Sciortino’s – Albany, NY

The Miss Albany Diner was a well traveled breakfast spot for us. When they closed, like many, we were genuinely disappointed. On the other hand, it’s fully understandable that the owner was finally ready to retire.

It was a bit bizarre to find out that Matt Baumgartner, owner of what seems to be becoming a fairly expansive restaurant brand around the capital region, bought the diner and announced plans to open an Italian restaurant there. One thing that I knew about Matt was that The Miss Albany Diner was a special spot for him, too.

I’ve been hearing good things about Sciortino’s, and there was one other factor that made me eager to check it out.

Carlo Rossi Wine

Sciortino’s offers a fairly simple menu, some pizza, some pasta, a couple of main dishes. I saw early on that Carlo Rossi wines were going to be offered, and that triggered a great amount of nostalgia for me. There was always a jug of Carlo Rossi chianti on the table at my grandfather’s house, and he loved his pasta.

What I wanted to find out was whether Sciortino’s would hit the mark as a place I’d be proud to take my grandfather if he were still alive.

Sciortino's 1

Sciortino's 2

One evening, Cassie and I made plans to meet for dinner with friends Lynn and Bam who run a cheesecake empire and who are friends with Matt.

I ordered a glass of Carlo Rossi chianti and looked over the menu to devise a plan.

Menu + Carlo Rossi Chianti

Two dishes jumped out at me, chicken parm dinner (with spaghetti) and baked hats. The first ($13) interested me because Steve Barnes wrote a rather intriguing story breaking down chicken parm dishes in the area, and the dish at Sciortino’s was highlighted in the story. The latter ($12) interested me because I wanted to see what the hell baked hats was.

Since both were main entrees, they both came with salads, but I had the waitress hold the second salad.

Sciortino's House Salad

The meal was already going great. I had my glass of wine and a nice salad in front of me. The greens were all arugula, which I love, and the dressing tasted very much like my own Dijon balsamic vinaigrette. The croutons were delicious and crispy. There were a few shreds of freshly grated cheese on the salad; it was creamy and interesting. I’d guess that it was ricotta salata, but that’s really a shot in the dark because there wasn’t really enough to discern. The one flaw this had was that the greens were unevenly dressed, but, since the dressing was relatively thin, this wasn’t difficult to do with a fork.

Both of my main dishes came out at about the same time, but I dug into the chicken parm first because it wasn’t as hot as the baked hats.

Sciortino's Chicken Parm 1

Sciortino's chicken parm 2

The portion was very modest for the price. There were two fairly uniformly thin slices of breaded and fried chicken cutlet, a good amount of spaghetti well-dressed with a slightly meaty tomato sauce, and a piece of garlic bread. The cheese on top of the chicken was melted nicely and even slightly browned. The breading on the chicken was good, and the garlic bread was a little salty and not very warm, but tasty nonetheless.

I think my grandfather would have really loved this dish. He was very much about simplicity (and pasta; he loved spaghetti!).

Baked Hats 1

Baked Hats 2

The baked hats were more of something that my grandparents and my parents would make for me. As a kid, I never was a fan of simply sauced pasta dishes, but I loved pasta that required an additional bake or boatloads of cheese.

This dish is comprised of blanched cavatelli tossed in sauce, topped with cheese then baked. It was a hefty portion, especially considering that cavatelli is a dense pasta (I actually took most of this dish home because I was insane to order two entrees). I thought the cavatelli would have benefited from more seasoning during the blanch. Even through the sauce and cheese, the pasta was bland. Otherwise, this was really good.

I know it’s a Utica thing (and I’ve never been there), but I, for the life in me, can’t figure out why they’d call this dish baked hats.

For dessert, it turns out Matt called in some pizza fritte for us (it also turns out that he called in a crazy discount for which we’re super grateful!).

Pizza Fritte

This is another thing that reminded me of my childhood. My family used to do fried doughs either savory or sweet (my grandpa called them pizzelle fritte {he was from Naples}, not to be confused with the thin waffles, pizzelles.).

At Sciortino’s, these were unbelievably amazing. While they’re hot, they’re tossed in cinnamon sugar, and each one takes on a fairly hefty amount. Unlike a lot of the fried dough you get at fairs or other novelty stands, because of the shape, these were soft throughout, including the exterior.

Even though I was concentrating on having an enjoyable meal and enjoying the company, one thing I didn’t let escape me was to note how different from the Miss Albany Diner it felt inside. Oddly, it wasn’t very different at all. (It’s still cash only for God’s sake!)


It was apparent that lots of work went into cleaning up the old diner car and giving the place a bit of a face lift. I feel like it was done very tastefully. The place has lots of its own personality as the decor in the restaurant contains lots of classic photos of Matt’s family.

Classic Photos

I would absolutely be proud to take my grandfather to Sciortino’s if he were still alive! He would love it.


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