Update: Café Teria is reportedly closing on April 30, 2010.
One of my favorite restaurants in Guilderland has changed. Aromi d'Italia is now Café Teria. It looks like the ownership and staff are generally the same. There are substantial changes but one thing remains the same - the food is excellent. Oh, and they still have the same great gelato.
Update (3/9/2010): Café Teria has returned to sit-down service with a wait staff. They've also restored some entrees to the menu (including a tantalizing garlic shrimp dish), and prices might be slightly lower. Food on our lunch visit yesterday was fantastic - the Butternut Bisque got even better, and the sandwich/soup combo I ordered came with a small salad as well.
So what's different? Aromi was a sit-down restaurant where the wait staff would take your order and serve you. In the new format you order up front and wait for your food to be placed out on a counter. Then you can take your food and sit wherever you like. The entrees appear to be gone. One friend of mine was almost crying about that. The new menu is mostly soups, salads and sandwiches. I'm thrilled they have a Butternut Bisque as a regular soup choice. I've been there twice and had it both times. One of the best soups I've ever had, though it's probably not your cardiologist's first choice.
I'm not sure how the format will work in the long run. It looks roughly like Panera, but with better food at a slightly higher price. They have something very close to that place's "You Pick Two" combo, for $10. You can get two choices of a soup, a half-salad or a half-sandwich. I think that costs about $7 at Panera. Sandwiches at Café Teria are roughly $9-13. At Panera they're more like $7. The comparison ends there - Café Teria has much better quality. The soups are richer. The sandwich meats are more substantial - dare I say meatier? The salads are more interesting with higher quality ingredients. Even the bread is better, which is saying a lot because Panera has good bread.
They may have some hiccups in dealing with volume if they get a lot of customers. The soda fountain is behind the counter, which may slow down the cash register staff. But I'm not sure they have a better spot for it. Waiting for your food is a little awkward - maybe they should give people a pager which would buzz when the food is up. Or, like Juicy Burger, give you a number for your table and bring the food to you.
To sum up, Café Teria is basically a higher quality Panera - with great gelato. My wife and I might spend $17 on lunch for two at Panera, versus $25 at Café Teria. We used to spend closer to $40 at Aromi. I've read in the past that economic problems are hitting high-end restaurants hard. This is another example of it. I'll miss the Aromi entrees, but I'll be getting great soup on a regular basis now.
Note that they have a facebook page