CAVEAT EMPTOR: The following review is based on visits prior to 2019 when Scalo shuttered its doors. Scalo has since reopened.
When we moved back to New Mexico on May 15, 1995, our first priority wasn’t where to live, but where to eat. Having been away for the better part of 18 years, there were so many old favorites with which to reacquaint ourselves and so many exciting new prospects we just had to try. By year’s end, we had visited 75 different restaurants (no chains). One of our favorite sources on where to eat was Albuquerque Monthly, a very well written publication which celebrated the Duke City’s culinary scene with an Annual Restaurant Guide and a “Best of Albuquerque” edition.
On its tenth anniversary, the magazine created a “Best Of” Hall of Fame, listing the ten establishments–restaurants, bars, card stores, clothing stores, computer stores, galleries and more–which had received more “best of” votes during the decade than anyone else. The first establishment listed was Scalo Northern Italian Grill, which was also perennial selection on the magazine’s annual listing of the city’s top ten fine-dining restaurants (other mainstays still serving the city include the Artichoke Cafe, Prairie Star and the Rancher’s Club).
Call it heretical if you will, but it took a while before Scalo earned my affections. One song described perfectly my first three experiences at Scalo, long regarded by many as an Italian restaurant in a class of its own–the pinnacle of Italian dining in the Duke City. That song, a 1960’s baby boomer tune by Polly J. Harvey asked the question, “Is that all there is? If that’s all there is, my friends, then let’s keep dancing. Let’s break out the booze and have a ball if that’s all there is.” After every meal at Scalo, I asked myself the same question: Is that all there is?…but I didn’t come away dancing (although the pricey tab usually made me want to take up drinking.)
Because it was one of Albuquerque’s most popular, highly acclaimed and revered restaurants, I expected Scalo to completely blow me away. Instead, my every dining experience was a humdrum event that left me perplexed as to what I was missing. That changed on Saturday, May 5th, 2005 when like a sudden, powerful and almost spiritual realization hit me–an eating epiphany of sorts. That epiphany came with the second or third bite of the spinach salad (yes, a salad!) with blue cheese, honeyed walnuts and strawberries. Almost ethereal in its lightness, this salad married ingredients that just shouldn’t work that well together, but nonetheless coalesce to create a memorable taste sensation. The sharpness of the blue cheese, the tartness of the just in season strawberries and the salty sweetness of the honeyed walnuts were like the signature masterpiece of a culinary artist, easily one of the best salads we’ve had in New Mexico.
Perhaps not coincidentally, just a few weeks before that transformative visit Scalo’s ownership changed hands with entrepreneur Steve Paternoster assuming the helm. Paternoster is one of Albuquerque’s most successful restaurant impresarios, having had a hand on several successful start-ups including La Brasserie Provence and Ptit Louis Bistro. He is also one of the city’s most active philanthropists, garnering the New Mexico Restaurant Association’s (NMRA) Cornerstone Humanitarian of the Year for New Mexico in 2010. That same year Scalo and Brasserie La Provence shared the NMRA’s “Restaurant Neighbor Award” for their ongoing contributions to many civic organizations, schools and churches.
It would be presumptuous to believe one person, no matter how influential or dynamic, could be solely responsible for my sudden change of heart about a restaurant. After all Scalo has been serving Albuquerque since December, 1986 and during its quarter-century of operation has always been regarded as one of the city’s premier destination restaurants. In 2007, it was bestowed a Wine Spectator award of excellence for its outstanding selection of premium wines. In 1998, it was featured in Gourmet Magazine. After nearly three decades, it continues to garner accolades. During his much missed very entertaining and interesting weekly radio show, Steve Paternoster often gave all the credit to Scalo’s success to the restaurant’s staff, most of whom have been with the restaurant for years. It’s a good staff, as accommodating and friendly as they come in the Duke City, but Paternoster’s leadership and commitment to keeping his restaurant at the top is inspiring.
The Scalo experience is much more than excellent wines and quality Northern Italian cuisine. Its allure also includes a bright, airy interior bustling with the cacophonous din of constant activity from an open kitchen and an enthusiastic wait staff flitting from patron to patron, seemingly never skipping a beat or screwing up an order. Weather permitting, al fresco dining is available in a capacious, covered, temperature-controlled patio replete with white linen table cloths and fine silverware. It’s a patio our debonair dachshund The Dude (he abides) enjoys very much.
7 October 2007: Scalo’s menu is influenced by seasonal harvests and it prides itself on using locally grown organic produce. The quality shows in some of the most inventive salads and soups anywhere in town. The Great Northern White Bean Soup is one such soup–a brimming bowl of great ingredients melded together creatively. Those ingredients include shaved Parmesan cheese, a spicy-sweet pancetta, an invigorating Italian pesto pasta and hard-crusted Ciabatta croutons. This is the perfect autumn soup a comforting elixir that will cure what ails you.
29 July 2017: If you find the notion of raw beef a bit primitive, you probably would never consider eating steak tartare (top-quality raw beef chopped and served with onion, capers, parsley, mustard, and egg yolk). Instead, you might want to try Carpaccio. Named for an Italian painter famed for his use of red pigments resembling raw meat, Carpaccio is often sliced so thin that you can almost see right through it. Scalo’s Carpaccio (shaved beef tenderloin, Parmesan, arugula, local greens, extra-virgin olive oil) isn’t transparent, but it’s sliced so thin you practically have to scrape it off the plate as spearing it with a fork won’t cut it. The marriage of shaved Parmesan and that whisper-thin beef tenderloin is especially memorable and the light olive oil touch with a sprinkling of cracked pepper brings it all together. If you love carpaccio, you also owe it to yourself to try the superb lime beef at Cafe Dalat. It’s carpaccio made the Vietnamese way and it’s a winner.
A meal at Scalo includes complimentary bread baked by the Swiss Alps Bakery which has been serving the Duke City for more than a decade. It’s a hearty, hard-crusted, airy bread just perfect for sopping up Scalo’s savory sauces. The bread is served with an olive oil and Balsamic vinegar mix. Alternatively, you can request butter which is soft and easy to spread.
7 October 2007: The Baked Cavatelli starts with a corkscrew shaped pasta baked al dente then topped with a fennel-rich housemade pork sausage, mushrooms, roasted garlic, ricotta, Parmesan and a pine nut gremolata in a marinara cream sauce. There are a lot of things going on with this entree, but it’s not one of those dishes in which all the ingredients seem to be competing for the rapt attention of your taste buds. Instead the ingredients work well together in a concordant, complementary fashion. You may want to isolate the flavors to focus on specific tastes (for example, the richness of the ricotta or the tangy, piquant bite of the sausage), but this is an entree in which the flavors are truly best in combination with each other.
7 October 2007: The sautéed gnocchi employs even more flavor combinations–a Gorgonzola cream sauce, toasted walnuts, balsamic currants and chives. There’s the pungent richness and sharpness of the Gorgonzola, the fruity tanginess of the currants and the flagrant effervescence of the chives. This gnocchi is rich and delicious. Gnocchi, which is much more than just Italian potato or semolina dumplings, should be light in texture with almost a melt-in-your-mouth quality. That’s what Scalo’s rendition of this taken-for-granted entree is–ethereally light and wholly enjoyable.
The lunch menu includes several wood-fired gourmet pizzas, most crafted with fairly standard, albeit high-quality ingredients. On occasion, the pizze (sic) menu also includes pizza crafted with ingredients you might not see elsewhere in New Mexico on a pizza. Creativity seems to be a hallmark of all Scalo entrees. One pizza we enjoyed immensely but which isn’t on the standard pizze menu showcased fig preserve, prosciutto, Gorgonzola, mozzarella and arugula. At first browse, these ingredients seem somewhat disparate, yet Scalo made them work in a taste bud pleasing fashion. Scalo’s pizza is a semi-round pie served slightly crispy and waifishly thin. It’s not likely you’ll have any leftovers save for the impressions left on your olfactory memories and taste buds.
5 February 2012: Dessert (the “dolce” menu) is a celebratory event at Scalo where seven sensational sweet treats will challenge you to select the right one to finish off your meal. As with the antipasti, insalati, pizze, panini, carne e pesce and fresh pasta menus, desserts are not permanent fixtures as Scalo changes things up frequently to keep things interesting and delicious. You can generally expect to find homemade gelato on the menu and usually a “sampler’ which introduces you to three desserts at one fixed price. During our inaugural brunch visit, we rejoiced at finding a Budino Di Pane, an Italian bread pudding topped with warm caramel and served with vanilla gelato. It’s a dessert which in 1995 could well have been another epiphanic dish.
7 October 2007: If you fancy chocolate–and not the dairy chocolate variety tailored for children–you’ll love Scalo’s chocolate semi freddo Genoise cake with a pistachio bark in a warm pool of dark chocolate sauce. This is not a fork-tender chocolate confection. In fact, it’s darn hard to cut into the cake, but once it’s in your mouth, it practically melts there. This is a dark, rich chocolate that should come with an “R” rating for adults only.
Scalo was a relative late-comer to the brunch bunch, serving the traditional Sunday repast from 11AM to 2:30PM with a Bloody Mary bar starting at noon. The brunch menu includes five items on the antipasti y insalate menu, four pizzas and a ten-item Primi Y Secondi menu. In Italy, the traditional meal progression begins with an antipasto followed by a primi (usually soup, pasta or risotto) then a secondi (main course) and finally dolce or formaggi (a cheese course). Portions in Italy tend to be much smaller than in America so that progression makes sense. Scalo’s portions are somewhat more substantial and you might not follow the traditional progression.
5 February 2012: You would not, however, want to pass on an antipasti as terrific as the ostrichi al forno, four oysters on the half-shell baked with artichoke, aioli, Reggiano and truffle oil. It’s a wonderful variation on Oysters Rockefeller and much better, too. The greenish hue of the artichoke-infused, Reggiano blessed oyster appetizer is intriguing, but it’s the flavor of the dish–the brininess of the oysters, the fresh “greeness” of the artichokes, the sharp nuttiness of the Reggiano–that will ensnare your affections. You’ll want a dozen of these beauties.
5 February 2012: The Costletto alla Milanese Mostarda, a pounded bone-in crispy pork chop with an onion, bacon, capers and grain mustard cream is somewhat reminiscent of a German weinerschnitzel though much more lightly breaded. The mustard cream is more akin to a French Hollandaise sauce than to a pungent, tangy German mustard. This prodigious hunk of porcine heaven is as substantial in flavor as it is in portion-size. The pork chop is nearly fork tender and is terrific with or without the mustard cream.
5 February 2012: A more “breakfasty” brunch offering is the Polenta y Salsiccia, creamy polenta, grilled sausage, poached eggs, roasted peppers and mushrooms. Polenta (not necessarily synonymous with grits) serves as the base for this dish–literally. Piled atop the polenta are two sausages, one spicy and one sweet and frothy poached eggs. The objective of this dish is to spread the runny yokes throughout the dish, making it a melange of flavors. It may not be as aesthetically pleasing, but the combination of ingredients works very well.
29 July 2017: My Kim likes to joke that her weird husband doesn’t like spaghetti, but loves all of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti western. She, on the other hand, dislikes the Clint Eastwood shoot-em-ups and loves spaghetti. Not finding spaghetti on Scalo’s brunch menu, she opted for the next best thing, a Scalo’s only entree called Spaghettini Olio e Aglio con Gamberetti (sauteed shrimp, olive oil, chili, garlic, sun-dried tomato, peas, parsley, lemon and white wine butter). It’s a dish that will address different areas of your taste buds with flavor profiles that are alternatively piquant, savory, tart, briny and even a bit sweet. The shrimp is fresh and snaps when you bite into it. My favorite elements were the fresh green peas and sun-dried tomatoes.
29 July 2017: One of the highlights of visiting my mom in Peñasco is enjoying organic farm-fresh eggs for breakfast. Online debates rage as to whether there’s a discernible difference between farm-fresh eggs and their store-bought counterparts. Having been raised on the former, I’m a stickler for farm-fresh eggs. That said, the three eggs on Scalo’s Pizza Colazione (sunny side up egg, speech ham, Fontina, Gorgonzola, fresh rosemary, aged balsamic) reminded me of the eggs we gathered every morning from my grandmother’s chicken coop. This is a terrific pizza, my only nit being that the eggs shouldn’t have been congregated so closely so as to better distribute the unctuous yolk. The cornicione, an Italian term for the “lip” or puffy outer edge of the pizza is soft and chewy with a pronounced flavor of oven-baked bread. In combination, the Fontina and Gorgonzola provide a wondrous cheesy flavor that goes very well with the salty ham. In my pantheon of New Mexico’s very best pizzas, this one certainly deserves a high spot. It’s outstanding!
For several years my friend Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos has been extolling the greatness of Scalo’s Filetto (grilled beef tender loin, mushroom risotto, grilled asparagus, cambozola cheese, red wine reduction), a dish which certainly sounds worthy of much praise. Alas, our visits to Scalo seem to occur most often on weekends during brunch. One of these days we’ll have to join Bob for dinner. That’s likely the day my rating for this Duke City institution is likely to climb.
Scalo Northern Italian Grill
3500 Central, N.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 29 July 2017
Website | Facebook Page
# OF VISITS: 8
BEST BET: Spinach Salad; Penne with Tomato Cream Sauce; Pizza; Costletto alla Milanese Mostarda; Ostrichi al forno; Baked Cavatelli; Chocolate semi freddo; Carpaccio, Pizza Colazione, Spaghettini Olio e Aglio con Gamberetti
26 thoughts on “Scalo Northern Italian Grill – Albuquerque, New Mexico”
Last night was our first outing to Scalo’s in well over a decade. I have to confess I was never an enthusiastic fan in the past. My wife and our friends enjoyed it more than I than I did. I thought the food was good, but nothing to rave about. On future visits I found it difficult to get excited about the menu. I also thought the dining room was cramped and noisy and was not a very comfortable space when fully crowded with diners. All those visits were back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. As dining options became more prevalent over time it was not a venue I ever considered seriously.
I’m really delighted with this new iteration. While we chose to dine on the enclosed patio we noticed that it appears that the dining room has had some changes. It looks much more inviting and less densely packed. It certainly seemed more open.
On this return visit there were quite the variety of menu items that piqued my interest and I think I would have been very happy with any of my initial selections. Those plans however were set aside immediately when informed of the nights Chef specials. The choices were a Steel head trout served with a special pepper (I cannot remember the name but was told the chef was offering this as long as their stock of these peppers lasted). The other special offering was Bucatini and Clams which was my final choice. I was not disappointed – and after sampling tastes from my wife’s plate (she had the Salmone (Verlasso Salmon, Corn Mash Piperade, Sous Vide Asparagus), and from her sister’s (she chose the Steel head trout) I would have been truly pleased and sated by any of those options. These of course were preceded by an excellent starter of Polpette (Meatballs, House Marinara, Truffle, Pecorino, Fines Herbs) and insalata mista (Baby Mixed Greens, Cherry Tomatoes, Watermelon Radish, Citrus Vinaigrette). Soozi and I also had an excellent and creamy mushroom risotto as a side. I’ll note that Soozi’s sister requires gluten free options and they were kind and happy to make adjustments to her choices as required.
Deserts were a shared Tiramisu and a Ricotta and Pear Tarte.
The staff we encountered were very helpful and knowledgeable about the menu and made this return visit a pleasure. We were early diners but by the time we left = both the dining room, enclosed patio and bar patio were close to capacity.
For the first time I found myself leaving Scalo’s eager to make another visit.
Being in Nob Hill yesterday, I was compelled to drive by Scalo’s. If you can imagine in Gil’s opening pic, that the patio is now vacant (see pic) and just see the windows, you will still see the white tableclothed tables with settings of stemware remain eerily today! If you squeeze your eyelids and nalgas just so, you might see in the pic the waitstaff scurrying about with patrons ambling about, much akin to the ghostly images Y’all saw in the ballroom of the Haunted Mansion (in DisneyLand)!
~ Yo as an extra aside: Edible has just put out an excellent and complimentary mag on “newsstands” , e.g. here: https://www.ediblenm.com/find-a-copy/ It is online http://tinyurl.com/y49mvkwj as well, but its tiny type might be hard to read even when you click the “enlarge icon”. While Gr8 ads, there are several interesting articles! Safe Havens was particularly of interest to me per being a microed look about NM/Alb in terms of what the Green Book was about here. I think I’ve hawked the movie before…and if so, Pardon… per it not only being an interesting slice of life of my personally FAV jazz pianist/composer from my ’70s, but, if you are not overly PC about stereotypes…whether about Brooklyn Italians or/and Blacks, it is a humorous recounting (akin to Raiders being tops in such genre of humor) of The Times…http://tinyurl.com/yats7p3r A taste of Shirley: http://tinyurl.com/pwj7hfe http://tinyurl.com/y2zol7gh
Took a rare lunchtime drive down post-ART Central Ave and noted that Scalo now has an “available” sign in the window.. but the demise of the establishment is probably old news by now ..
Hey, BOTVOLR. Did you see this story in today’s Journal? https://www.abqjournal.com/1269677/scalo-owner-says-hes-still-in-charge.html Hopefully it’s true. I’m optimistic as he has an actual date, not something vague like “a few weeks.”
Indeed Sarita!… and Thank You for the Heads Up! It is good to see a Feb. 10th reopening date (tarketed), but I will temper my anticipation so as not to jinx it. I’ve been trying to keep the Faith as evidenced by my keeping my Gift Certs…LOL
Elsewise, nice to see another Appreciator of what Steve has had to offer, exists!
Let us pray! or do whatever one does to bring about good happenings!
Personally? I love Scalo’s as suggested by the number of my Comments herein. Alas, I am “fearful” given that “management” has not been timely RE What’s up? and especially as I was unwittingly in the dark about Elaine’s closing per having been there JUST the month before (albeit they are two separate ventrues!!!!)!!!
Why do I have my panties all in a wad? 2 “fine” dining venues “possibly” shutting down within 2 months of each other is foreboding, IMHO. Bless “local business”/Mom and Pop venues…curses the Chains! but too too many Mom/Pops can kill the Best of Fine Dining herein…IMHO…and then Moms/Pops. Indeed! your Opines are solicited!
A Journal article today quoted Scalo manager Ken Gattas as saying the restaurant should be up and running again within a couple of weeks. Unfortunately he could not comment about Elaine’s as Scalo and Elaine are, in his words, “completely different companies.” I hope Scalo stays open long enough for me to try that filet you’ve made legendary.
Well CRUD! Setting aside my Sis sending me a Christmas Gift Certificate and the fact I may not ever have another Filetto in a nice setting featuring a staff schooled in fine dining, I can’t but consider saying a prayer for a Guy who lost a daughter per an OD, has been a gracious contributor to the community as exemplified by receiving the Cornerstone Humanitarian of the Year’ award in ‘ 13 by the NRA (the National Restuarant Association that is) and I’m sure many other things, given this article in the Journal paints a very sad personal situation…http://tinyurl.com/ybbg5b38
Kudos to Scalo’s owner Steve Paternoster for this donation of a van with a wheelchair lift to a Mom who has the challenge of lifting her 70 lb disabled teenager into his carseat ! http://tinyurl.com/y75b5ebq
(Alas, not a one time ‘shot’…in ’13 he received the National Restaurant Association’s ‘Cornerstone Humanitarian of the Year’ award.)
Met up with Grandson and two buds (one approaching being a Doppelganger for Hillary Duff) from an obscure village in Saskatchewan (No! I didn’t tell the nursing joke in that regard…my gawd, that goes back to high school!)
Anyway, two had the Tomato/Mozzarella slices (aka Caprese salad), which they avidly scarfed up. Two had the Spaghettini olio e Aglio con Gamberetti and one the Fettuccine al Pollo which they chomped down velocemente like they were from a third world country, i.e. dishes must’ve been more than good!
– As I’ve belabored, and given the possibility of breaking bread over, I exclusively munch the Filetto. Tonight I opted for the Pizza Colazione: Bad night? the crust was way too “crisp” for me and I agree the eggs should be spread more. Elsewise, when you do excise crust/egg/meat/cheese, it is muy sabrosa! A couple of pieces are going to get the last of my Green Chile Stash tonight. (BTW, my Daughter/S-i-L are doing our annual Green Chile Peeling Fiesta-on-the-patio with cerveza and FREE musica on the 23rd, exact afternoon time TBA, lest anyone wishes to bring their roasted sack to peel for their stash,…let me know!)
OMG, I happen to spot a “noticeable” uptick in the fare for my beloved Filetto and so as not to mislead anyone astray as to price per bragging before…and as there has been no more AJ discounts for a couple of years…there is a significant increase. HOWEVER, I’m thinking the Filetto fare has been the same for at least 7 years if not 11 or more, and is thus becoming ‘INsync’ with other fine dining venues, e.g. Antiquity, Indigo Crow, etc.
– Most times I’ve eaten on the 2-Tops by the Central window to observe the world. As such, hadn’t encountered some “new-to-me” WaitStaff as this night. Indeed, ours, and observing others are amongst the tops in The City…I can already picture the results of a Gastronomic Survey if held herein…LOL So reminiscent of “days of old in Vegas” where mainly (and somewhat older) Guys made…and could make it a Career.
E.g. Despite my companions 20ish ages, their being slow to decide, maybe waffleishness, our Guy had the patience of Job and continued to interact as if they were some of ABQ’s A-listers! (OMG…Sunday I was treated to having a Pinon of a counter Gal at The Dog House; couldn’t have been more that 16, if that! and barely saw over the counter top. So impressed, that I had to personally comment on her people/serving skills especially after observing her most graciously accept a somewhat under-tip from a Guest. Wish there was a way to observe where she goes in Life.) Must admit…I’m the worst at saying a kind word.
-Lastly, using Girard/Copper/Carlisle to get to Scalo’s from Lomas was a breeze. Looks like they’re finishing up on 66 out front. Parking is tight, but as usual for even midweek, but not due to finishing up on 66; found one in that “plaza” per first go-around…LOL
Aha…Pizza Colazione…Thanks….Will be interesting to explore some day if it gives me taste like reminiscence of a pizza I thought had an egg “wash” on the “bones” in my youth as noted elsewhere.
Carpaccio: Will have to compare some day to my somewhat serendipitous, initiation experience at Piatanzi. Still think would be great munching on while listening to http://tinyurl.com/jcp2xz3
Filetto: Indeed look forward to that one of these days even before Henry IV at Antiquity!
Hadn’t been to Scalo Ina couple of years.
Flew from CA to NM Monday eve to be able to vote in the NM primary.
Landed late, around 815 and went with the friends who picked us up for dinner and Scalo was open until 930 and we headed there for a bite to eat.
They were beyond gracious and of course we called first. Even though we wandered in a few minutes later than we had told them they kept kitchen staff there and we had a terrific wait staffer named David who was a great help with all choices. I’d go back just for their great roasted cauliflower soup, a cream based beauty with some crab, crisped cauliflower dollop in the soup.
I had the Bucatini all a Amatriciana which came with pancetta in lieu of the original guanciali (sp?) and enjoyed every bit of it, my wife had fusilli with carbonara sauce and equally enjoyed the dish.
Thank you Scalo for accommodating us,.
Eeek! Don’t reader’s herein “dine”?
Sorry…had another superb Filetto! Most, interestingly tho, my Waitperson was Crystal who I knew as a Jennifer Garner (aka Affleck) doppleganger before she ventured off to Northern US in lieu of Casey (now The Carson of Downton Abbey) of Corrales’ Indigo Crow!)
In any event, Jenn and the Filetto continue worth munching on, IMHO!
Stopped in for my Filetto. Eeek…mustv’e been a busy Fri/Sat….out of filets!!! Mama Mia who ever heard of such a thing. Anyway, my “on the ball” waitguy checked to offer a rib-eye with the same presentation ala sauce and risotto. Rather than possibly spoil things, I decided to be edgy and try one of my “banes”, the unidish. Had the “Spaghettini olio e aglio con gemberetti” olive oil, garlic, crushed red chile, shrimp, sun dried tomatoes, peas, white wine lemon butter sauce. Whoa indeed, it overflows with those gemberetti, almost hiding the perfectly cooked spaghetti. I found the sauce to be a new delight while highlighted by a nice bite which fascinated me as I could hardly espy any specks of the crushed pepper! The green peas provided contrasting splashes of sweet. I certainly must give it a “molto buono”!
It was Spek Taku Lar!
Kudos and Grazie-Gracias: This April ’13 in DC, the National Restaurant Association’s ‘Cornerstone Humanitarian of the Year Award’ will be presented to the first NM recipient, the owner of Scalo’s, Steve Paternoster, per, for example, his involvement with youth and especially re drug abuse prevention efforts of he and his daughter who however, passed away in ’10.
(Otherwise, for the past nine months I’ve continued to dine on several suberb Filettos while enjoying fine waitstaff service.)
I joined a large group of friends at Scalo’s this week. Before I left, I read your review so I was encouraged that we should have a nice meal.
Well after spending $65 for two people, I would had a better meal somewhere else for my entire family.
The waitress was horrible. She forgot our drinks (we only asked 4 times) and completely forgot to bring our friend a meal despite the request being on the ticket. All of us had to wait while they “found” a meal she could quickly get to the table.
The owner stopped by before everyone ordered and told our table about this amazing dish. He spent 10 minutes talking up the dish and everyone wanted to order it. Turns out, it was on a previous menu and no one could order it.
My girlfriend ordered a black/white pasta dish that was NASTY. She couldn’t get beyond one bite.
I had the ravoil and while the cream sauce and stuffing were very tasty, the edges of the ravoil were hard like they had sat out too long.
Overall, few at our table were impressed and we won’t return.
As I’ve extolled Scalo’s herein…as well as comparatively in reviews of other restaurants, I need to point out that this Fav of mine is in need of some Clearasil as it has a big Zit! Showing up 15 minutes before my reservation and party arrived on Sunday, I was told they were setting us up in a different area instead of the one I requested as it would be a 1/2 to an hour before we’d be seated cuz another party was placed in the spot I’d specifically requested. In making the reservation for the spot a couple of weeks earlier, I was told there’d be no ‘problema’. The same was even true…”absolutely”…. when I also confirmed just a few days earlier. Had they needed to alter things, why didn’t they call me via the phone number they required? Kinda engendered a “we gotcha” feeling. It was clear the other party was put in our place without a caveat of the upcoming reservation already slotted.
Ya, I ‘could’ve’ told ’em “Screw you; I’m taking my party of 11 and a couple of hundred bucks elsewhere!” but where are you going to find a place for that size group, let alone somewhat embroil Mother’s Day’s honorees in a brouhaha, after they’ve already scurried finding a parking space. Ya…lest you chide me that glitches happen, this is the Second reservation ‘glitch’ in 2 months….their computerization notwithstanding!!!
I should note that several desserts were offered to share at the end just before the presentation of the check, but, IMHO, you don’t let someone sit stewing compounded by one guest being served a cold quiche. Appetizers, at the least, let alone drinks, could have been offered as we gathered (in the otherwise empty bar) to be out-of-the-way at the entry while waiting to see if our spot would open within a half hour, which it didn’t.
Why The Spot? It’s more conducive to hearing for some of the “older” Moms, while having a light/airy ambiance versus a “private” room.
Some of the principals of Scalo’s are in the process of opening a restaurant called Elaine’s across the street…if they read this by chance, I’d suggest they don’t leave customers with a sense of being scammed by “offering” reservations. I say this despite guessing some readers might presume I’ve watched Seinfeld originally and therefore would probably chide me that I actually brought disappointment on myself per having seen: http://tinyurl.com/bnsscjt
(PS…am off to have some roughage!)
Yo…Great Update! It entices me back to note there is nothing better than getting* a Scalo Gift Cert. from one’s Sis for Christmas/Hanukkah/Celebrations I don’t know of. (*Well, maybe hearing the exaltations one would get after giving one!) In any event, I partially used mine on 1/20. Alas, if only I could get the gal from the Hamptons to exhort this Classic to ya… “Gumba, ya g-o-t-t-a-h have a Filetto!” like she laid on Elaine in this segment http://tinyurl.com/7cjkp4l . Indeed, you will then “continue” to trend-up your rating of Scalo’s, IMHO.
Stopped in for another try at the Filetto, previously described. OMG…it outdid the wonderful tenderness of previous visit and it gets my 5 Beef-on-the-Hoof award for Best in the City…I wait to be corrected. Also, I think the cook sticks one of those mini-cams inside to check on the “pinkness” ordered…like one Jack Bauer might slide under the door to check things out before banging down a door…Eh! he’s getting older and needs to watch out.
Again, Kudos to Pasternoster for continuing to be a Journal Press Pass participant….it just doesn’t get any better than a discount like that!!!!
I think Scalo’s is one fine eating establishment.
In 2004 on our first real trip (in 1989 we travelled through ABQ on our way north to Santa Fe and then Jackson Hole) to ABQ to celebrate my 60th birthday with a hot air balloon ride we dined at Scalo’s for the celebration.
I found the food first rate and enjoyed the company of two other couples and had no trouble with communicating.
Thank goodness the red sauce was marinara and not red chile laced.
We often take guests to Scalo’s and I’ve never heard a complaint about either the food or the ambiance.
And as I have said before I believe to truly assess a restaurant you have to try it at least twice.
That is one of the reasons I respect Gil’s Thrilling (and Filling), Gil makes a few trips before
pulling the trigger on his reviews.
Anyone who thinks a restaurant never has an off day hasn’t been getting out enough.
I live within walking distance of Blades and will shortly be leaving to enjoy yet another wonderful northern Italian meal at Scalo’s where I have enjoyed their offerings, from time to time, over a 17 year period. OK, so it’s not Little Italy’s, Il Cortile but, in case you haven’t noticed, this ain’t NYC and Central is a long way from Mulberry Street. And, by the way, comparing Vivace to Scalo’s is like comparing Vietnamese cuisine to that of Thailand. I have not had any better calamari since leaving San Francisco and I can’t wait to have their gnocchi, which is as good as any I have sampled in Rome.
In short, I have eaten at better northern Italian restaurants, but none that I could get to from ABQ without an expensive plane ride.
While making a Comment Comparison to Blade’s, I checked out the review here and was a tad dismayed by the Comment offerings especially in light of 1) how could Scalo’s have survived all these years per such “poor” servings?, 2) how could it be packed on a Sunday night in ’11 given these tough economic times, and 3) how could I’ve not had an untoward experience in terms of food or service in the past three years and believe me Bubbas, I’m tight when spending money!
Be that as it may, here’s my ReCycled Comment re someone yaking about the noise at Blade’s:
Whoa, was gonna go to Blade’s last night to pay attention to and check that noise level of above out as I couldn’t bring such an experience to mind…while especially hoping they had some of that Veal Oscar still on Special, but remembered they rest after their Sunday Brunch. In lieu of that I went to Scalo’s as a comparison setting ala “fine dining”. Indeed, despite being Sunday, Scalo’s was packed for the 6:30ish hour and I was seated on the ‘main floor’ at a 2-top, per my being a Single and it being the 2nd to last open table in the place. Whoa….talk about your sound level !!! I had trouble just talking to myself (!) as I’ve usually dined by the front window or in the bar times before! Be that as it may…i.e. regardless or despite that…I must note my Filetto*, adorned con Cambozola and embedded in a luscious risotto, was…and how trite….ever so tender while served a perfect pink-medium. Alas, while I would have preferred the asparagus being a tad less al dente, paying only 6 bucks for a Margarita offset that….LOL.
Beyond that, Mucho Kudos to Steve Paternoster for participating in the The Q’s Journal’s Press Pass promotion as Scalo’s is a rare “dining” experience offering a discount, let alone 20% especially as compared to most discount promotions discriminating against “Singles” by only offering ‘Buy 1, get one free’!
BTW, I cannot imagine a gaggle greater than 4 being unnoisy in and of themselves unless they were dining at French’s, Salazaar’s, Daniels’ etc!!!! Beyond those suggestions, if you are a group of 6 or 8 etc., requiring/needing a quiet setting, you can also find that at….and, albeit exposing myself to ridicule by confessing my having been here….a Mickey D’s!!, i.e. in contrast to the packed houses of Blade’s and Scalo’s “in these tough economic times!!!”
* What’s with eating a filet in an “Italian” restaurant? Well, its just me….I can’t eat a “whole” dish of one thing…i.e. I wish there’d be more Combo offerings….no matter how pedestrain that might be….instead of a whole plate of spaghetti, chow mein, etc. Picture a plate of 3 (butter fried) pierogies (one each of kapusta, potato, cheese), a 1/2 dozen slices of 1/2 inch kelbasi, all encircling a succulent golumpki!!! (The”l” is pronounced like the “wa” in “want”.) Now that would be Yummy with a slice of Polish (teeth wrenching) rye and a PBR!!!
I guess I’m not going to share anything new that the previous reviewers haven’t made quite clear. Over-rated is being kind. Awful is probably more honest.
We visited last weekend and had another bad experience. Our pizza took 45 minutes to arrive after we ordered it. The bread the waitress promised while we waited for so long NEVER arrived. When the pizza did arrive it was cold. Now I love cold pizza but not at a restaurant that touts its “Wood Fired” offerings. On to dinner. My wife ordered a pasta dish that was interesting. I always thought “al dente” meant pasta cooked so as to be “firm”. At Scalo it means CRUNCHY!! Who knew.
Our waitperson had to be continually hunted down for water, wine, bread and virtually everything else. She offered grated cheese for both the pizza AND our pasta dishes but none ever arrived. Finally, we just gave up and left. We won’t be back.
Bad service, bad food and lack of desire to resolve any of these issues will certainly keep us away.
If you have to eat in the area, there are several terrific choices available. Scalo isn’t one of them.
Sorry, but I have to agree with your pre-epiphany assessment. I continue to find Scalo the single most over-rated restaurant in New Mexico. Its pedestrian food and higher-than-deserved prices disappoint me every time I decide to give it another go and see if I’ve just had bad luck in the past. It’s a shame it’s such a sham, because the location and facility are very nice.
I agree with the other respondent that Vivace is MUCH better and that’s where I go for really excellent Italian food (at more reasonable prices). Most of my more gastronomically inclined friends agree.
We had an Entertainment Book and we tried Scalo last night. In one word, dreadful.
I had the gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce $13. The wife had the “special” 4 meat pasta $18.
I tasted the 4 meat pasta first then said to my wife, “I don’t thnk you’re going to like it. It’s bitter.” She tasted it. Agreed and it was just OK. I had the
leftovers for lunch and it was not any better.
My gnocchis were so soft they fell apart. There wasn’t enough sauce to wipe with your bread. Taste just OK.
Vivace much better. My wife’s sauce 10,000 times better.