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What Does Schenectady Taste Like?

October 14, 2015

This could be a fun game. We can start stereotyping cities based on the regional food options.

What does Chicago taste like? Hot dogs topped with salad, pizzas stuffed with cheese, Italian beef sandwiches, caramel and cheese popcorn mixed together in the same bag, and some of the best cocktails in the world.

San Francisco tastes like burritos, dim sum, amazing bread, fresh steamed dungeness crab, and cioppino. Sure, there’s really only one place left to get the classic seafood stew, but it’s an inextricable part of the culture. Unlike Rice-a-Roni, which is only the San Francisco treat in commercial jingles.

New York City tastes like bagels and lox, fatty pastrami on rye, dirty water dogs, greasy pizza slices, and halal carts.

But what happens when we get a bit more local?

To me, Troy tastes like mini hot dogs with zippy sauce, Ruck wings, DeFazio’s pizza, and great donuts either from Bella Napoli or The Cookie Factory.

These things are all local institutions. Sure there are other things to eat in all of these cities. But I think you can try and define an area based on the food for which it has become famous. Or if not famous, at least the places that are locally beloved and an inextricable part of that place.

So what about Schenectady?

Well, I started to ask these questions because I recently got an interesting email. There’s actually a new business association that has formed calling itself Flavor of Schenectady. Without a doubt, the Electric City has a strong Italian flavor. But with some of the best-in-class ethnic restaurants like Tara Kitchen and La Mexicana, it also now has more international flair.

Who is in this coalition of local businesses? For starters it’s Casa Visco, Garofalo & Co., Gatherer’s Gourmet Granola, Mastroianni Brothers Bakery, Pede Bros. Inc, and Villa Italia. Pede Bros. was entirely off my radar, but now I’m looking forward to trying this local pasta maker’s products. And of course it’s a good reminder to pick up Garofalo’s sausages.

I’m still making my own tomato sauce and don’t eat much bread, but these local Italian businesses clearly are part of the flavor of Schenectady.

The international flair isn’t quite represented yet, but at least there’s a nod to a new entrepreneurial spirit that exists in the community with the inclusion of Gatherer’s Granola. Hopefully this group will reach out to Tara Kitchen and solicit their involvement. Mad Jack beer is brewed in the Stockade, so that could be a contender as well. The coalition is looking to grow, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it develops.

As of now, the Flavor of Schenectady already has a Facebook page and a big event scheduled. Here’s some of the pertinent information from the press release I was sent:

The Taste of Home Cooking School Show and Expo that will take place at the Saratoga City Center beginning at 5:00pm on Thursday, October 15, 2015. The expo features a professional culinary specialist demonstrating recipes, cooking methods, practical kitchen tips, and plating techniques in an entertaining and educational environment. The presenter shows step-by-step dishes using seasonal ingredients that are available at the local grocery store. Flavor of Schenectady will be featured from 5:00pm to 7:00pm at the vendor exhibition. The cooking show begins at 7:00pm.

Details about the event, including how to get tickets, can be found on the Daily Gazette website.

Now where the group goes from here is anyone’s guess. I hope it grows both to include some more of the other great Italian food producers in the city, and to capture a bit more of the growing ethnic diversity in the food culture.

That said, I would gladly take a sausage parm sandwich with Garofalo’s meat on Mastroianni’s bread with Casa Visco’s sauce. It’s still missing Capiello’s’s cheese and Mad Jack’s beer to wash it down. But a little gelato from Villa Italia would be a lovely post-sandwich treat. The next morning, I’d eat some Gatherer’s granola with a bit of yogurt as a healthy breakfast to make up for the indulgence. But that’s just me.

I think for most people, Schenectady would taste like pizza, tomato pie, and chicken parm. Hopefully this group works to change those perceptions and show a bit more of the nuance that makes Schenectady such a delicious place to eat.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 14, 2015 11:27 am

    Isn’t food FUN? Thanks Daniel!
    We invite everyone to come out and see what delicious flavors Schenectady has to offer!
    Tonight at Mallozzi’s a free dinner to honor Uncle Vito’s retirement 5.30-7.30
    Tomorrow Taste of Home Cooking show Saratoga City Center 5.00 pm
    Saturday Gade’s Family Farm, Local Vendor Day 10-2

  2. October 14, 2015 12:39 pm

    Daniel Great post!
    Isn’t food fun?
    We invite everyone to come out and see what delicious flavors Schenectady has to offer!
    Tonight at Mallozzi’s a free dinner to honor Uncle Vito’s retirement 5.30-7.30
    Tomorrow Taste of Home Cooking show Saratoga City Center 5.00 pm
    Saturday Gade’s Family Farm, Local Vendor Day 10-2

  3. Mark Weinheimer permalink
    December 13, 2016 1:28 am

    I grew up in Schenectady, in the Stockade. We moved there in 1957 I remember incredible flavors, I was a paperboy, in the early 60’s. I had an incredibly generous customer, who would leave a quarter on the porch railing, until 6:30 am . If I delivered the paper by then, the quarter was mine. If I was late, there was a nickle and two pennies, the list price of the paper. That quarter would buy a cup of hot chocolate and a doughnut at Mike’s, on Erie Boulevard. The doughnuts were incredible. Soft centers with incredibly crispy, thick exteriors. I’ve never had anything, since that even approached that flavor and texture.
    The pizza at corner stores was also incredible. Saucy and tangy with parmigiana. I also was the occasional recipient of the kindness of the Mastroiani’s drivers, who would throw me a a small loaf. while making deliveries, in the neighborhood. The fresh, warm bread was incredible.

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