Last week I met my parents for dinner at the Alto Grille in Schenectady before they saw a show at Proctor’s theatre. The restaurant is part of the Parken Inn, and is nicely placed right next to the theatre. The convenience makes it an easy draw for customers, the back exit of the restaurant walks into the hallways of Proctor’s. Bonus.
It’s easy enough to get people in the doors, but how’s the food? The menu is fairly standard: French fries, nachos, chicken parm,
burgers. My family ordered an onion ring tower which looked cool and tasted like onion rings, always a good sign. It came with some good sauces, a horseradish and a “tzatiki” sauce which was interesting.
For my main course I ordered the mozzarella sandwich, which is described as, “Fresh mozzarella with ripe tomatoes and romaine lettuce. Layered with basil, pesto and extra virgin olive oil. Served on a crispy ciabatta bread.” This would have been a perfectly good sandwich had it come as described. What did I get? Mozz cheese, lettuce, and tomato on bread. A couple of bites into the sandwich I was thinking to myself, “Wow, this is really boring.” I explored the sandwich and found that there was very little oil on the bread, no pesto, and definitely no basil. On top of that, the “crispy” ciabatta bread wasn’t crispy and tasted like cheap bread.
To try to improve my situation I asked the waitress for a side of pesto, she felt bad about the lacking pesto and came out with a cup for me. I momentarily thought about sending the sandwich back, but it wasn’t like it was inedible and I really didn’t feel like being that person. I’d like to say that they were busy and perhaps overwhelmed because of the show at Proctor’s,but unfortunately there were a number of empty tables so that wouldn’t be true.
I decided to eat half (by the way the sandwich came with homemade chips that were good, not great, but good) and bring the rest home to be a little mini project for myself. The next day for lunch I heated up my George Foreman and got to work. I added to the sandwich a pesto/mayo mix, sun dried tomatoes, and a pickle. If I had had roasted red peppers around I would have added that too. I grilled the sandwich until the cheese had started to melt (essentially making myself a panini) and sat down for lunch.
Not to toot my own horn or anything, but my version of the mozzarella
sandwich was significantly better than Alto’s. Simply grilling the sandwich gave it huge improvement. Overall, the Alto Grille had a cool atmosphere and decent food, but I have to admit the likely reason it is still in business is its proximity to Proctor’s. Would I go back again? Nope.