Last Friday the wife insisted I accompany her on a trip to Target over on Central Avenue. Target makes me twitch so as a conciliation I was allowed to pick our lunch destination. I hadn't been to Ralph's Tavern for a couple of years so I thought it might be nice to check in.
|Red pleather, fake plant, patterned mirror. Ralph's encapsulated in a picture.|
As a child I believe my parents must have taken me to Ralph's at least once a month. I have very fond memories of those meals. In my mind's eye Ralph's is forever crowded, dark, and smokey in a cozy sort of way.
Oddly enough, I think I used to order steak as a kid... Seems a weird thing to order at a red sauce Italian place. I was a weird kid with a thing for steak.
Ralph's is still well known for their mozzarella sticks. I think this is an echo of past glory. The mozzarella sticks I remember from 20 or 25 years ago were enormous, lightly breaded, triumphant rectangular bastards. Maybe (as usual) I am clouded by nostalgia, but I think they used to be better.
Here is my order from last Friday. Note the odd little nugget pieces. Perhaps this is a new tradition.
Also note the two sauces. My wife is not a Capital Regions native and despite my protestations is revolted by raspberry sauce w/mozzarella sticks. Without affectation, I love the combination. Always have, always will.
I gave the menu a thorough once over for anything new or of note. This one dish made me laugh.
"Meatballs, Peppers and French Fries." Ha! Seems random at first, but I believe it is probably wonderful. I almost ordered it and then I didn't.
As it was Friday in the middle of lent I thought it fit and proper to order our traditional local solution for the lenten diet -- a fish fry.
The fish fry was fine. Not as good as Ted's (I've been on a fish fry jag lately) or Bob n' Ron's back in the day, but it was fine.
As I sat before this plate I thought to myself -- is there anything more stereotypically City of Albany-esque then eating a fish fry at Ralph's tavern on Friday in the middle of lent?
My kids had the soup du jour (chicken noodle) and split a wee cheese pizza. They seemed happy with their fare. I waxed a bit sad during this lunch. Perhaps it was seeing Ralph's in the unforgiving light of a clear, cold, winter's day, but I don't know... The place seemed worry-worn somehow.
I honestly don't know how my family deals with my frequent bouts of weltschmerz. For the entire ride back to Delmar I regaled my patient wife and bored children with tales of days gone by. Pointing out where Mike's NEBA used to be and proclaiming, "I never cared so much about their roast beef, but darn they made a good slushy." Maybe I told them the one about when I caught a line drive to the manhood during tee-ball at Westland Hills park one fine summer's day....