Lombardi’s Italian Restaurant
2808 Rte 44/55
Gardiner, NY 12525
Dinner Wednesday through Monday
No Credit Cards
Pasta doesn’t get any more “homemade” than this. Right next to the bar, out in the dining room, a long wooden farm table was set with a stand mixer and pasta roller attachment. As I sipped on my wine, kitchen staff emerged to take turns using the roller. The first batch of pasta was stretched out for rows of ravioli, squeezed from a pastry bag, dollop by dollop, teasing me before I even had a chance to look at the menu. Morgan came next, with her own ball of semolina dough, feeding it through the roller, over and over until she was happy with the dimensions. It was hung on the pasta drier when she finished, waiting for the knife that would coax it into delicate strips of fettuccine. I was in heaven, and I did not expect to find it here.
It had been well over twenty years since I had last visited Lombardi’s. In those days Lombardi’s was the place to stop for a pizza and a beer, maybe a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs, maybe a game of pool on the tavern table. It has come a long way. For one thing the pool table is gone. And the menu has been “up-scaled” considerably along with the dining room. What has not changed is the family atmosphere. This is as comfortable as it gets.The current proprietors, Paul and Agatha Foti, continue a family tradition started by Agatha’s parents in the early 1970’s.
The menu at Lombardi’s is what we used to call “red sauce Italian”. I hesitate to use the phrase because some people use that phrase pejoratively. They shouldn’t. Many of the offerings are classic Italian – American dishes as opposed to traditional Italian (you won’t find veal parmigiana in Italy), but there is nothing wrong with that either. Italian kitchens first starting using tomatoes which were brought back from the Americas, so in my book this Italian cuisine is all still very much a work in progress . Just enjoy it and call it whatever you want.
We only had four for dinner last Wednesday so we couldn’t try everything on the menu, but we did our best. I started with a dish of insalata di pesce – cruddo style, razor thin slices of shrimp, scungilli and squid, simply dressed with a spritz of lemon and a drizzle of good olive oil with a little garlic. Superb dish. We shared a large platter of antipasto – slices of salumni and soppresata, house made mozzarella and provolone garnished with roasted red peppers and calamata olives. You can also order the mozzarella fresca, plated with tomatoes and artichoke hearts and marinated mushrooms. There were two dishes I want to try on my next visit – a classic clams casino topped with pancetta, and a house specialty of polpette di pesce (seafood cakes) made with chopped shrimp, crab and scallops – and angel hair pasta – seasoned, breaded and fried. Sounds great doesn’t it?
Rather than ordering individual salads we ordered a family style Caesar, which the menu forewarned was enhanced with tomatoes, calamata olives and sliced mushrooms. I definitely wanted to sample some of the fresh pasta we had just seen made in front of our eyes, but I saw one of my favorites on the menu – broiled wild Alaska sockeye salmon ($24.95). I love sockeye salmon, and I applaud restaurants that commit to serving wild salmon instead of farm raised. It is worth every penny just for the flavor, and when you consider all of the damage done by open ocean salmon farms, the cost differential is incidental. I will gladly pay the few dollars, and support any restaurateur that serves it. One extra star for the wild salmon. It was plated with some garlicky sauteed spinach. Wonderful stuff. I was happy to hear that the kitchen would gladly add a side dish of the fresh fettuccine, which came topped with a brightly flavored marinara sauce. A plate of cavatelli / $17.95 (homemade of course) were tiny gnocchi like dumplings, stuffed with ricotta. Other specials included Fettuccine Alfredo ($16.95), Beef Braciole ($19.95), and home made (of course) lasagna ($17.95)
The regular menu selections were expansive covering everything from pasta bolognese, to eggplant / chicken / veal prepared parmigiana, or marsala, or picata style. All done with house made sauces, and farm fresh vegetables. Even the wine list had a local flare with selections of Whitecliff Vineyards, Brotherhood, and Robibero Vineyards in New Paltz.
I had definitely waited much too long to get back to my old stomping grounds in Gardiner, but it will definitely not be long until our next visit. I have my eye on some polpette di pesce.
If you do stop in please let our other readers know about your visit in the comments section.