A look inside the new Sciortino's, and talking with Matt Baumgartner about Albany's potential

Frank Sciortino's grandson, Matt.

At first glance, the old diner car still looks like the Miss Albany -- well, a scrubbed and polished version of the Miss Albany. The booths are the same - the classic diner floors, counters and tile. But the walls are the first give-away that you're not in the Miss Albany anymore.

The famous signs warning patrons about unruly children have been replaced by classic old photos. They're from the families of Matt Baumgartner and his business partners, Jimmy and Demetra Vann. Sciortino's is named for Baumgartner's mother's family -- specifically for his grandparents, Frank and Rachel Sciortino, whose pictures occupy a prominent space behind the front counter.

The latest in Baumgartner's string of Capital Region business ventures -- and his continuing effort to bring life into to Albany's warehouse district -- opens on Wednesday.

Here's a look inside...

About Sciortino's

Sciortinos exterior

Matt Baumgartners grandparents

Sciortinos interior 1

Sciortino's simple menu is composed of a few pizzas and a small variety of Utica delicacies such as tomato pie and chicken riggies -- another homage to Baumgartner's family (he grew up in Utica).

"Utica, New York has its own sort of food thing going on. There are menu items from Utica that you don't find anywhere else -- the chicken riggies, the baked hats, tomato pie for sure," he says. "The pizza frite is what my grandmother made like non-stop for festivals at her church -- it's fried dough."

The recipes are all handed down from his family. "It's my mother's sauce recipe," he says of the simple slow-cooked meat sauce they'll be using.

Sciortinos menu 1

Sciortinos menu 2

Another homage? The shelves of Carlo Rossi jug wine.

"That's what my grandparents used to drink," Matt says, "and that's what Demetra's parents used to drink. That 's what everyone drinks in Utica -- cheap jug wine."

He says he expects to take a ribbing about it, and if people really want other wines, he'll consider expanding, but for now, that's what they'll serve -- in addition to beers such as Utica Club, Brooklyn, Peroni, and Saranac.

Sciortino's also will also put a focus on dessert, with cheesecake from Cheesecake Machismo, cakes and cupcakes from Averill Park's Pie Squared Bakery, and Saranac Root Beer floats.

Matt says he's hoping Sciortino's will be a place that families come, in addition to the late night and business lunch crowd. "I want people to feel like this place has been around here for a long time. For people who want something that isn't a chain restaurant. Independently owned -- old fashioned."

He says he's very close to his own family, especially his late grandfather, who was thrilled to know about the name and theme for the new restaurant. "It feels great to come in here and see all the pictures on the walls."

Sciortinos collage

Sciortino wedding photo

A vision for Broadway and Albany

Sciortino's joins two other Baumgartner establishments -- Wolff's Biergarten (right next door) and the Olde English Pub -- on Broadway in Albany.

Baumgartner says he didn't necessarily have a vision for that section of the city when he and his business partners opened Noche in 2005 (the upscale lounge didn't work out, and the space was turned into Wolff's in 2009). But it's pretty clear that he has one now.

"I firmly believe this is going to be a really bustling part of Albany -- it is already. If you come down here at night it's like full-on, cars all over the place," he says. "It just has a nice feel -- Broadway is so wide and when you see the RCA dog it's cool. All those buildings so tight along the street -- I think are really beautiful. It just has a old-fashioned feel down here . There's space, parking, great old buildings. All these buildings are for sale and there are all these rumors now about people to put in restaurants and whatnot."

He's invested a lot in the area -- he also lives in a loft near Wolff's and Sciortino's -- and he says he really believes in the potential of all of Albany, not just the warehouse district.

"I think the growth on Delaware Avenue was also important. Being able to go to New World Bistro and go see a movie at The Spectrum -- I'll take that experience over any in the country -- that feels like the experience I want when I live in Albany. And then I come down here and I go to the beer garden I get another experience -- but it should be like that. When you go to New York, you go to different neighborhoods and get a different feeling and you choose where you want to live based on that feeling."

What would he like to see on Broadway next?

"Well, more housing, of course. To turn a lot of these great buildings into cool residential spaces would be great. I think we have every box checked for Albany -- I think it's a great place to live. But I think we could do a better job of attracting people who didn't live here that go to school here, that are from bigger cities, and keeping them here with things like interesting housing, interesting bars and restaurants, and neighborhoods you can' find in any other cities. Otherwise we're going to lose out to the Austins and Bostons and the Philadelphias of the world. We need to compete with them and to create a lifestyle to keep them here. I think it's a slow build, but it's coming."

Also: he wants a Cuban restaurant on Broadway. "A fun, loud, amazing Cuban restaurant. Something with real vintage appeal, with really great drinks and great Cuban food."

If no one else opens it, will he?

He laughs, "Who knows?"
____

Earlier and elsewhere:
+ Last week's Metroland included a profile of Matt Baumgartner and his various projects
+ As you well know, Matt is also the owner of Bombers, in Albany and Schenectady. Construction on the franchised location in Troy started this summer. [Biz Review]
+ Miss Albany Diner building sold to Matt Baumgartner and partners
+ To: Roy McDonald, From: Bombers and Matt Baumgartner, Re: marriage equality
+ Interesting in 2009: Matt Baumgartner

Find It

Sciortino's
893 Broadway
Albany, NY 12207

Comments

OK so what are baked hats and chicken riggies? I'm intrigued....

What makes this really neat is that I think this has always been more about saving the Miss Albany Diner and respecting the history of its owners than about opening a new restaurant and be successful so they can make a bunch of cash.

Having said that, it looks excellent and I can't wait to try it. THe Utica food angle is really interesting to me, I have heard so much about Utica food and don't really know what it is.

It looks great-- looking forward to checking it out!

Thanks for the Delaware Ave shout out. Growing up near Utica, I can't believe there's a new restaurant paying homage to that City, but it sounds like great fun.

For those that miss Utica food, thank you Matt. I hope Shultz and Dooley are represented there as well!

Oh yeah! Another crappy Italian restaurant for the area! Boy did we think big on this one.

Dina - I asked the same question about the hats on Table Hopping and someone responded that they're baked orecchiette. It sounds like it would be good since orecchiette is a thick pasta that would hold up to baking,it is named that way because it resembles an ear (orrechio is Italian for ear), not a hat. Round ravioli or even tortellini resemble hats more to me (and those were my original assumptions.).

chicken riggies = rigatoni with chicken, sweet and hot peppers, onions in a cream sauce...delicious

One glaring omission I see on that menu are Utica greens.... Can't have a Utica-centric menu without them....

A successful business person who has a vision for all of Albany who thinks old buildings are beautiful and who is a lock for the puppy vote?

Hmmm.

Ohhh pizza frite. I remember when i first moved to NY from Danbury, and went to my first fair, went to a fried dough booth and placed an order. They asked what topping I wanted, and I was confused that there were multiple choices--I said, "tomato sauce and cheese", like, duh, what else? They looked at me like I was out my mind. I will definitely be taking my dad in for a glass of Carlo Rossi (his fave) and some pizza frite.

Totally agree on the greens. Puh-leeeeease, Matt?

Can't wait to try this place!

Hey - does anyone know if Sciortino's is going to deliver? There is a seriously lack of decent delivery food in the Ten Broeck/Lower Clinton/Broadway area.
(Pleasepleaseplease!)

Tomato pie! Yes! I'll have to check it out and soon!

So we've got the Ol' West, an Irish joint, a German Biergarten, an Italian place (est. 1922?), and the Olde English... Who needs Epcot? We have downtown Albany!

"That 's what everyone drinks in Utica -- cheap jug wine."

I grew up there, and this statement is utter bullsh*t.

However, special thanks to derryX for properly translating orecchiette. Orecchiette are always fresh homemade pasta, and vary considerably from place to place. Somehow I'm doubting fresh pasta will be featured on this fairly uneventful menu.

However, if Matt gets some half-moons, I'll be there.

Another vote for including Utica Greens...that's the first thing I looked for on the menu.

It makes sense that matt would make a utica/italian place, broadway is quickly becoming a better verrick street (utica bar scene)

Utica Greens!!!

Pretty please?

Great news, best of luck! Can't wait to try this place - the more central NY flavor we can bring to anywhere, the better we'll all be!

awesome. A nice quick cheap italian place sounds good to me. Eat there and then go get your fill of some great beers in the area? Sounds good to me.

Also, a Cuban restaurant would be AWESOME. I lived in South Florida for a bit and love Cuban food.

Good luck Matt, great idea and the food and you will send the place far...sky is the limit for you!

Glad to hear real Italian food from Utica is coming to Albany.
Won't have to cart it from Utica anymore to my daughter and son in law. And the Pizza Fritta is the real stuff. Worked alongside Matt's grandparents in the Pizza Fritta Kitchen at St. Mary of Mount Carmel Festival.(the best pizza fritta in the state! Add Tomato pie to your daily staple of items. And for those who don't know, it's not a dessert!

If you come down here at night it's like full-on, cars all over the place

Well, it's great that businesses are doing well there, and I understand that there' not a huge residential push in the area, but some of us don't consider "cars all over the place" progress.

I love all the people bitching here, really glad to see people complaining about change. Albany!

The city has a lot of forward momentum right now. How about instead of complaining you go do something about it like this guy? Make something happen? Nope just sit in your chair and take a sh*t on the internet, bravo citizen.

Good Luck Matt...

...Just FYI There is some good Tomato Pie in Schenectady. I had never heard of it till I moved from Albany to Schenectady. Peraccas on North Jay St. and Civitellos right across the street both make it in two slightly different styles. Peraccas is more chewy with a thicker crust. Civitellos is a little thinner and more crispy.

What Matt gets that many others don't in Albany, is that to be successful you have to create atmosphere and attitude. You have to have style. And for most of the bar owners and restauranteurs around these parts, they just don't have it or or "get" that. Good on u Matt. You make our beloved Albany look good!

awesome, cute, cozy and delicious

Just a followup to an earlier question that myself and some other commenters had:

I saw some pictures of the food on Sciortino's facebook page, and they had one of the baked "hats." The pasta in the image resembles cavatelli, which is a little more like a dumping (thin gnocchi in essence) than orecchiette.

B, while I get the point your trying to make here, I think you're being a little short-sighted. I would rather not see "cars all over the place" either. But in order to not have "cars all over the place," we need better public transportation options in Albany. If you live within Albany itself, you might be able to take CDTA, but if you don't live there then you have to drive.

The first step is getting people there. Then, maybe, they'll start to clamor for better transportation, more affordable taxi services (it shouldn't cost me $10-15 to cab-it 2 miles, seriously), more residential options, etc. But if they don't have a reason to come there in the first place, none of that will happen.

I think it looks like a fun and affordable place to take the kids in an area where there's a lack of options for families.

I will 3rd or 4th the Utica Greens suggestion.

One minor quibble, the plural of ravioli is ravioli. Raviolis is not a word. Please fix that so word nerds such as myself can dine in peace. ;)

@Jennifer: I think you're right about it being a good place to take kids. While having lunch there last week, I thought about how much my 10-year-old self would have loved it -- the pizza, the floats, the building. (And my much older than 10-year-old current self enjoyed it, too.)

Went with hubby last night and totally enjoyed our dinner. Hubby had spaghetti and meatballs and I had the baked hats. The sauce was excellent, and loved how cheesy the baked hats were! And whats wrong with cheap wine?...I had the Paisano! We topped it off with a slice of cheesecake! Had never been to the Miss Albany Diner, but i liked the cozy feel of the place. We will definately be back. Great job and best of luck!

Best pizza in Albany, hands down. I got a sampler box the other night ... two pieces of each kind for company....three adults and three tiny children. I thought I would have enough left for a week. HA! and don't think small pieces!
The dinners are wonderful, imaginative and reasonable with just right portions.
A gem!

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