Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Café Teria in Guilderland

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


Anonymous said...

Warren I disagree. The food and quantity is not as good as Panera. They are not in a shopping cneter like Panera is so there is no draw. I didn't Like Aroma's menu though the food was good. I give this place two or three months and it will be out of business. We went and had some soup and three sandwiches and it was like 54.00. The whole premise was to be more competitive in a tough economy. I think this was a bad move.

Unknown said...

I appreciate the comment, but disagree strongly. I've been there twice. Both times I had a cup of soup (which was plenty large) and a half-sandwich for $9.95. If you get a bowl of soup and a full sandwich, of course it will cost more. But that seems unnecessary. I was full on what I had.
Yesterday I stopped at Mr. Subb. I picked up two subs, a cup of soup, and a large nuggets. It was $17. While my sandwich was pretty good (roast beef), the soup (chili) was weak. Café Teria delivers better quality than these places for slighly more money.
I also don't understand the "shopping center" comment. Panera is in a big box plaza, but Café Teria is in a mini-mall - Star Plaza. The location is not as much of a draw, but I'm not sure how many Wal-Mart shoppers are going to Panera. Panera's advantage is that it's closer to the office buildings on Washington Ave. Ext.
I also have little doubt that the owners of Café Teria are in this for the long haul. They clearly made a big investment in making this change. You don't give up on that in 3 months.

Anonymous said...

They are in a mini mall, right next to Doratos that in my humble opinion has way better sandwich and bar food selections, better tasting, better size portions, and they deliver it to your table. As does Tesoro's, I will pay 10.00 for Chicken Parm before I do that for a panini that barely has any meat on it. The shopping center comment is Panera goes to high volume areas, you pointed out the one on Washington Ave. we have gone there multiple times on the way to Crossgates, Walmarts, Home Depot, etc. Same goes for Niskayuna Commons which also has one as well in a similar setting. To your point there is not a big draw to Star Plaza. I think what made Aroma succesful is it was unique. I liked Aroma's atmosphere even though the menu wasn't my favorite, plus my wife liked it which helped lure me there. Now I told her after our visit the other day to cafeteria one good thing came out of our visit, we both hate the place now. If I want Panera I will go to Panera not a look alike. But if you like go for it! I went there the other day and there definitely weren't any lines or waiting involved.

Unknown said...

I like both Dorato's and Tesoro. I even like Panera. I wrote about it a few years ago: Panera in Albany.

As for Café Teria, I can't agree with the "barely has any meat" comment. My sandwiches have been great. I've been getting the Roast Club. Not only is it good quality, but it has more meat than Panera.

Now the big question for our friendly anonymous commenter - Have you tried the soup at Café Teria?

Anonymous said...

Ha glad you asked, unfortunately I had the clam chowder, and I must say it was wayyyy too salty. Though I did like the real bacon chunks in it. If you are ever in downtown Albany for a case go to Miranda's for a sandwich on Columbia street. Compare that for price and size to Cafeteria. Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

I actually have to disagree with most of you here. I went in with my family twice and had great experiences. On my first trip I ordered the pesto sandwich and caesar salad side and was very pleased. My kids loved the soups and salads as well. We always have loved the gelato and figured we'd give the new place a try. Everything was great and we plan to go back many more times. Also went in a second time for breakfast and finally got what I wanted with a breakfast sandwich. It was big and had real eggs instead of the stuff they give you at dunkin donuts or breuggers. I also saw someone who got belgian waffles with gelato in between them and that looked very tasty. I also really enjoyed the coffee it was a brand I havn't seen before but was very delicious. I hate to disagree with all of you but I feel its a great place and am excited to go again.