Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Lunch out at Treviso by Mallozzi's

I've been at the University at Albany for almost 14 years (by day I'm a librarian), and never ONCE has Treviso bleeped Zena's superpower radar as a lunch option, even though it's only a few miles up the road. Like a good night's sleep, I've clearly been missing something for a very long time. No wonder I'm cranky.

The unmarked entryway and shabby awning shouldn't discourage you from venturing inside.
Located at The Italian American Community Center on Washington Avenue Extension, Treviso is one of five eating establishments managed by Mallozzi's. The exterior is a bit stark and uninviting, but with cold snowy weather we hussled inside hoping for warmth and good cheer. We were NOT disappointed. The entryway to the dining room is glowing and homey, and the staff were bright and happy to welcome us. The air was heavily scented with garlic. OOOOOOOH. Nice start.

Coming in from the cold the reception area is warm and inviting.
My first visit was in mid-December, just before the holidays, and the dining room was packed. How did I miss this place? One thing to know - Treviso is only open on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday for lunch, and a reservation is recommended if you are going with a larger party (something they seem to do very well, as there were more than a half dozen large tables being served that afternoon). Luckily there were only two of us, and even without a reservation we were promptly seated and attended to. The booths are very popular - big, deep red upholstered things, but the tables are also sturdy and large, and red linen is everywhere. 

The decor is elegant but homey - all the walls are plastered with vintage photos.

The mid-day menu is limited but includes soups, salads, and sandwiches, as well as a choice of eight Italian classics. Jaguar ordered a Pesto Turkey Club ($8.95) and I asked for the Veal & Peppers with ziti (capellini was another option - $9.95). A basket of warm garlic bread sprinkled with parsley was delivered with our club sodas (no wine on these visits - gotta be a good Goddess and achieve amazing feats at work during the afternoon). The bread was good but tasted distinctly of garlic powder - not so good, but crunchy and buttery. The Club was huge - at least 3" thick - mounds of freshly roasted moist turkey thinly sliced on a lovely ciabatta roll, a few slices of perfectly cooked bacon, tangy cheddar cheese, and a flavorful sauce that complimented the whole. A side of parmesan fries were decidedly light and not at all greasy, and they didn't overwhelm the plate either. Less bread might have been better, practically speaking, as I watched my friend try to take a bite without opening her mouth like she was at the dentist to have a molar extracted. But she loved the dish so much she took half home to enjoy later, in private.

The bread was toasted and garlicky.
At 3" thick, Jag's sandwich required superpower heroes to bite into.
I was happy too. The Veal & Peppers, topped with freshly shaved parm, had lots of big pieces of freshly roasted red peppers, the meat was incredibly tender, and the sauce rich and luxurious, sporting garlic and wine and spices. Th textures were fleshy and sublime. And not too much pasta for a change. Half of this dish came back to work with me where one of my co-workers generously agreed to try it for the Dish. She was also wowed by the veal and the tasty peppers. Very nice. Well considered and presented.

Veal and Peppers topped with freshly shaved parmesan cheese.

The dessert menu offered up tiramisu, tartufo, gelato and cheesecake, among others ($3.95 - $5.95) but we were full and then some, despite holding back on cleaning our plates, which was pure willpower, trust me, because everything was delicious. Lunch for two, including two sodas and two cups of coffee, came to only $30.65 plus tip. The waitstaff were well tipped on this one, and they deserved it. Everyone smiles and is not playing by rote. Excellent service from start to finish.

In early January I returned, this time with Red, Pony and Foodie Friend to try Treviso's menu again and see if the food was as good as the first time. My friends remarked that the space had the feel of a family living room, and with that I agreed. Though not as busy as during the holiday rush, the room was still well occupied and lively, but not noisy by any means. We ordered simple beverages and each asked for different dishes so we could taste more of the menu. Our garlic bread arrived promptly, and it was relished by all while we waited for lunch.

Foodie Friend had the special - Shrimp Diavolo ($9.95) -served over a creamy risotto. The shrimps were large, sweet and tender, and there was a very spicy sausage in there laced with fennel. This one had some heat, and the sausage had a dense bite which we enjoyed, with lots of tomato but not drowning in sauce (though the image might indicate otherwise). Decadent and powerful, this was a hit, with more zing than anything else on the table.

Shrimp Diavolo with spicy sausage over risotto.
Red ordered the Eggplant Rollatini ($9.95), which tasted like................wait for it........... eggplant, not at all mushy, with capellini. The filling was a luscious seasoned ricotta, and the sauce was light and aromatic with plenty of herbs to keep it interesting. Perfectly seasoned, this classic was a hit with all of us at the table that day.True to form, Red quietly ate the whole thing. She's a superpower in the making, that's for sure.

Eggplant Rollatini with capellini pasta.
After my own heart, Pony asked for the Chicken Parmesan, a large serving boasting a rather thick cutlet with a crisp breading and a dose of some nice stringy mozzerella on top. The meat was just a bit tough but it was very tasty. We liked the red sauce. It had some complexity and flavor, and the pasta was cooked to perfection. She thought it was one of the best she had had in a long time, and I agreed. Let me point out, too, that the sauces on these three dishes were all different - not just some red sauce dumped over everything leaving the kitchen. Kudos.
Pony had the Chicken Parm
Because FF beat me to the special, and Red beat me to the Rollatini, and Pony beat me to the Chicken Parm, I decided to order a the Classic Caeser Salad (sp.!!! - $7.95) topped with chicken (for another $4.95). This was a disappointment - no croutons (weird - usually I have to push them aside), with a dressing that was dense and garlickly and somewhat bland. I had our server bring me a few wedges of fresh lemon, which helped. The chicken was cold, and garlicky also, and salty, and the whole thing could have done with a bit of freshly ground pepper. Certainly virtuous, a nice "share" for the table, and I finished it, but can't recommend. At $12.90 total, it was a little overpriced for what it was.

 A virtuous salad after the holiday glut.
Lunch for four came to $52.10 for four entrees and two sodas plus tip, so a bargain, considering the stellar service and general ambiance. We felt welcome, appreciated and left feeling happy. So when Zena is feeling cranky from now on everyone is like, "Let's go to Treviso." Good idea. 

Zena, Goddess of Fire

P.S. The entryway sports a cool old motorcycle just beyond the reception desk. Men.

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