You can’t always depend on serendipity but when it works it is a celebration. Serendipity was at its best when we recently discovered Camila’s on Albany-Shaker Road in Loudonville.
I was around the corner at an in-office doctor’s appointment. Due to Covid protocols, my fidgety faithful chauffeur was not permitted in the building so he wandered around the neighborhood with the car. On the corner of Everett Road and Albany-Shaker Road was a small restaurant, Camila’s.
Noting that it was early afternoon, we had not had lunch and his stomach was growling, he drove me the short distance to Camila’s after my appointment and we sat in our air-conditioned car to check out the online menu. Chauffeur entered Camila’s and placed our order.
A short while later and still in the car, we sat in the shade and attacked our salads. Chauffer’s Broccoli Rabe ($9) was a colorful garlicky blend of emerald green broccoli rabe and olive oil with crushed red pepper flakes just waiting to be sopped up with Camila’s grilled Italian bread. I am a big fan of broccoli rabe, but its tendency toward stringiness makes it difficult for me to eat. My cutting it into bite-sized pieces solved the problem. Even later at home, the appetizer was fresh and exciting at room temperature.
Besides salads, the menu included five other categories: Appetizers and Sides, Classic Pizzas, Artisan Pizzas, Sandwiches and Entrees. Whether planned or serendipitous, there were 10 items in each category, more than enough to cater to almost any palate.
People either love beets or hate them. I am a member of the former group. The Beet Salad ($9) included purple and golden beets which were sliced and arranged in a circular fashion on a bed of fresh arugula, sprinkled with goat cheese crumbles and finished with house balsamic glaze. Color, texture, flavor — the salad was perfectly balanced.
Chauffeur’s Blackened Blue Burger ($12) was topped with gorgonzola crumbles, fresh arugula, sliced tomatoes and red onions. Grilled to the requested medium rare, Guest noted that the burger was warm enough for the gorgonzola to begin melting. The fries that accompanied the burger had already begun to “soggify” (my word) on the trip from the restaurant to the car. Undoubtedly they entered the Styrofoam box hot and crispy, but the warm moist air cooled down and moisture became tiny droplets of water coating the crispy outside of each fry and rendering it soggy. Even a stint in the oven once we arrived home did little to remedy the situation. The burger itself, however, was excellent and the substitution of arugula for iceberg or other more common lettuce provided a slight bite giving the Blackened Blue Burger character.
Pizza. I am always in the mood for pizza, and Camila’s offered a number of Artisan Pizzas besides the regular varieties. All of them boasted house-made dough, a crispy thin crust dusted with Semolina baked in an open flame oven. I often choose Margherita ($14) because for me it is the purest of the pizzas — nothing but fresh basil to interfere with the basic flavors from dough, tomatoes, mozzarella and good olive oil — like vanilla ice cream which reveals the basic flavor of the ice cream rather than distractions like chocolate and cherries.
Despite my usual preference, I ordered one of the most complicated of the artisan pizzas — Dolce Vita ($15). Described as a combination of fresh herbs, garlic, plum tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, wilted spinach, prosciutto and drizzled with fig glaze, the pizza looked as if it had been executed by a master artist. Arranged like the spokes of a wheel with a tight spiral of fig glaze, the mozzarella, spinach and prosciutto radiated out from the center.
The prosciutto was sliced so thin that it had melted into a translucent film, barely visible to the eye of this discerning diner. Its smoky flavor was detected however.
Missing seemed to be the promised fresh herbs. Other than the green wilted spinach, I neither saw nor tasted the herbs. The crust, however was exactly as promised — thin and crispy.
This Happy Diner continues to enjoy good food. That’s fine when I am hungry. But if one craves a real dining experience, nothing replaces a well-run restaurant. I look forward to the time when dining establishments, from small cafes to more elaborate venues, blossom after their unintended dormancy.
Camila’s To Go
WHERE: 402 Albany Shaker Road, Albany, NY 12211, (518) 482-7272, camilastogo.com/ [email protected]
WHEN: Sun-Sat 11:00 a.m.- -9:00 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $48.00 without tip or tax
MORE INFO: parking lot with handicapped parking, accessible, credit cards, online ordering, pick-up and delivery, catering