Raffaele’s in Clifton Park, a delightful addition to the local Italian landscape – The Daily Gazette

CLIFTON PARK — Residents of the Capital Region can’t have too many Italian food purveyors: pizza, delis, groceries, catering — we love it all.
And, like at the family Sunday table in an Italian home, there is always room for more.

Italian and import food stores dot our area. Originally established in the downtown Italian neighborhoods of Albany, Schenectady, and Troy, some were transplanted from the cities, others started in the suburbs. Raffaele’s Italian Deli & Imports opened its doors just over a year ago.

Raffaele’s is in the brand new Rexford Landing Square, on the corner of Grooms and Vischer Ferry Roads, a large welcoming space with a deli counter, Italian groceries and fresh, hot Italian food to go.

The deli counter is straight in front of you as you enter. A handwritten sign directs you to the left, where you’ll find the pizza and hot food counter.

You can order at the deli counter, but you’ll end up at the pizza counter to pay.

Raffaele’s shelves and coolers are stocked with imported Italian groceries such as olive oil, pasta, canned tomatoes, traditional nougat candies and limoncello chocolates.

There’s a long counter with stools along the front glass for those who want to grab a slice, and wooden tables with bistro chairs outside. They add tables to eat on site.

The sandwiches are made with wild boar meat, and Raffaele’s gets its crispy Italian sub-rolls, ciabatta and soft buns from the Bella Napoli bakery.

The American Pit Bull sandwich ($12) includes ham, roast beef, turkey, American cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion with house dressing. A portion of the proceeds from this sandwich is donated to Out of the Pits Rescue for pit bull dogs.

Raffaele’s signature sandwich, the Vittorio ($15), is stuffed with salami, pepperoni, ham, capicola, prosciutto, bologna, soppressata and provolone. Top with lettuce, tomatoes, onions and house dressing.

Try a hot meatball, sausage, chicken or eggplant sub ($11) or a meal-sized salad. Martha’s Vineyard is fortified with goat cheese, strawberries and nuts ($13). Add grilled chicken for $3.

The pizza counter was filled with mouth-watering dishes when Sheryl and I visited. We admired the thin crust pies and the special hot stuffed breads. A regular 10-inch cheese pizza is $8; go ahead and get a 14 inch Hot Mama pizza with banana peppers, capicola, sausage and capers for $20.

We ordered one of everything at the counter – a slice of pizza Margherita ($3.12), homemade stromboli ($8.31), a Calabria roll ($4.15) – and threw in a box of three cannoli ($5.19).

Just as we were about to pay, someone appeared from the kitchen and started unloading a pan of hot cheese rolls. What were they, we wondered?
“Sausage and pepperoni rolls,” was the answer. We also have one ($4.99).

We grabbed drinks from the cooler and after waiting a few minutes for our food we headed out on a hot sunny day.

Everything fits in a pizza box. We opened it up and dug it.

First, the warm cheese bun. The staff was nice enough to cut everything in half and we each grabbed one. “It’s amazing,” said Sheryl, who got to the roller first. “It’s so good,” she added.

I bite. It was a windmill filled with cheese, pepperoni and sausage, hot from the oven. The zippy pepperoni pieces that came out were crispy, the cheese was golden on top and crispy around the edges too. Inside, the dough was soft, there was so much mozzarella cheese you wouldn’t want more, and the sausage had good flavor and no gristle. It was the best thing I’ve eaten in a long time.

If I were to create the ideal Italian snack, it would be made up of these ingredients in these proportions. Point to them.

Then we tried the pizza. I liked the thin, crunchy, almost cracker-like crust on the bottom, but solid enough to pick up. The sauce was sweet and tangy at the same time, as fresh tomatoes can be. The sauce carries a Margherita pie, so it should be good, and it was. I would have liked more basil.

I caught the Calabrian roll. Raffaele Mele and his brothers come from the region of Calabria in Italy. Raffaele and his wife, Melinda, along with his brother, Frank, are the owners of Raffaele’s.

The Calabrian roll is filled with eggplant and spinach, the crispy top from the hot oven, the cheese melted golden. It reminded me of eggplant parmesan with its fried flavor and seasoned breadcrumbs, which went well with spinach and cheese. The roll was toasted on the sides and bottom. It had just the right amount of filler.

I cut a slice of stromboli. If I hadn’t had the cheese roll first, this would be my favorite. There was lots of mozzarella cheese and this spicy pepperoni, with pickled pepper. The crust was golden and a little crispy. Again, a good proportion of bread to filling.

Sheryl moved on to the cannoli. The three small pastries have been prepackaged and filled, which makes the shell soft. A crispy shell is one of the pleasures of fresh cannoli. But Sheryl liked the smooth filling with chocolate chunks.

“It tastes really good. It’s just not crispy,” she said.

The only thing to take home was a quarter of the stromboli. Her husband Eric later tweaked it, saying, “It was delicious.”

With two drinks, tax and tip, the bill came to $37.47.

But wait, there’s more. Raffaele’s offers ready-to-cook meals and other prepared foods in the deli crate. I bought a chicken parmesan meal ($11.99) with four pieces of seasoned breaded chicken covered in a savory sauce and lots of cheese. With a green salad and Bella Napoli bread from the freezer, it was an easy and simple meal for two.

Italian cuisine is an important and much-loved part of the culture of our Capital Region. There is always room for more. Welcome to Raffaele.

Caroline Lee is a freelance writer living in Troy. Join her at [email protected].

Raffaele’s Italian Deli & Imports

WHERE: 675 Grooms Road, Clifton Park; (518) 982-1054; raffaelsitaliandeli.com
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; close on Sunday
HOW MUCH: $37.47, with taxes and tip
MORE INFO: ADA Compliant. Parking lot. Delivery via Mealeo.

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