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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Armory Plated

From the Food Vault Dept.: A friend recently dined at Parillo’s Armory Grill in Amsterdam and wondered if I’d ever been there. Let’s go back eight years so you may wonder no more.


AMSTERDAM’S SOUTH SIDE hugs the appropriate shore of the Mohawk River, a community that has seen fewer upheavals than the mill town to the north, but one which nevertheless continues to bleed away its ethnic identity. But you can’t blame the Parillo family for that.

Jackie Parillo | Photo by B. A. Nilsson
They opened the Armory Grill, above which the Amsterdam Armory towers, in the early 1970s. They have since added another restaurant nearby and family members operate other Montgomery County eateries.

A cheerful amalgam of restaurant and bar, the Armory Grill is a neighborhood watering hole, meeting place, party location – it’s eager and versatile, and serves the kind of food that makes it an ongoing destination.

“You didn’t have the Jack Daniels steak?” Jackie Parillo asked me. “You have to try it. You’re just going to have to come back and try it.” She and her husband, Ralph, own and run the place, which also means they run the kitchen, aided by an young and enthusiastic crew.

And while it’s true that I didn’t have the J.D. steak (which is marinated in the titular beverage, served with a stuffed baked potato, $22), I pleaded that a review visit to an Italian restaurant should involve a signature pasta.

Vodka rigatoni ($14) is such a dish. It’s a simple preparation, rich with heavy cream and a cheese, Jackie assures me, that is fanatically chosen. You can have it with chicken for $16; I elected add a link of spicy sausage for just a dollar extra.

It’s a full-bore dinner, with soup or salad and a side of potatoes or pasta, depending upon the entrée you order. And there’s plenty to choose from, arranged by category: pasta, chicken, veal, seafood and steaks & chops.

Not too many surprises await. You’ve got your basic pasta – spaghetti, linguini, rigatoni – with tomato sauce and meatballs or sausage ($10). Linguini with red or white clam sauce is $15, cavatelli with broccoli is $12 (add shrimp for another $5), and fettucini Alfredo, that classic cousin of the vodka rigatoni, is $13, rising to $19 if you want to dress it with broccoli, shrimp and mushrooms.

And, of course, there’s parmigiana. Eggplant or chicken parm is $13; veal will run you $15. Other chicken dishes are named to salute family and friends: Belle Jacqueline ($15) is a breaded cutlet cooked with artichoke hears, mushrooms and roasted peppers and topped with mozzarella; pollo alla Gina ($15) features prosciutto and mushrooms in a cream sauce; chicken Parillo ($15) is sparked by olives and pepperoncini in a garlic-enhanced wine sauce.

Standard-issue veal dishes include Milanese (breaded, sautéed, served with broccoli), Sorrentino (eggplant and mozzarella with a marinara), carciofe (see Belle Jacqueline) and saltimbocca (spinach, prosciutto), all in the $16-$18 range; add shrimp (veal Theresa) for $19.

Photo by B. A. Nilsson
The haddock-based seafood dishes are priced around $14 and even include a parmigiana. Shrimp scampi (served with cappellini) is $17; swordfish (blackened or charbroiled) is $15, and an all-out seafood fest of frutti di mare, with calamari and scungili in the mix, is $24.

And, of course, there are steaks, along with a couple of pork chop dishes.

Tricia, our server, was familiar enough with the offerings to steer me where I needed to go, and I took her nod of approval as I requested a starter of roasted red peppers and provolone ($8) as a reinforcement of my wise and discerning way with a menu. Then I saw her do the same thing at a neighboring table.

But the appetizer was a good one, with appropriately sharp provolone and a few anchovies to set off the flavors. My friend Richard took the opportunity to order escargot ($8), which arrived somewhat anachronistically in shells, topped with traditional garlic butter.

Giving us a buttery superfetation at the table. The bread served with dinner is already spread with garlic butter, making it all the easier to plow through a carbs-rich basketful before any other courses arrive.

But arrive they do, with our salads preceding the appetizers because Tricia worried that we might get too hungry while the snails cooked. By the time our entrées were served, we felt daunted by the portion sizes. Not huge, but certainly a sufficiency.

Veal Francese, Richard’s entrée, is a $16 classic, an egg-enhanced sautée that finishes the meat and its accompanying mushrooms with a garlicky wine sauce. He didn’t even make a stab at the pasta served with it.

That we were talked into dessert is another tribute to our server, whose manner suggested we’d be downright ungentlemanly were we to eschew the sweets – which turned out to be good but standard-issue stuff (chocolate layer cake, cheesecake).

We showed up on a Friday evening without a reservation, and waited a few minutes to get a table. By the time we left, the dining room was emptying but the bar was full. Throughout the evening, Jackie emerged periodically from the kitchen and greeted everyone (or so it seemed to me) by name. Soon enough, we were included. It’s a family-run place with an extended family of customers, proof that a restaurant’s longevity is based as much on its sociability as it is on culinary arts.

Parillo’s Armory Grill, 67 Bridge St., Amsterdam, 842-2004, Serving dinner Wed-Thu 5-9, Fri-Sat 5-10, Sun 1-8. AE, V, MC.

Metroland Magazine, 12 December 2007

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