Paolo Lombardi’s Ristorante, West Sand Lake Road, Wynantskill.
Believe it or not, Wynantskill is home to more than just banks. If you live in the Capital Region and have a craving for some upscale Italian food, few places will hit the spot like Paolo Lombardi’s Ristorante. Cheapskates beware: some of the dishes run on the high end for Italian food but, as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. They have the whole nine as far as Italian food goes and their menu offers a lot of unique dishes. Definitely try the veal, I recommend the Cotoletta alla Paolino -- veal topped with ricotta cheese, prosciutto and eggplant. Everything is top notch, they have a huge wine list and plenty of room to park outside. Check it out, you’ll thank me later and you'll head home with enough leftovers for at least lunch, maybe dinner.
Jose Malones - River Street, Troy
We live in the age of mash-up's. YouTube is full of videos mashing together two pre-recorded songs to make something new and fresh. Artists like Girl Talk and Super Mash Bros. have made a living off of it. If you haven't been to Jose Malone's you're probably spending way too much time choosing chain restaurants eating thawed frozen food or eating microwave popcorn for dinner. Jose Malones mashes Irish and Mexican food. What more is there to say? Corned beef on one visit and pork tamales the next. Homemade guacamole and the region's best margaritas while watching an Irish act perform live.
Jimmy Casey's Restaurant - Washington Avenue, Rensselaer
Besides catching the train or grabbing the region's best view of the 4th of July fireworks, I have one more reason for you to visit the city of Rensselaer. Casey's Restaurant is a gem that not too many people who aren't local know about. You've probably driven by it and never thought about stopping. Besides Jimmy Casey being a terrifically nice person, the place never disappoints. Start with some bread & garlic oil or a heaping plate of chicken nachos if you are really hungry before digging into a menu where everything from the burgers to steaks to chicken parm will keep you coming back. Parking is tricky, especially on weekends, but don't let that stop you. Forget your preconceptions, Rensselaer is a great and safe little city.
Villa Valenti – West Sand Lake Road, Wynantskill
Save room for the bread, and it's ok to ask to take some home with you. Seriously. Villa Valenti is a great meal every time. You'll come back again and again as long as you don't mind birthdays and anniversaries happening around you -- there were five celebrations on my last trip. The menu can be a bit overwhelming to the uninitiated, but it's also what makes Villa Valenti so great. You can have a completely new experience each meal. After you devour some of that famous homemade bread, order the braciole as an appetizer, extremely tender and tasty. While you can't go wrong with pasta dishes because of their homemade sauce (also jarred and sold at Hannaford), my preference is to have pasta and sauce as a side to a chicken, veal seafood or beef entree. My mouth still waters when I think about the Chicken Saverio, a sautéed chicken breast rolled with ham and mutz (mozzarella), with a great mustard cream sauce. Wow!
Hender’Son’s Bar & Grill - Lower Main Street in Schaghticoke
If you haven’t heard of Hender’Son’s that’s okay, that’s why I’m here. I discovered it years ago and while it has a true cult following, there are those who may only head up to Schaghticoke once a year, in August. If that’s the case, you need to get up there more often and you need to give Hender’Son’s a try. Well-known for the pizza the restaurant does everything right and even cooks a mean prime rib on Fridays. It’s your neighborhood bar with down home service and brings in that element of your favorite restaurant with good old home cooked meals.Do you agree, which restaurants would you put on your Five Gems Lists?