Clemenza’s: Some of the Best Italian Food Around
After last week’s disappointing trip to local-chain Pastini Pastaria (overcooked pasta, ridiculous waits), we were thrilled to finally make it to Clemenza’s Italian American Cafe in neighboring Albany. Hands-down it has to be the best Italian place in this area, especially when you consider the quantity and quality you get for the price.
I had the Rigatoni Clemenza, with a unique spicy-sweet tomato sauce fortified with with pureed broccoli and shreds of the stalk, cubes of dried salami, a dusting of Italian bacon and baked cheese. Pictured is a more than ample “medium” portion. For just dollars more, Clemenza’s lets the big eaters order a larger plate of the entree. Dan took that route, happily feasting on baked spaghetti with a rich three meat (beef, turkey and pork) sauce. Clemenza’s is his Platonic ideal of a restaurant: homestyle, unpretentious pastas and simple sauces that speak for themselves. With two small cups of the house red, the bill came to only $26. Move over, Mamma Zu.
Restaurants like Clemenza are slowly revitalizing blue-collar downtown Albany, which unjustly plays step-sister to tonier Corvallis, though both small cities have similar sized-populations. Leading the progress are restauranteurs Matt and Janel Bennett. They’ve run the more upscale Sybaris in Albany for several years. That’s where we had that magical mushroom dinner this fall. Then the Bennetts opened Clemenza’s just down the main street in June. Chef Matt Bennett is a rising culinary star here, especially since he cooked at the Beard House in NYC.
Albany could use a third spot with his magic touch. Let’s hope a rumor suggesting that was in the cards comes true!