Olivia Dish

Meatball City

In Local Flavor, New York, Restaurant on May 16, 2010 at 11:19 am

Driving by The Meatball in Schenectady

Dear Schenectady, I owe you an apology.

When I learned of a work assignment in your city, I confess: I did not expect much. I knew nothing about your history, could barely pronounce your name.

Historic theater restored

All I knew for certain was that I’d be staying at a Hampton Inn; I braced myself for a week of chain restaurants and strip malls.

Now, after four nights and four meals, I’ve grown rather fond of the little city with the Mohawk name (which means “over by the pine plains”) and settled by more than a few Italians (thus the Little Italy). I have learned that Thomas Edison moved his company to Schenectady, which is why to this day, it is the administrative headquarters for GE. The old GE plant with the round logo on top is called “The Meatball” by everyone.

So where did we dine in the meatball city?

Next to historic Proctor Theater

The Hampton Inn, it turned out, was located on the main street–State Street–in Schenectady’s downtown.  A stroll down State Street took us by the restored Proctor Theater to Aperitivo Bistro, a fun place for dinner with pizzas, pasta and a mix that makes it a something for everyone kind of restaurant.  My colleague, Blade Wellington, ordered a pizza; I had gnocchi (with meat sauce, no meatballs). Both were tasty.

Bombers Burrito Bar
We wandered into this sports bar on Taco Tuesday. The portions were tremendous—usually a bad sign, I find—but the food was good. Blade pointed out that everyone in the bar was younger than we are. I didn’t notice that but did see a number of young women with their backs bared, despite the evening’s unseasonably low temperatures and freeze warning.  Apparently in Schenectady, once spring arrives, the warm weather clothes come out to stay.

Dinner in Little Italy

This required us to venture over a few blocks along Jay Street to the neighborhood designated as Little Italy. Cornell’s is one of those old-fashioned places you imagine families have been going to for years.

House-made cavatelli-wanted to deep fry these noodles and make a cheese snack

We had the only homemade pasta on the menu—the cavatelli–a pasta made with ricotta cheese ( and yes, served with meatballs).  The servings were huge and the pasta, though tasty, was very heavy.  Consider sharing (it’s enough for four people) if you ever find yourself ordering this dish at Cornell’s.

Bangkok Bistro
Noodles from a different land this time—I’d been running by this restaurant for three days, noticing the awesome aromas, and begged my colleague to make this our dinner destination so that I could check it out.

Noodles of the non-Italian variety

I had wide noodles with shrimp, a mildly spicy dish.  Blade, a cautious eater, went with Pad Thai.  This was easily our best meal.

Yes, I’m just getting to know the meatball city, but there are at least two more places in Schenectady I’d like to try: the crepe restaurant on Jay Street and an Afghan restaurant called Kabul Night. Okay, maybe a third, the hot dog joint—is it Mike’s?—with the highly amusing hotdog and French fry guys standing out front.  I’d love other suggestions (because I expect I’ll be going back) so if you know and love Schenectady, send them on!


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