It’s been a little while, so here are some news and notes to catch me up:
— I recently took the train to Westchester County to visit my brother and his family. I always enjoy the ride along the Hudson River, one of the mightiest waterways in the world. My train had to swap engines in Rensselaer, so I had time to wander in the train station. It was my first time in the station since its renovation in 2006. What a marvelous space it is, with beautiful architectural details along with visitor-friendly coffee shops and newsstands inside.
I returned to the Utica station, a beautiful space in its own right that is just waiting for a shot of revitalization, and immediately went in search of lunch. It was a Monday afternoon and I had Italian on my mind. I had heard from Mike, who operates Oliveri’s Pizzeria in Hamilton, about Tony Sparagna’s restaurant on Lenox Avenue, on Utica’s west side.
I was the first customer, as it was just before noon, and sat at the bar. Jets football gear adorns the back of the bar, along with some specials of the day. I ordered baked ziti, which came with a nice salad and warm bread. It was a wonderful pasta dish, complete with the extra mozzarella I ordered. The sauce was robust and lively, you can tell it was homemade and created with care.
While I was sitting there a gentleman came out from the kitchen, and we chatted about Amtrak and the Utica station. It turns out it was Nick Sparagna, 82, one of the family members who has been running the restaurant in that location since the early 1970s. My friendly waitress told me that Nick comes in at 6:30 each day and stays until closing, doing whatever is needed whenever it is needed. It was great to have a chance to chat with him.
Sparagna’s has a few tables in the bar area, and a nicer seating area in the back. It started to slowly fill up as the lunchtime crowd worked its way in. While I have to say the neighborhood around the restaurant is not ideal, this neighborhood restaurant is one to be supported and enjoyed. I would highly recommend Sparagna’s for its solid Italian cuisine, big portions, and reasonable prices. And, to be certain, its staying power.
— I read an interesting item in the Post-Standard about this year’s competition for Best New York Burger sponsored by the New York Beef Council. A nominee this time around is the Power Play Burger offered at the Ale ‘n’ Angus pub on Harrison Street in Syracuse, which is the unofficial bar of the Syracuse Crunch hockey team.
As I read on I learned that last year’s winner was a burger served at the South Trenton Pub in Barneveld. Who knew? And who has been there? And where the heck is that? Turns out it is on Park Street, not far off Route 12. This place is now red-lighted for me and beeping away on my radar.