Camillus residents have been flocking to Siena,
the new restaurant at 5633 W. Genesee St., at the top of the hill,
since it opened in January. Fittingly, the spot formerly housed Top of
the Hill, and was operated by the Kondziela siblings. It endured from
1964 until 2000 when the remaining brother, Sonny Kondziela, and his
wife Sally retired. The building remained vacant for a number of years
until the owners of Casa di Copani took over. The menu was similar to
that served at the Burnet Avenue location but the new restaurant didn’t
Next came Plainville Farms Restaurant,
which you think would have worked since their home-style food was tasty
and affordable. However, one thing the restaurant didn’t have was a
bar, which limited its success.
Another stretch of emptiness, until Hans Lazuardi,
owner/chef of Dante, the trendy little spot in Armory Square, saw its
potential. “The owner of the building was one of my customers and we
began talking,” recalls Lazuardi. It was a huge building, and the owner
wisely divided the space, half of which is currently occupied by a day
care center, the presence of which held up Siena’s liquor license, but
not for long. “We worked for about six months before we finally got
it,” recalls Lazuardi.
On Jan. 15, typically a slow month for
the restaurant business, Siena opened its doors. “There was such a big
crowd on opening night that people were waiting in a long line
outside,” Lazuardi says. Since then Siena has been packing them in. As
an example, on one dreary, snowy Wednesday afternoon, the parking lot
was full and just about every table inside held lunch diners.
Siena is named after a city near
Florence, a no-brainer indication that the food carries an Italian
influence, but that’s about all. “Someone from Siena, Italy, looking
for an authentic Italian meal here wouldn’t recognize my menu,” says
the chef with a chuckle. The successful entrepreneur did his homework
before committing himself to the space and learned that locals come
from a mixture of ethnic backgrounds. “They like Italian food that is
familiar and not too fancy—hence, Italian-American,” Lazuardi says.
“For instance, I won’t put broccoli rabe on the menu, just broccoli.”
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t put his own
stamp on dishes. Antipasti, or appetizers, on the dinner menu include
the cold antipasto sampler, which has assorted cold cuts and cheeses,
grilled vegetables and chilled shrimp. Another example is the hot
antipasto sampler, usually a shellfish mixture, with peppers and
eggplant simmered in a broth. Here Siena opts for a combination of
stuffed clams, fried calamari, fried mozzarella and eggplant rollatini
masked in a light marinara sauce, for $14.
Spicy chicken strudel, a stew with potatoes, peas and
aioli, is a far cry from Tuscany, but worth a try for a mere $6. A
portabella mushroom, stuffed with shrimp, clams, calamari and crab,
with cheese and garlic cream, for $9, could be a meal. Eggplant
rollatini, eggplant rolled around ricotta cheese and topped with tomato
sauce, is close to a classic Italian dish, for $6. Crab manicotti with
Alfredo sauce and green onions sounds like a winner for $9.
Chicken pastina soup, a favorite no
matter your ethnic background, runs $3 per cup or $4 for a bowl. There
is also a daily soup, inspired by whatever is market fresh. A house
salad is $4, and Caesar is $6 (add $3 for grilled chicken). A chef
salad with the works is $8 and a salad of spinach, mandarin oranges,
Virginia ham and cashews combined with shrimp is $9.
Kids can order a cheeseburger and fries,
spaghetti and meatball with tomato sauce or butter, macaroni and
cheese, or chicken fingers and fries for $5 per item.
There are three pizza choices (running
$9 to $12), a seven-layer lasagna ($13), linguini with clam sauce
($12), spaghetti with meatballs or sausage ($11), or baked ziti (with
meat, $12; vegetarian, $10). Lazuardi gets a little fancy with his
lobster ravioli, topped with a rich combination of bacon, sweet peas
and pink vodka sauce for a reasonable $16. Gnocchi Bolognese is $14.
There is even a risotto alla Milanese as a nod to northern Italy for
$12. A small salad accompanies all these dishes.
Familiar inclusions on any Italian
restaurant menu are chicken or veal served Marsala, piccata or
Parmigiano style, ranging from $13 to $20. Or try eggplant Parmigiano
for $13; scampi-style chicken, $13; shrimp, $18; or haddock, $16. A
half, bone-in chicken is a healthy choice for $14, and there is a
limited availability for veal osso bucco, braised with honey citrus and
capers. At $24, it is the most expensive item on the menu.
Steaks, pork, veal or lamb chops are
available from $16 for a New York strip to lamb chops for $23. A T-bone
steak is market priced. It is heartening to see chicken, haddock and
veal spelled the correct “Francese” instead of “Francaise” as you see
on most Italian menus. “Francaise” is French, after all.
Now here’s the kicker. “I wanted to
serve comfort food also,” says the chef. So as a nod to those who don’t
want Italian, just some good-tastin’ stuff, you can order sauerbraten
with creamy noodles and cabbage marmalade for $16. Meatloaf, a
home-style favorite, comes stuffed with ham and cheese and covered with
mushroom gravy for $12. You can also get fish and chips any day, not
just Friday, for $14. Desserts include cannoli, panna cotta, flourless
chocolate torte and poached pears in port wine.
Siena also features a Sunday brunch. Items will change
periodically, but on a recent Sunday corned beef hash and seafood
Newburg were listed along with the usual omelet station, breakfast
meats and French toast. Cost is $11.95 for adults, $7.95 for children
12 and under. “Some of our best Sunday customers come over from across
the street,” says Lazuardi, referring to St. Joseph’s Church, 5600 W.
Genesee St. Come spring, enjoy your meal outside in the covered patio
Siena can seat 150 divided into three
areas: the bar; the main, spacious dining room; and one narrow space
next to the bar. Starched white napkins sit atop black tablecloths,
resulting in a classic, but attractive, setting. Plates emerge from a
pass-thru from the kitchen, a long narrow cooking space designed for
efficiency. A long, low cabinet under the pass-thru holds staples, like
salt and pepper and napkins, in cubicles. “I designed it myself,”
Siena Restaurant is open for lunch
Mondays through Fridays, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dinner is served Mondays
to Thursdays, 4:30 to 9 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, 4:30 to 10 p.m.;
and Sundays, 3 to 8 p.m. The Sunday brunch buffet runs from 10 a.m. to
2 p.m. For more information, call 468-9999.
Clamdigger’s delight: The linguini with clam sauce scores high points at Siena. MICHAEL DAVIS PHOTO