Saturday, September 08, 2007

Cella Bistro - Schenectady

In my second review of the day (I promise to go slower in the future), we went to Cella Bistro in Schenectady last night for my mom's birthday (which of course was really another day - she went out with friends that night).

Cella Bistro is in Schenectady on Rosa Road, very close to Ellis Hospital. Overall it's a great restaurant. There were some negative aspects to the experience that I describe below, but they are mostly not the fault of the restaurant and you are unlikely to experience the same problems.

First of all, the interior is really gorgeous. The bar is separated from the tables by a curving brick half-wall. There are other brick walls inside and this look works well. The hardwood floors are also quite beautiful. But wait, there's more. In one corner there's a couch and a couple chairs with a coffee table. It's a bit weird to see that in a restaurant, but it also works. Since we were eating early and the restaurant was not crowded yet, it was a good place to take our 2-year-old.

The food was very good. Cella Bistro is definitely shooting for a higher level "cuisine" thing. You don't see veal parm, fettucine alfredo, or spaghetti with marinara on the menu. When we tried to order spaghetti for our kids, they didn't have any. They did have other appropriate pastas and the kids were relatively satisfied (to the extent that our children ever are).

My mom and I split a salad with beets, mixed greens and goat cheese (on the side since mom is currently vegan). I liked the array of salad choices and this salad was good. My wife said her salad was good too. I think she had mixed greens with fontina cheese on a cracker. We also had a pizza appetizer. We ordered it for the girls and had it simplified dramatically from the fancy description on the menu. Of course they didn't eat it, so we did and it was good.

For an entree, I had a paella dish. I wavered before ordering because I've never been a paella guy, but the various ingredients with it looked attractive (especially the shrimp, scallops and sausage). It was the best paella I've ever had, but it's still not my dish.

I advised mom to call ahead and request a vegan dish, and she did so. They brought her a pasta dish with a nice variety of veggies. She liked it. Notable about this is that they made the pasta special for her, as they did not have vegan pasta.

My wife nervously ordered the lasagna dish, as this was not a typical lasagna and she is not always adventurous. It had a bechamel sauce and swiss chard. This was not her thing -- too cheesy for one thing, but still okay, and she wants to go back and try something else.

There are a variety of somewhat interested details about our experience. The restaurant was very good about dealing with our requests for changes, as we had made special orders for mom and the kids. The service was slow for us, but that was partly due to our special orders and only a problem because we were there with kids, as small children don't sit well for long meals (well, ours don't anyway).

At one point I took the two girls for a walk outside. On the way in I had noticed several signs warning about parking issues, specifically mentioning Donnan Street. Cella Bistro is on the corner of Rosa Road and Donna. We walked up Donnan and I could see the problem. The neighbors have all posted "no parking" signs just about everywhere they can. It would seem they don't like having a restaurant there. I don't think their antipathy is at Cella Bistro in particular, as there was a restaurant there before and some of the signs look pretty old.

Cella Bistro definitely does not fit in with the neighbors. Parked at or near the restaurant were a number of new cars, often German, Japanese, or otherwise fancy. I think there was even a Toyota Prius. Walking up Donnan Street I don't think I saw a single vehicle less than 10 years old. There were a number of junk pickups and cars. I did see one foreign car, a Saab with badly faded paint. Jeff Foxworthy would have been uncomfortable here. I was too. I think one of the neighbors kids yelled something at us, but I didn't hear what he said. The houses in general did not look well kept (there were two exceptions). Most diners will not notice this, I suspect.

One other thing. They do not accept Discover Card. I see this once in a while but for the life of me can't understand why any business that takes credit cards would not take Discover. If your credit card processor doesn't take it, switch processors.

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