Bellini's Italian Eatery

Last night we went to Bellini's in Slingerlands. It was actually the first restaurant that was ever recommended to us in Albany when we met our neighbors around the second day we moved in. They said "it is in a strip mall, doesn't look like anything special, very casual, actually pretty good". And we went and liked it, and went back many more times. Then, when we went last night we noticed they had changed their menu. They got rid of the daily specials (which I had only tried a couple of times anyway). It tasted like they added basil to the bread, which was a nice addition. They changed the pizzas slightly (no more shrimp and tomato, added zucchini to the Rustica pizza, and added an homemade meatball and ricotta pizza among other changes). They seem to have changed their salads slightly. The polenta croutons added to the Di Casa salad were actually really good, and we really enjoyed the dressing on this one too.

Their cocktails and wine list are pretty good. I like that the woman who works at the wine store next door picks some wines that are sold by the glass. I particularly enjoy the Irony from Monterrey, CA, and after trying it here I enjoyed bottles at home a couple of times. Also at Christmas time they do a candy cane martini, which even Scott admitted was good. It is vodka, white crème de menthe, and broken candy canes encrusted all around the rim. It is delicious and I probably made 10 of these at home between Thanksgiving and New Years this year. Last night I had a dirty martini with bleu cheese stuff olives and the proportions tasted right, and it wasn't too salty at all.

Overall, it is not the greatest thing in the world, but it fills a niche for a casual weeknight. I think they are actually pretty skilled though. We had to wait a few minutes for our table, and we got a great view of the wood burning oven. They throw the pizza in with a pizza peel, rotate it around after a few minutes, and shield the cheese for the last minute or so to continue to crisp the crust a little bit more. They were actually really graceful with such a high heat oven (my burn from the last time I made pizza at home two weeks ago is just almost starting to heal completely). I also respect that they aren't afraid of just simple, classic combinations of ingredients like pizza Margherita.  And it is nice that you can order a pizza and get more than one meal out of it, so in that way it is a great value.

The flip side of it being a great value, is that we are usually not hungry enough for dessert. The fact that almost all of their desserts have nuts in them doesn't help Scott with his nut allergy. I don't really want a whole dessert to myself, so unfortunately I can't comment much on that. Though I think I tried the cannolis once, and they were delicious. Overall, casual, reliably tasty, and the pizza seems to have really improved lately (it was a good idea to add the zucchini to the eggplant pizza).

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