Table Talk: Cirelli’s Osteria
So this great, well-known Italian chef says he’s going to take over a Mexican restaurant in South Glens Falls. Not just any restaurant, but one that housed Jake’s Roundup, one of the area’s finest while under the ownership of Elliot Heyman.
The folks across the falls knew something different was coming in 1992 when a huge mural was painted on the outside wall, rope lighting lined the porch and a horse placed outside. Inside, everything imaginable dotted the walls including plastic chili peppers, bison heads, stuffed beaver and moose, along with pinto prints on the chairs and bar stools.
For several years, it was one of the best, but times change, families grow, priorities are refined and Elliot decided to exit the demanding restaurant business. Most recently the Ranchero Steak House and Cantina occupied the spot.
Now let’s get back to my friend, the well-traveled Italian chef, opening a Mexican restaurant. Didn’t make a lot of sense, but we tried it, and it still didn’t make much sense. Suddenly Cirelli’s Osteria appeared out of nowhere while providing a new atmosphere, new menu and hopefully a new, vibrant outlook to a longtime great location.
Osteria in Italian is an eating establishment where the owner hosts people in an establishment offering Italian food, less formal than a restaurant yet much like a tavern or bistro. Here Michael Cirelli is doing just that. Along with his wife Kathleen, the eclectic décor is slowly disappearing and a cleaner, casual atmosphere is evolving. The bar still has those two beautiful draught stations but most remnants of the deer and moose heads have been replaced with mirrors and new chandeliers.
Chef Mike’s menu starts with a sesame encrusted tuna, deep fried artichokes, beans and greens, white mussels Fra diavolo and yes, a touch of Mexican cheese quesadilla.
Salad offerings are a chopped Caprese, nutty spinach and a panzanella with garlic, onions, peppers, olives, parmesan and bread capers.
Chef’s favorites include chicken parm, seafood Fra diavolo, veal Marsala and eggplant parm as well as “The L. R. Big Ass Pasta Bowl.” This is described as penne pasta and meatballs, enough for you and your friends!
There is a great assortment of beef offerings including a New York, Cowboy, filet, “house steak” as well as various burgers. There is also a 6 oz. top sirloin; bourbon glazed with bacon bits and crispy onion straws. All dinners are served with a house salad, rolls and butter.
Companion and I chose the large dining room and drew Andrew, a relative in training, for our waiter. He dutifully read the night’s specials and brought us some wonderful bruschetta bread anointed with fresh basil, garlic, diced tomatoes and onions.
We split a heaping bowl of salad that included fresh roasted beets, goat cheese, fennel, candied walnuts and balsamic dressing.
Companion opted for the catch of the day: two generous filets of tilapia, pan seared and accompanied by spinach in a light white bean broth and basil oil. The fish was tender, moist and lived up to her expectations.
For Yours Truly, I chose a heaping platter of chicken ala Toscana. Chef Mike’s version is a chicken breast and mushrooms sautéed in lemon white wine sauce and layered with prosciutto over angel hair pasta. All this was covered with a thick layer of melted mozzarella. A nice combination yet somewhat overwhelmed by all the cheese.
Even though we were destined to take half of our generous servings home, we checked the dessert selections that included a huge chocolate layer cake, churros (Mexican style donuts and a dipping sauce), cheese cake and a mud pie.
A great raspberry sorbet bomb doused with chocolate and whipped cream was our choice and fit the bill nicely.
Andrew did the family proud. He delivered friendly, very attentive service and in the Cirelli tradition, will be an asset. Michael and Kathleen have made the right decision to do what they do best; serve up excellent Italian fare in a friendly atmosphere.
Now he’s right down the road from Mama at Luisa’s, so South Glens Falls can lay claim to two great Italian restaurants. I sincerely hope that Michael has found his new home and enjoys the popularity and success that was once Jake’s, while making it completely his own.