Restaurant Review: Restaurant Good Luck (Rochester, NY)

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When I first heard about this restaurant, I thought it was an Asian-inspired eatery. However, I soon found out that couldn’t be further from the truth. Instead, Good Luck is an open-kitchen restaurant in a cavernous loft-style space in a converted warehouse.  The owners opened the restaurant with the belief that people need to be reintroduced to classic cocktails.  Their cuisine is made from seasonal, local ingredients, some of which are grown in their own garden.  The owners also run Cure, a casual gourmet restaurant at Rochester’s Public Market.

Surroundings

Only a small plaque outside the front entrance and a large, unmarked awning hint that a restaurant exists on this tiny side street in the city’s Neighborhood of the Arts (NOTA). A proper sign would help new patrons find the place. Parking is free and plentiful, located across the street or down the street, requiring a short stroll. There are also a handful of on-street parking spots in front of the restaurant.  Once you find the entrance, ascend a few concrete steps to discover this renovated loft space.

Good Luck is committed to promoting and serving, fresh, seasonal and local food. So much so that they use ingredients grown in their own garden, nestled in a 30-by-90-foot  lot across the street from the eatery.  A full array of produce and other edibles are available in their raised-bed garden.

Atmosphere

Upon entering Good Luck, I immediately noticed the noise level, which was alarmingly loud.  Then, I turned around to find the hostess stand, which was tucked away slightly behind the entrance.  This restaurant featured a large bar and an open dining room, separated by a partial wall of wood and windows.

Good Luck Restaurant Dining Room, Courtesy: Good Luck Restaurant Facebook page
Good Luck Restaurant Dining Room, Courtesy: Good Luck Restaurant Facebook page

I heard that it could be a challenge to get reservations, but we didn’t have much trouble. One of my dinner companions made reservations earlier that day, although we had to adjust our timing to their schedule.  Although we were seated immediately upon arriving, I was disappointed that our party of three was seated at a table barely within the perimeter of the dining area. As a result, I felt like we were only semi-welcomed there. The lighting in the dining area was adequate, but the bar area looked dark for such an early evening. I noticed an open door in the back of the bar. This back entrance opened to a impromptu-looking concrete seating area with a few plastic chairs, where some patrons (or workers on break?) were seated. Industrial apparatus was also visible, possibly a dumpster? It was an odd site from inside the trendy restaurant.

On this visit in mid-July, when the temperature outside climbed to around 90 degrees, fahrenheit, the temperature in the dining room continued to rise as the evening wore on. Even though the air conditioning was on “full blast,” our waitress explained that once the temperatures reached 80 degrees outside, it’s “impossible to keep this place cool.” Now I know why many of the staff were wearing skimpy outfits. I first inquired politely about the status of the seemingly absent air conditioning. Later, I more emphatically complained about it. For a restaurant which has been in business for 8 summers, I would expect that they would improve their cooling system for the comfort of their patrons. I noticed others fanning themselves and also appearing overheated. Near the end of our stay, the staff finally opened the large, loft-style windows along one side of the dining room, letting in a nice breeze.

Menu

Chefs Dan Martello and Brent Bailey created a small but mighty, single-page dinner menu featuring a handful of appetizers and salads, several entrees, a “Food to Share” section and a beverage section with both alcoholic and non-alcoholic options. Because Good Luck features seasonal, local ingredients, the menu changes more often than most.  Admittedly, I had hoped for more choices on the menu.  Although most types of proteins were represented, I wanted more than one choice each of chicken, fish, beef, etc.

Menu starters included a few salads, greens, pickled blueberries and red lentils. Entrees ranged from lighter fare such White Pizza with Pickled Eggplant and Arugula ($14), Margherita Pizza ($13), Heirloom Tomato Confit with Basil Polenta ($16), and a Roasted Vegetable Sandwich on house made focaccia  ($15) to pasta such as Saffron Buccatini ($21) and Goat Cheese Gnocchi ($19), to the more hearty Braised Oxtail with Tripe in a tomato sauce ($14), Roasted Salmon ($29), and Pan-roasted Duck Breast ($30).

The “Food to Share” section offered selections to be shared, including the semi-famous one pound Good Luck Burger with French Fries ($25), and the Twice-Cooked Chicken ($25), Grilled Rib-eye Steak ($62) and a selection of smoked meats ($26).

The Cocktail Menu was more diverse than most, offering several dozen signature cocktails, along with several varieties each of Manhattans, Negronis, and Old Fashioneds.  The Wine Menu was also quite impressive, offering both red and white wines by the bottle and glass, organized by region.  Good Luck has become locally known to have an extensive collection of hard to find, quality spirits for sipping or mixing.

Food

We started our shared meal with an appetizer special of Zucchini Frittata, which was absolutely delicious.  It included the zucchini flowers in the frittata batter. Buttery and flavorful, this thin, egg-based delight was light and airy, yet very satisfying. It was served with slices of toasted bread with herbed butter, which was the perfect accompaniment.  My dinner companions each ordered a glass of wine from the extensive wine menu – the server was kind enough to encourage a taste before ordering the wine.

Good Luck Burger, Courtesy: Good Luck Facebook page
Good Luck Burger, Courtesy: Good Luck Facebook page

We followed the frittata with the famous Good Luck Burger ($25) to share among three of us. It was made with a full pound of ground, grass-fed beef on a brioche roll, with cheddar cheese, covered with french fries and accompanied by a vegetable slaw. I understand why everyone talks about this burger – it was truly delicious! Moist and flavorful, it satisfied my craving for a hearty meal. The brioche bread added a touch of class to a usually pedestrian sandwich. We each had a quarter of the burger and split the fourth quarter between us.  Oh, those french fries – they were seasoned just right and not one was left when we were done.  The house made mayo-based sauce served with this burger was a great compliment the dish.

Good Luck Banana Creme Bruele Tart, Courtesy: Sharon Garofanello Facebook page
Good Luck Banana Creme Brulee Tart, Courtesy: Sharon Garofanello

We ordered two desserts to share; they were truly incredible! One was a Banana Creme Brulee Tart and the other was Corn Ice Cream.  The Banana Creme Brulee is one of the best desserts I have had in a long time. I was honestly surprised that it was so good.  We ordered it based on our server’s enthusiastic recommendation. One of my dining companions called it “the best dessert in town.” Three slices of carmelized bananas sat atop a wonderfully creamy and decadent vanilla crème brulee, all housed in a tender and flavorful tart crust. Yes, it was that good!

The three scoops of home-made Corn Ice Cream didn’t disappoint either. As promised by our server, it tasted like corn cereal.  I was skeptical at first, but she was right. I likened the taste to corn flakes soaked in the milk in the bottom of the cereal bowl – oh so good, but in an ice cream!  It was a refreshing follow-up to the rich crème brulee.

Special Events

Good Luck is more than a great craft cocktail bar with an impressive menu. They also offer a variety of special events.

  • Their Chef’s Table series encourages groups of 6-14 people to enjoy watching a private chef prepare a multi-course menu at a private table overlooking the open kitchen. Groups may choose from three themed menus, each with options for three, four or five courses, with or without wine pairings.
  • Inspired Table Events include Garden Dinners and Field Trips.

 – Garden Dinners are three course dinners served in the Good Luck Garden across the street from the restaurant, during Fridays and Saturdays in July, August and September. These family style meals include beer and wine pairings at a cost of $70 per person.

 – Field Trips are occasional dinners held in interesting areas around town, featuring special menus, themes or events.

Service

The service at Good Luck was generally pleasant and cheerful. We were politely welcomed and greeted by the hostess and seated immediately upon arriving on time for our reservation. Our server was knowledgeable, explaining the “shared dish” theme and providing her input when asked about menu items.  Our food arrived in a timely fashion and our water glasses were continually refilled. Our server also graciously handled my grievances about the very warm dining area. Although there was little she could do to alleviate the poor ventilation, she did apologize for the inconvenience a few times, which I appreciated.  The desserts were the highlight of our meal.

Overall Experience

I thoroughly enjoyed the food at Good Luck.  I would like to go back again when the seasonal menu changes, just to see what interesting offerings the talented chef creates. The service and food were great, but the dining room was loud and quite warm.  If I do go back, I will be sure to go when the weather is cooler, when hopefully the dining room doesn’t feel as hot as the kitchen.

If You Go:

Restaurant Good Luck
50 Anderson Avenue
Rochester, NY 14607
(located in the Anderson Arts Building in the Neighborhood of the Arts – NOTA)
Phone: 585-340-6161
Website: http://www.restaurantgoodluck.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GoodLuckRochester
Instagram: restaurantgoodluck
Twitter: @goodluckrochester
Email: events@restaurantgoodluck.com

Details:
Dinner hours: Wed-Sat dinner 5pm – 11pm, Fri-Sat late night menu till midnight.
Bar Hours:      Wed-Sat: 4:30pm – 2 am
Cuisine:           American and Italian dishes featuring fresh, seasonal food
Alcoholic Beverages: Beer and Wine
Children’s Menu:         No
Accepts Credit Cards:  Yes
Handicap Accessible:   Yes (back entrance)
Attire: casual dress to business attire
Requires Reservations: Highly Recommended, as far in advance as possible
Table Service: Yes
Outdoor Seating: Yes, but limited
Parking:  Free and plentiful in adjacent lot, some street parking
Valet Service:  No
Bar Seating:    Yes
Coat Check:    Yes
Date opened:  2008
Date visited:   Friday, July 22, 2016 for dinner

***

Restaurant Review: Bob ‘N’ Ruth’s Vineyard Restaurant (Naples, NY)

bob and ruth sign

Naples, NY is the home of the very popular Naples Grape Festival, held each Fall.  As the leaves begin to turn muted colors and the cool breezes gently blow in, crowds of visitors descend upon the little Western, NY town of just over 2500 residents. Known around the state for their prolific vineyards and delicious grape pies, Naples turns into a bustling (and crowded) tourist destination.

Rather than wait until then to visit (and suffer the crowds and congestion), my friend Mary and I recently took a mid-summer day trip to Naples, NY. During our escapade, we stopped for lunch at Bob ‘N’ Ruth’s Vineyard Restaurant, a veritable landmark in town.  I had not heard of it, but Mary had eaten there a few times and suggested that we stop in.

Surroundings

As we approached the restaurant, I could see that it was a casual destination, with a small, side parking lot.  The older looking building houses a casual diner-style eatery in front, and a more formal dinner restaurant in back.  As it was late morning, the more formal restaurant area was not yet open. The front section appeared to be converted from an old house, as was shown by the screen entrance door.  It appeared well-worn and had a lived-in look.

Atmosphere

Bob 'n Ruth's Dining area
Bob ‘N’ Ruth’s Dining area

Upon entering Bob ‘N’ Ruth’s, I immediately felt like I took a step back in time to the 1950s. The laminate lunch counter, with its aluminum bar stools, reminded me of a luncheonette you would find in Anytown, USA. A few regulars parked there, reading their morning newspapers and gossiping with the waitress while barely acknowledging new arrivals with a half nod.

The seating area included both booths and tables with chairs, separated by a half wall with vertical wood spindles reaching to the ceiling.

It was clean and bright, but in dire need of a full remodel or at least a face lift. The dark, wood paneling and the well-worn floors gave away the age of this place.  I appreciated the expansive windows, which allowed in steaming sunlight and a view of the traffic on the main street just outside.

It gave me an eery feeling to see directly into the formal restaurant area, which was dark and desolate. I wondered if they really did use that part of the building anymore or if it was just leftover from happier days gone by. Also, the front diner area did not house its own restrooms.  Therefore, we had to traipse through the closed part of the formal restaurant, around the bar and hidden in the back, to get to the (very cramped) restrooms.  I worried that I might not find my way back.

Menu

The menu was more comprehensive than I expected in such a small eatery. In addition, a dry-erase white board hanging from chains in the ceiling displayed the daily specials. In addition to a hot turkey sandwich with gravy, other specials included a steak sandwich and homemade grape pie.

I would not recommend the Salad Bar, which was a meager offering of lettuce and a few vegetables, set way back in a dark corner of the dining area, next to an unused aluminum coat rack. It didn’t have food guards protecting the food (glass or plastic coverings) and it looked sort of sad.

Food

We were both in the mood for a light lunch. Mary ordered a Chicken Sandwich on wheat bread, with a side of potato chips.  The lettuce and tomato accompaniments were fresh and the chicken was moist and tasty.  It appeared to be carved from a chicken breast, rather than slices of processed turkey cold cuts. She enjoyed it.

Bob 'n Ruth's Chicken Salad Sandwich with chips
Bob ‘N’ Ruth’s Chicken Sandwich with chips

I opted for a Grilled Tuna Melt Sandwich with a side of French fries, which should be no surprise to my friends and coworkers! The sandwich arrived as an open-face affair, in a hot cast iron skillet dish, topped with an explosion of drippy, melted cheese and a thickly sliced tomato perched on top. Nice!  It was hot and quite satisfying.

Bob 'n Ruth's Tuna Melt Sandwich
Bob ‘N’ Ruth’s Tuna Melt Sandwich
Bob 'n Ruth's French Fries
Bob ‘N’ Ruth’s French Fries

The French fries were also good. Not too greasy. There isn’t a much else to say about French fries.

We both ordered only water for our beverages and did not indulge in dessert at Bob ‘N’ Ruth’s, mostly because it was still so early in the day.

HINT: If you want to try some great ice cream or custard while in Naples, NY, head a few miles down to the road to Lynnie Lou’s Homemade Ice Cream and Custard it’s so good and the staff is welcoming and friendly.

Service

I felt a bit uncomfortable at Bob ‘N” Ruth’s at first. It seemed like the waitress and hostess were eavesdropping on our conversation and making some sort of uninformed judgement about us.  Then, when the waitress asked a question related to our (private) discussion from across the room, I knew that she indeed was listening. Also, our waitress thought that the other waitress took our order, which she did not, so we waited a while to place our order. Finally, it was uncomfortable when the waitress (and the owner?) sat at a booth near us just to chat and relax while we were lunching. Wasn’t there something else they could be doing?

However, our food was brought very quickly, as we arrived ahead of the lunchtime crowd. Our water glasses were promptly refilled and our plated were cleared quickly. We were greeted promptly upon arrival, seated quickly and bid a pleasant goodbye when we left.

Overall Impression

The casual front restaurant of Bob ‘N’ Ruth’s is fine for a quick bite to eat during your visit to Naples, NY.  Expect to find a well-traveled, neighborhood diner with good food, great prices and lots of local flare.  Isn’t that all you really need for a mid-day meal while a summer road trip?

If you go:

Bob ‘n’ Ruth’s Vineyard Restaurant
(front section – casual dining)
204 N Main St
Naples, NY 14512
Phone: 585 – 374-5122
Fax: (585) 374-6011
Website: unable to locate a website
Email:     unable to locate an email address
Facebook: unofficial page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bob-Ruths-Vineyard-Restaurant/114086305285761
Twitter:  unable to find a Twitter account
Details:

Business Hours:             Daily 6am – 8pm
Cuisine:                        Italian-American
Meals Served:               Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Salad Bar
Accepts Credit Cards:     Yes (MasterCard and Visa)
Attire:                          Casual
Requires Reservations:   No
Table Service:               Yes
Outdoor Seating:           No
Parking:                        Free in private lot on side and in back
Valet Service:                No
Bar Seating:                  Yes
Alcohol:                        Yes
Coat Check:                  No
Date visited:                 Saturday, July 18, 2015 (lunch)

***

Restaurant Review: Cinelli’s Pizza Ristorante (Greece, NY)

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More than a few friends and family mentioned to me that a new pizza place recently opened in the town of Greece, NY. Admittedly, Greece is not lacking for places to get a slice, or any other type of Italian food for that matter. However, Cinelli’s Pizza Ristorante is so much more than a pizza place. Owned and operated by Franca and John Cinelli and their son Tom, Cinellii’s is a family-owned, full-service establishment, specializing in New York-style brick oven pizza. They also offer made-to-order pasta dishes as well as traditional favorites such as eggplant parmesan and a variety of other Italian-American dishes.

If their last name sounds familiar, you might recall another local restaurant by the same name in Charlotte, NY. It was owned by a family cousin, but it has long since been replaced by Mr. Dominick’s. The reviews of the new Cinelli’s Pizza Ristorante from friends and family have been mixed, so I decided to give it a try to find out for myself how it stacks up.

Surroundings

Cinelli's Pizza Ristorante Exterior, Courtesy: Cinelli's Pizza Ristorante Facebook page
Cinelli’s Pizza Ristorante Exterior, Courtesy: Cinelli’s Pizza Ristorante Facebook page

Located in a new strip plaza on Long Pond Road, just North of English Road, Cinelli’s Pizza Ristorante has an unassuming exterior. You won’t find the overdone Mediterranean architecture found outside many Italian restaurants. Instead, the curb appeal is clean and even somewhat stark, featuring large glass windows.

The plaza is situated on a hill, so that you can view the various tenants rather easily from the road.

Although parking is plentiful and very convenient, actually getting into the plaza can be somewhat tricky if you aren’t familiar with the traffic pattern. Enter the plaza from the south end on Long Pond Road and swing around the lot to get to the front. Exiting from the north end of the plaza allows only one-way traffic, heading north. So, if you need to travel south on Long Pond Road when leaving, then exit from the south end and turn left.

Atmosphere

When I walked into Cinelli’s Pizza Ristorante, I was surprised that it was a sit-down eatery. I expected to see only one or two small tables and a large take-out counter. However, I instead saw a row of booths along the side wall and about a dozen square tables in the dining area. This is a real restaurant, not simply a take-out pizza shop.

Decorated in an array of colors, the dining room is bright and inviting. Most of the walls are painted in a horizontal split of pale yellow and a bright red, while the upholstery on the booths and chairs is green, red or black. The dining room was well lit, from a combination of the ceiling lights and the large front windows. The wood grain flooring flowed throughout, and the wall art provided unexpected splashes of color and an art-deco vibe.

On the wall opposite the booths, there was a long bar, with plenty of seating and a flat screen TV on the wall above, tuned to a news station. In addition to the beer and wine available for sale, my lunch companion spotted a large espresso machine in the corner, which seemed to add some authenticity to the establishment.

I also noticed that wide variety of music piped through the speakers. When we arrived, I casually listened to Frank Sinatra, which seemed quite appropriate. However, during my stay, I also heard The Beatles and several other pop bands of recent fame. It seemed like they were trying to please everyone with the music. The music in a restaurant should consistently reflect the atmosphere and theme. If you remember the music, then there is a problem with it.

Menu

As a full-service restaurant, Cinelli’s Pizza Ristorante offers a full menu, including appetizers, soup, salad, pizza, pasta, calzones, subs, desserts, specialty coffee and more.  Known best for their pizza, they offer both a New York-style thin crust pizza and a Sicilian-style thick crust sheet pizza.  I was happy to see that they also offer whole wheat and gluten-free pasta options.

Cinellii’s boasts that they make their own sausage, using natural casing and no preservatives. It is used either in bulk or links, in everything from pizzas to pasta to subs. They offer daily specials and coupons as well. They do not yet have a catering menu on their website, although it is apparently “coming soon.”

Food

In most restaurants, patrons are served some sort of complementary bread, which is often sliced bread with butter, rolls, bread sticks or even chips and salsa. Here, we were treated to a plate of soft, warm, buttery, garlic knots with a side of fresh, chunky marinara sauce. Honestly, these were the best bread sticks I have had in a long, long time. Soft inside and slightly browned and crusty outside, they were drizzled with rich olive oil and generously covered with fresh garlic and grated cheese. We scarfed those up right away, and later asked for a refill, which our server graciously provided.

Garlic Knots Closeup from Cinelli's Pizza Ristorante, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Garlic Knots from Cinelli’s Pizza Ristorante, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

On this rainy and unseasonably cool June Sunday afternoon, I decided to order a calzone and a cup of soup.  I chose the Veggie Lover’s Calzone ($11.95) along with a cup of Pasta Faggioli ($3.95), which is soup with ditalini pasta and white beans.

Pasta Faggioli Soup from Cinelli's Pizza Ristorante, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Pasta Faggioli Soup from Cinelli’s Pizza Ristorante, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

The Pasta Faggioli Soup was hot and hearty. Made with a broth base, the tomatoes turned the soup a pretty pink/salmon color. I liked that the ditalini pasta and the white beans were plentiful and cooked just right. I added just a bit more grated cheese to make it even more delightful.

I finished every last drop of that soup, enjoying the warmth and home-made flavor.

I was so excited to try the vegetable calzone. I already knew that I liked their sauce, from the side of marinara served with the garlic bread.  Served with another side of marinara pizza sauce, the Veggie Lover’s Calzone was filled with mozzarella cheese, green bell peppers, onions, black olives, fresh mushrooms, broccoli, fresh garlic, and fresh spinach. When I broke open the doughy dome to release the steam from the piping hot calzone, the melted mozzarella gently oozed out like lava from an erupting volcano – perfection!

Vegetable Calzone, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Vegetable Calzone, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

I enjoyed the calzone dough as it was tender and flaky, yet very tasty and moist. Again, the side of marinara sauce was delightful – a perfect dipping sauce for my calzone.  The chef certainly wasn’t stingy with the mozzarella cheese – it was plentiful and oh so good. I love it when I can use my fork to twirl some of the vegetables into the mozzarella and then dip it in the sauce. When I was about half way through eating my calzone, I noticed that my mouth was really hot. I think this was due to the abundance of peppers and onions in the calzone. My only complaint about the vegetable calzone was that it was too heavy on the peppers and onions and too light on the mushrooms, broccoli and spinach. I definitely would have liked a better balance of vegetables. Overall, though, it was cooked well and provided a larger portion than I expected.

My lunch companion ordered the Lasagna ($11.95) which included a soup or salad. She opted for the Greens and Beans. She also ordered a side of two Meatballs ($3.95) in sauce.

Greens and Beans from Cinelli's Pizza Ristorante, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Greens and Beans from Cinelli’s Pizza Ristorante, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

Her cup of Greens and Beans sure did look good. It too was served hot and was hearty. She said that she liked it and that it was very good.

Also, her side of two meatballs looked inviting. Covered with a generous sprinkle of grated cheese, they were swimming in the sauce. She reported that they were good, but a little tough. I remarked that can happen when the ground meat is over handled. Still, she did enjoy them.

Two Meatballs in Sauce from Cinelli's Pizza Ristorante, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Two Meatballs in Sauce from Cinelli’s Pizza Ristorante, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

The best looking dish of this meal was definitely the Lasagna which my friend ordered for her lunch. Lasagna is my usual “go to” food when I am at an Italian restaurant. Since I love to make it myself, it’s fun to compare mine to the restaurant entrée.

When she placed her order, the waitress warned here that the lasagna was “heavy on the ricotta.” When the dish arrived, I realized that she wasn’t kidding! I am a firm believer that cheese (or bacon) makes everything better, so I was enthralled with this dish when it arrived. The portion really was enough for two – she brought at least half home to enjoy later.

Lasagna from Cinelli's Pizza Ristorante, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Lasagna from Cinelli’s Pizza Ristorante, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

There was, in my eyes, a problem though. The lasagna was described on the menu as follows:

“Layers of seasoned ricotta cheese and sheets of pasta baked in our oven with marinara sauce and provolone cheese and topped with our home-made meat sauce. Substitute marinara sauce for meat sauce to make this dish vegetarian!”

Hmmm, that’s odd – no layers of meat in the lasagna? None of their home-made, crumbled sausage? Not even a meatball or two broken up and thrown in for good measure? Why wasn’t it labeled on the menu as Meatless Lasagna or Cheese Lasagna? It’s a violation of expectations not to get any meat in your lasagna, especially for those of us who might not be so diligent in reading the menu. The absence of meat would have been a huge disappointment to my lunch companion, except that she did read the menu and as a result, she ordered a side of meatballs – smart woman!  (I just put all that together while I was writing this.)

She said that she enjoyed the non-meat lasagna (my words, not hers) very much. She liked the seasoned ricotta and the pasta sheets, as well as the meat sauce. I have to admit that it looked delicious, regardless of if there was meat in it or not.

Service

We visited Cinelli’s Pizza Ristorante on a lazy, rainy Sunday afternoon, when not too many others braved the wet day. Upon arriving at 1:30 pm, we were the only patrons there.  However, my friend had been there a few other times to get take out and she commented that each time, it was filled with diners and was very busy.

The hostess greeted me with a friendly smile and asked if I was meeting someone, probably tipped off by my quick glances around the room. She showed me to the table where my friend has left her coat for a moment.  Our server, who also happened to be the hostess that day, was prompt, courteous and friendly. She explained a few items on the menu and engaged in friendly chat with us throughout the lunch.  She also kept our beverage glasses refilled and graciously brought us a refill of garlic knots. She stopped by a few times to check on us and made us feel comfortable. We were very happy with the service and the hospitality of the employees.

Overall Impression

I am happy to welcome Cinellii’s Pizza Ristorante to the neighborhood. A casual yet inviting place, it offers a variety of pizza, pasta and other specialties. Patrons have the option of eating in, taking out or getting their meal delivered locally.  I enjoyed my meal and would like to stop in again to try their pizza. Why don’t you stop in and have a bit to eat? i would love to hear what you think of it.

If You Go:

Cinelli’s Pizza Ristorante
840 Long Pond Road
Rochester, NY 14612
Phone: (585) 287-5458
Fax: not available

Website:   http://www.bestpizzagreece.com
Email:       see the web form on the Contact page of their website
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Bestpizzagreece
Twitter:     not available

Details:
Business Hours:          Tues-Thurs: 11am-9pm, Fri-Sat: 11am-10pm, Sun: 12pm-8pm, Closed Mondays
Cuisine:                      New York-style Pizza, Italian
Meals Served:              Lunch, Dinner
Children’s Menu:           No
Accepts Credit Cards:    Yes
Handicap Accessible:     Yes
Attire:                          Casual
Requires Reservations:  No
Table Service:              Yes
Take Out:                    Yes
Delivery Service:          Yes
Outdoor Seating:          Yes, very limited
Parking:                       Free and plentiful in private lot
Valet Service:               No
Bar Seating:                 Yes
Alcohol:                       Yes (wine and beer)
Coat Check:                 No
Date opened:               January, 2015
Date visited:                Sunday, June 28, 2015 (lunch)

***

Restaurant Review: Agatina’s Italian Restaurant (Gates, NY)

agatinas-logo

“What do you mean you’ve never been to Agatina’s?” she said with a mix of amazement and wonder. “Just what I said – I’ve never been there, although I have heard it’s really good.” And that settled it. Sandy and I planned to meet at Agatina’s for dinner the following week.  It was kind of exciting.

Surroundings

Agatina's Restaurant has graced Buffalo Road since 1984, but the culinary roots of its owners stretch back to the early 20th century.
Agatina’s Restaurant exterior, Courtesy: Agatina’s Facebook Page

There were no surprises here – I drove by this restaurant too many times to count. My car just never made it into the parking lot. I knew what to expect; the stone exterior building sits very close to busy Buffalo Road at the corner of Elmgrove Road in Gates. There is large parking lot around the back, with a few handicap spaces close to the front door.

The building, albeit clean, has a dated look, with small front windows high on the exterior stone wall. The landscaped area in front is very small, but well maintained. With both a side door and a front door, I wasn’t sure which was the commonly used entrance, so I walked around the front and entered through the heavy door.  I saw later that the side door enters directly into the bar/lounge area.

Atmosphere

Owned and operated by the Fornataro family, the front entrance of Agatina’s Restaurant consists of a tiny vestibule which empties into the bar/lounge area with the hostess stand. As I talked to the hostess, I realized that I was only steps from the swinging kitchen door. I decided to wait in the bar/lounge area for Sandy to arrive.

The bar was very dark, not only in natural and ambient lighting, but also in furnishings, fabrics and decor.  The small, high windows let in very little light, and the interior lighting was also very dim. The dark green walls and heavy wooden bar made it seem even darker. Why was it so darn dark in here at 5:30 on a sunny Monday afternoon? It felt like I was in a cocktail lounge in a questionable part of town, later than a nice girl should be. Interestingly, the cream-colored ceramic tile didn’t lbrighten the mood. I also did not hear any Italian background music. Instead, I heard the din of a large flat screen TV in the corner of the bar, tuned to CNN. I also couldn’t help but notice the small flat screen TV over the bar, displaying a fake crackling fire, in June – yes, really. The entire room could easily be transformed with several high wattage light bulbs and the sounds up beat and light-hearted Italian music.

In contrast to the bar, the dining room was bright, open and airy. Perhaps the large windows or the mirrors on the walls added to the expanse of the room. The three dining rooms hold up to 150 people in total. This place is a contrast in duplicity – how could such a dark and sullen lounge be attached to such a bright and airy dining room? The dining room would have been perfect except for one thing – the linen napkins and accent table linens were dark brown. Uggh! Brown should never, ever be used for dining linens. Brown is the color of dirt and has absolutely no place in a culinary setting, ever. On a more positive note, I was happy with the location of our table, next to a front window and partly secluded by a half-wall, allowing for some privacy in the large dining room.

Menu

Their expansive menu is one of Agatina’s Restaurant’s best features. There is something for everyone on this book of a menu – and it all looked delicious. In addition to their Nightly Dinner menu, they also offer several specialty menus, including: Gluten Free Menu, Smaller Fare Menu, Kids Menu and separate menus for Banquets, Buffets and Catering. Wow, that is impressive!

I checked out the Nightly Dinner menu online before arriving and still, I had a difficult time deciding among the never-ending entrees and specialities. All the usual suspects were there. They offered chicken entrees served several ways (French, Cordon Bleu, Marsala, Saltimboca, Parmgiana, and Cacciatore) but their signature dish is Chicken Fra Diavala, described as follows:

(Mild, Medium or Hot) Chicken strips simmered in Agatina’s special seasoned Fra Diavola (Red or White) sauce. Over linguine. $17.95

Pasta specialities included manicotti, ravioli, fettucini, gnocchi (actually potato not pasta), linguini, ziti and lasagna. There were red sauces, white sauces, wine sauces, cream sauces, marinara sauces, meat sauces, French sauces – sauces everywhere! And let’s not forget the fish and seafood – boy oh boy was there a great selection of haddock, shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels, lump crab and lobster.  In addition, they offered a wonderful selection of veal and beef, sure to please even the pickiest carnivores.

The only item that didn’t seem to make sense to me on Agatina’s Restaurant’s menu were the Frog Legs, which were listed both as an appetizer (sauteed or pan fried for $6.95) and as a seafood specialty (sauteed in rum, butter lemon sauce, with oregano for $18.95).  While they are indeed amphibian fish, and do belong in the fish and seafood section, I would expect to see them on French or Cantonese menus, rather than an Italian menu. So, just for kicks, I did some research and found that frog legs are popular in the Piemonte and Tuscany regions of Italy.

Food

Basket of Bread and Butter at Agatina's, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Basket of Bread and Butter at Agatina’s, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

Our waiter brought us a basket of fresh, sliced bread with butter. Isn’t the bread at Italian restaurants always the best? This bread was no exception. It was crusty and tasty and a great start to dinner. However, it wasn’t warm – I do like my bread to be served warm.

After obsessing over the huge menu for far too long, I finally decided to try a few offerings.

I started with an appetizer of Rollotini Eggplant ($3.95), rolled with a mixture of three cheeses (ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan), and baked with tomato sauce.  This tasted even better than it sounds. The eggplant was tender and sans any bitterness. The cheese filling was hearty and creamy at the same time. I really enjoyed the tomato sauce which topped the eggplant. It was fresh, light and a little bit sweet. There was no trace of acidity which can sometimes lurk in tomato sauce. Priced at less than $4, this was a great value too.

I would recommend this appetizer and wondered why Agatina’s Restaurant didn’t offer it as a full-size entree. (I later noticed on my bill that the appetizer was listed as Eggplant Vincenzo appetizer – which is also offered as an entree! Yay, fellow eggplant lovers will be delighted with an entire meal of this lovely offering.)

Rollotini Eggplant at Agatinna's Restaurant, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Rollotini Eggplant at Agatinna’s Restaurant, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Rollotini Eggplant at Agatina's Restaurant sliced open, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Rollotini Eggplant at Agatina’s Restaurant sliced open, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For my entree, I chose Chicken Cordon Bleu a La Ricardo ($19.95). I have no idea who Ricardo is. This chicken was stuffed with Italian ham and provolone cheese, simmered in a cream sauce with Spanish onions and fresh mushrooms. This entree included a choice of soup or salad and a choice of pasta, potato or vegetable. I chose a garden salad with Italian dressing along with a side dish of rigatoni pasta in tomato sauce.

Salad with raspberry Italian dressing at Agatina's, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog.
Salad with raspberry Italian dressing at Agatina’s, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog.

When the salad arrived, Sandy and I looked at each other, wondering if the dressing really was Italian dressing. Why did it have a pinkish hue? She tasted it and decided that it was some variation of traditional Italian dressing. I tasted it too and since I liked it, I forged ahead in eating my salad.

The lettuce was mostly iceberg lettuce, with some romaine included for good measure. It contained one grape tomato, a few slices of cucumber and sliced peppers. The best part really was the strangely pink, but very tasty and creamy dressing. Overall, it was a fresh salad and a decent start to the meal.

After not too long, our entrees arrived. My Chicken Cordon Bleu a La Ricardo was fully awash in waves of white cream sauce. I was kind of startled by the amount of sauce actually. I expected a healthy drizzle of sauce. I don’t normally order cream sauces, as I prefer red sauces, but I really wanted to see (and taste) how their Cordon Bleu was prepared.  The portion size was quite generous though.  The sauce tasted creamy and not overly rich – it was very thick, more like a chowder consistency.

Chicken Cordon Bleu a La Ricardo at Agatina's, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Chicken Cordon Bleu a La Ricardo at Agatina’s, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

The picture above shows that the chicken dish was rather monochromatic. I could see some flecks of the mushroom and onion, but neither one added any color. The dish lacked eye appeal – it would have benefitted from a green garnish and perhaps some spinach or parsley in the sauce. Aside from that though, it was delicious!  The chicken was moist, tender and full of flavor. The stuffing of Italian ham and cheese was delightful, and had a nice tangy flavor. By this time, I was getting full, so I could only finish one of the two pieces of chicken. I saved the rest for lunch the next day, which was just as good as the first time around.

Chiecken Soup with Pastina at Agatina's, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Chiecken Soup with Pastina at Agatina’s, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

My friend Sandy chose Haddock Fra Diavola ($18.95) for her entrée. It included both a cup of soup and a salad.

She chose the Chicken Soup with Pastina. It not only looked great, but she said that it tasted great too. I noticed that the soup was hearty, with large chunks of white meat chicken, carrots, escarole and of course pastina. She also commented that it was piping hot when served – we could see the steam rising off of it!

The star of the evening, though, was definitely Sandy’s Haddock Fra Diavola, served with Agatina’s special seasoned Fra Diavola red sauce.  She chose the hot variety of sauce, being the rebel that she is. According to their menu, the Fra Diavola sauce is the basis for their signature dishes with Seafood, Haddock, Shrimp or Shrimp & Lobster – all Fra Diavola style.

Usually served over a bed of linguine, she instead chose to have her Haddock Fra Diavola served over escarole. Not only did that add extra color to the dish, but it also made it healthier – go Sandy! She said that she really enjoyed it and that it had just enough heat. Doesn’t the sauce look amazing? Again the portion was large, and again the entrée was surrounded by so much sauce that it almost overflowed the dish.  Hearty and full of fresh ingredients, the red sauce was a perfect complement to the delicate white fish and green escarole (and I was happy to finally see the colors of the Italian flag!). I was lucky enough to try a taste and it certainly did not disappoint.

Haddock Fra Diavola at Agatina's, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Haddock Fra Diavola at Agatina’s, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

Service

The service at Agatina’s Restaurant was great. The hostess and the waiter were personable and friendly. I was greeted immediately upon my entry into the bar/lounge area and offered a table without any wait. Our waiter was also friendly, and made us feel comfortable. He used a bit of witty humor that made us chuckle now and then. He was attentive and efficient as well. Our meal was served in a timely fashion, but not so quickly as to make us feel rushed.  Also, he was successful in accepting a to-go order at the start of our meal, and then making sure that it was hot and wrapped up at the end of our meal. I also liked that my leftover chicken was placed in a styrofoam to-go container and wrapped in plastic wrap and then placed in a plastic bag – there was no way it was going to spill in the car on the way home.

As I waited in the lounge/bar area for Sandy to arrive, I observed a customer come in and greet the hostess. Immediately, she asked if he wanted the usual – two orders of soup to go. She told him that the soup of the day was not his usual, but he was happy to order what was offered. It drove home the idea that this 30-year old establishment has regulars and that the staff knows their preferences. That’s pretty neat for a full service restaurant.

Overall Impression

Why did I wait so long to visit Agatina’s Restaurant? I have been missing out big time! You will be missing out too if you don’t make it a point to stop in for dinner.  If you can get past the dark and dreary front bar/lounge area, and the dated decor, then you will be happily rewarded with a delicious Italian meal.  I recommend trying one of their signature Fra Diavola dishes – but choose carefully because the hot variety is really hot!

If You Go:

Agatina’s Restaurant
2967 Buffalo Road
Rochester, NY 14624
Phone: (585) 426-0510
Fax: (585) 426-0208

Website:  http://agatinas.com/
Email:      unable to find email address
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AgatinasRestaurant
Twitter:    @Agatinas_NY

Details:
Business Hours:  Mon-Thurs: 4:00PM – 9:00PM, Fri-Sat:4:30PM – 9:30PM, Sunday: Closed
Cuisine:                      Italian-American Continental Cuisine
Meals Served:             Dinner
Children’s Menu:          Yes
Accepts Credit Cards:   Yes
Handicap Accessible:    Yes
Attire:                         Casual
Requires Reservations: No
Table Service:             Yes
Take Out:                   Yes
Outdoor Seating:         No
Parking:                      Free and plentiful in private lot
Valet Service:              No
Bar Seating:                Yes
Alcohol:                      Yes
Coat Check:                Self-serve coat room
Date opened:              1984
Date visited:               Monday, June 15, 2015 (dinner)

 ***

Restaurant Review: Mamma G’s Ristorante Italiano (Rochester, NY)

mama gs

Surroundings

Located in Henrietta (Rochester), NY, Mamma G’s Ristorante Italiano occupies the former location of Infantino’s Market Restaurant (and Friendly’s before that) not far from the intersection of E. Henrietta Road and Jefferson Road, near Calkins Road. It is easily visible from the street, thanks to a large post sign displaying their red and green logo.

Parking is plentiful and conveniently available in a private lot next to the restaurant. A small asphalt ramp to the front walkway enables easy handicap accessibility from the parking lot.  Because it is on a busy road near the 390 expressway and interstate 90, exiting the restaurant to the left can be tricky.

Atmosphere

The entrance to Mamma G’s includes a small vestibule with an additional interior door, which keeps out the wind on a chilly day. I noticed that the entry alcove is outfitted with a ceiling heater, which blew warm air on us as we entered and exited – a nice touch on a chilly, late winter afternoon.

Mama Gs Center Work Area, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Mama Gs Center Work Area, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

We were greeted promptly upon our entry, but there wasn’t a true host/hostess stand. The first thing I noticed upon entering the restaurant was the open work area in the center of the dining room, facing the entrance. In this multi-purpose area, the host greets guests, and the servers prepare salads, fill beverage glasses and plate desserts.

Perhaps a row of strategically placed plants or mini-privacy screens could enclose this work space, preventing diners from viewing these behind-the-scenes type of activities. Honestly, this open layout was rather distracting.

At the back of that same open work area, the servers communicate with the chef through a small service window. Neither the kitchen nor the chef were easily visible from the dining room, as is often seen in “open style” restaurants.

Mama Gs Coat Room Hall, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Mamma Gs Coat Room Hall, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

Seating consisted of a mix of booths and tables and chairs. Booths lined the perimeter of the dining room, while tables and chairs dotted the rest of the landscape.

The flooring in the open work area appeared to be a beige laminate. The dining room floor, however, was outfitted with a forest green carpet in a nondescript pattern.  The walls were painted a lighter shade of green, while the darker green upholstery on the booths and chairs matched the carpet.

From our table, I could see that Mamma G’s offered a self-service coat rack in a hallway in the back of the restaurant. Strangely, it was situated directly across from the restrooms, which is an unfortunate placement. I would have expected a coat rack to be near the exit, so customers would be reminded that they hung their coat there, as they passed by it on their way out.

Menu

The lunch menu at Mamma G’s included several sections, some of which were labeled in Italian.  It included appetizers, Prima Piatti (meaning “before the meal/course”)i, Risotti (meaning Risotto), 2nd Piatti (meaning “Second meal/course”), Salads, Soups and Desserts. Soups were offered in both a bowl ($8) or a cup ($5), which seemed a little above the average soup price for the area.  We were also given a separate Panini Menu, which I assumed was specific to the lunch crowd. It included five panini options, ranging in price from $5-$10.

Our waitress expertly recited several lunch and dessert specials, with great detail. However, I would have liked to read the specials either on a menu board at the entrance or on a printed daily menu at the table.

Food

Our server quickly brought us a basket of sliced, home-made Italian bread, which I thought was a nice touch for a lunch service. It was fresh and crusty, and it didn’t last long – we quickly gobbled it up.

On this lunch visit, I was interested in trying Mamma G’s pasta, so I ordered one of the lunch specials – Linguine with Green Peppers and Clams.  I added on a Garden Salad with Italian Dressing, all for $15. I was happy to have linguine which was not drowned in a heavy, cheesy cream sauce. Instead, this linguine (which appeared to be home-made, although I did not confirm this), was tossed with a silky sauce of earthy olive oil, tender clams and diced green peppers. Halved cherry tomatoes added a splash of acidity and color. The linguine was cooked perfectly al dente and the plump and flavorful chopped clams clung to it nicely. Seasoned just right, I really enjoyed this dish. It made me realize how much I miss a hot lunch, as opposed to a deli sandwich or big salad.

Mama Gs Linguine with Clams, Tomatoes and Green Pepper, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Mamma Gs Linguine with Clams, Tomatoes and Green Pepper, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

My garden salad was fresh and crisp. It contained a variety of salad greens, as well as halved cherry tomatoes, a few slices of cucumber and a handful of croutons. I noticed that our server added salt to the salad as she prepared it. I prefer not to have added salt in my food, as I have become used to a low-salt diet over the years. The Italian dressing was zesty, but I found the salad to be a bit overdressed.  I would have consumed less dressing if it had been on the side, as I had ordered it. Still, I enjoyed the salad.

Mama G's Garden Salad with Italian Dressing, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Mamma G’s Garden Salad with Italian Dressing, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

My lunch companion ordered off of the Panini Menu; she ordered a Panino con Pepperoni and Uova, which is a scrambled egg and green pepper panini sandwich. Instead of french fries, she opted for a medley of grilled zucchini and eggplant.  All of this for only $7.00 – what a great lunch value!

Mama Gs Egg and Pepper Panini, with a side of Grilled Eggplant and Zucchini, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Mamma Gs Egg and Pepper Panini, with a side of Grilled Eggplant and Zucchini, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

She remarked that this meatless menu choice was perfect for a Lenten Friday lunch. Not only did she enjoy the panini, with its flavorful peppers, but she also said that the side of grilled zucchini and eggplant was the best grilled veggies she had ever eaten. I was impressed with that revelation.  I agree that the veggies looked delightful, with their inviting grill marks and perfect amount of blackened char. She said that they were cooked well, in that they were not crunchy or crisp. Instead, they were gently pliable.

Mama G's Grilled Zucchini and Eggplant with Egg and Pepper Paninim Courtesy: Sharon Garofanello
Mamma G’s Grilled Zucchini and Eggplant with Egg and Pepper Paninim Courtesy: Sharon Garofanello
Mama G's Zeppoli with Blueberry Topping, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Mamma G’s Zeppoli with Blueberry Topping, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

I don’t usually have dessert with lunch, but I couldn’t resist the home-made zeppoli. Zeppoli are an Italian pastry, traditionally consisting of a deep-fried dough ball, filled with a custard, jelly or a similar filling, and topped with powdered sugar. Mamma G’s zeppoli were light and airy, filled with a creamy custard and topped with whipped cream, and a dollop of blueberry sauce.  A little larger than usual, this dessert was an extra treat priced at only $3.50 each.

Mama Gs Biscotti with Almonds, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Mamma Gs Biscotti with Almonds, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

Just when we thought that the sweet treats were done, our server delivered two freshly baked almond biscotti, alongside our lunch check. They were starting to sell them and she wanted us to give them a try Hey, that’s so much better than the fresh orange slices or packaged fortune cookies you get with your check at many Asian restaurants!

My lunch companion said that the biscotti were baked twice, giving them an extra crunch. They would most certainly be perfect for dipping into a hot cup of coffee. However, they were tasty on their own as well, loaded with almonds.

Service

We were happy with the service at Mamma G’s Ristorante Italiano.  We were greeted and seated promptly, and with a friendly smile. The host (whom I think is also the owner) showed us to our table and politely described the specials for the day.  He is a soft-spoken person, causing us to learn in and concentrate on his words – he is obviously passionate about the food.

When our server saw that I was twirling my linguine with a fork and a teaspoon, she quickly brought over a tablespoon.  Interestingly, the host offered me a tablespoon just a minute later, then realizing that the situation had already been rectified!  Both the host and the server checked on us during lunch, refilling our water and offering a refill of our bread basket. Also, my friend liked their flexibility in substituting grilled vegetables for the french fries – and at no extra charge.

Other than my salad being served dressed, rather than with the dressing on the side, I have no complaints about the service.

Overall Impression

This was an enjoyable lunch outing.  We were very happy with our food, the service and the staff’s friendly and welcoming attitude.  Mamma G’s Ristorante Italiano is suitable for casual lunch or dinner with your family, co-workers or friends.  With the look of a casual family restaurant and the food of a more formal Italian eatery, it offers the best of both worlds. I would like to go back to try Mamma G’s tomato sauce – perhaps a dinner visit is in order.

If you go:

Mamma G’s Ristorante Italiano
2133 East Henrietta Rd
Rochester, NY 1462

Phone:        585-359-0990
Website:     unable to find a website at this time
Email:         unable to find an email address
Facebook:   https://www.facebook.com/mammagsristorante/info?tab=overview
Twitter:      @MammaGs_NY

Details:
Business Hours:  Mon: Closed, Tues-Thurs: 11 am – 9 pm, Fri-Sun: 11 am – 10 pm
Cuisine:                        Italian
Meals Served:               Lunch, Dinner
Children’s Menu:           No
Accepts Credit Cards:    Yes
Handicap Accessible:     Yes
Attire:                          Casual
Requires Reservations:  No
Table Service:              Yes
Take Out:                    Yes
Outdoor Seating:          Not that I saw
Parking:                      Free and plentiful in a private lot
Valet Service:              No
Bar Seating:                No
Alcohol:                      No
Coat Check:                No, but available self-serve coat rack
Date opened:              February, 2015
Date visited:               Friday, March 20, 2015 (lunch)

 ***