed, even those along the rear wall banquettes. The aroma of garlic and marinara wafts from the kitchen, the chianti flows and music from “The Godfather” plays in the background.
By all accounts, it’s a typical night at D’Raymonds.
The restaurant has been in business since 1979, and its practiced professionalism shows not only in the well-prepared food but in the fancy footwork of the wait staff, who manage to serve guests quickly while not making them feel that there’s somebody at the bar coveting their seats, even if it’s so.
WHERE: 269 Osborne Road, Loudonville. 459-6364, www.draymonds.com
WHEN: lunch 11:30 a.m.-2:15 p.m. Monday-Friday; dinner 5-10 p.m. Monday-Friday; 4-10 p.m. Saturday
OTHER INFO: Handicapped accessible; all major credit cards accepted
On the night we visited, our server was Jay, who answered all our questions in a helpful and friendly way and offered guidance on our selections. We had phoned early for reservations — they’re strongly recommended at D’Raymonds — and were promptly seated in a booth by the hostess. Despite the steady drum of business, conversation was never a problem, as it is in some places when they get crowded.
We wanted to sample a couple of appetizers before our main courses, and ordered the Lobster Ravioli with Scallops ($13.95) and the Mussels Diavolo ($9.75). Jay cautioned us that we might find we were ordering more than we could eat, but we weren’t concerned. What doesn’t get eaten for dinner typically comes home with us for next day’s lunch.
We ordered a couple of glasses of pinot noir ($6.50) for our dinner beverages from the extensive wine list that’s available.
The lobster ravioli was delightful, studded with scallops that had been caramelized to a golden crisp on the outside but were moistly succulent inside. The ravioli — tender pillows of dough stuffed with lobster — were served in a rich cracked red pepper and vodka sauce — so good I might have licked my plate, but I assure you I didn’t.
Beverly’s Mussels Diavolo, one of the evening’s specials, was equally appealing, an array of mussels in a spicy marinara that had just the right amount of heat.
Our appetizers were accompanied by a basket of warm bread with butter, a hot red pepper sauce and an olive oil and vinegar dip. Of the three, the spicy red pepper sauce got our attention.
Beverly also ordered a house salad ($2.95), which was crisp if ordinary and a suitable palate cleanser before the main events.
I was in the mood for something very Italian and settled on the veal — “vitello” — section of D’Raymonds’ menu, which offers 18 separate possibilities for veal entrées.
My choice was the Scaloppe Di Vitello Alla D’Raymonds ($21.95), scallopines of tender veal sauteed in olive oil and garlic with tomatoes, mushrooms and sweet peppers with hot Italian sausage and fresh herbs. It came with a starch choice and I went for pasta — whole wheat pasta for $1 extra.
D’Raymonds cuts and pounds its veal daily, and the result is apparent: tender scalloped veal in a light and crispy breading in a fresh sauce of olive oil and garlic with grape tomatoes, mushrooms and sweet peppers. The sausage chunks that completed the dish were overcooked and not as spicy as I’d have liked, but that’s a minor complaint about a veal dish.
Beverly chose one of the evening’s dinner specials, a fillet of sole, D’Raymonds style, which meant three fillets of mild white fish in a crispy golden breading served in a lemony butter sauce with capers, mushrooms and grape tomatoes and finished with a sturdy sprout of rosemary planted on top.
Lots of capers
It was a formidable dish — Jay was right — and most of it went home with us, along with half of the veal dish. Beverly said her only criticism was that they went a bit heavy on the capers, which were not only numerous but bigger than you ordinarily see.
We passed on dessert after hearing Jay recite them — things like tiramisu and blueberry cream crumble cake — but we did linger for a time over coffees — a large espresso for Beverly ($2.95) and good old joe for me ($2.75).
D’Raymonds’ dinner menu offers nine chicken dishes, including Petto Di Pollo Alla Nastro ($18.95), described as D’Raymonds’ version of Chicken Cordon Bleu, boneless chicken breast filled with Italian ham and cheeses, baked to a golden brown in a brandy peppercorn cream sauce, and garnished with grilled portabella fries.
There is also a selection of fresh fish of the day at market prices, as well as surf and turf choices like D’Argosta, Gamberi and Pollame ($24.95), fresh lobster tails, jumbo shrimp and chicken lightly battered, sauteed and served on a bed of Russo sauce, finished with roasted garlic caper butter.
You can get a steak — Bistecca Alla D’Raymonds — for $22.95, a charbroiled steak sliced and topped with buttery garlic sauce, and Italian specialties and house specialties that include lasagne, manicotti, baked eggplant, linguine with seafood in a red sauce and many others.
Yes, there’s also spaghetti and meatballs or sausage — Spaghetti con Polpette O Salsiccie ($14.95).
Our check, for two appetizers, a salad, entrees and coffees came to $103.67 with tax and tip but not counting the wine.
D’Raymonds offers 18 veal dishes for dinner entrees. Who knew there were that many veal dishes? When you combine veal with other ingredients, there are even more possibilities. Here’s one from the menu: Scallope Di Vitello con Salami, Mozzarella, Pepperoni ($18.95). It’s scallopines of veal covered with Genoa salami and whole milk mozzarella cheese in a sauce of tomatoes, roasted peppers, green peppers, and hot cherry peppers.