Another culinary gem in Guilderland, a little further up Route 20 beyond Athos, is the Italian restaurant MezzaNotte. I first discovered this place a few years ago after reading Steve Barnes’ piece in the Times Union about local restaurants that serve rabbit. The article noted that rabbit is not only healthier than most other meats, with less calories and cholesterol and more protein, but also more efficient to produce, as a rabbit can yield six times the amount of meat as beef using the same food and water inputs. The premise was intriguing to me, and I had never eaten rabbit before, so I set out to sample something different. At the time they had a roast rabbit dish as well as a pasta ragu with rabbit on the menu, although it looks like currently they only offer the pasta option. After a lovely dining experience a few years ago, I have been hoping for another chance to return and see if the restaurant is still producing some top quality dishes. The short answer is: absolutely. Make some time to give this place a try if you haven’t done so already.
We started off with an appetizer of sausage and clams, as well as the MezzaNotte salad. The clams appetizer was a relatively small portion, but the sauce was zesty and fresh with big, satisfying chunks of sausage and a slightly crisped baguette slice on top.
The salad was served with hazelnuts, dried figs, tomatoes, sliced pears, crispy goat cheese, and a citrus vinaigrette over mixed greens. While I enjoyed the mix of ingredients, I found the fried goat cheese to be slightly distracting and unnecessary. The salad might have been better with crumbles of a stronger flavored cheese, or perhaps smaller pieces that had more of a thick and crunchy outer coating. As served, the cheese was a little bland and a touch oily from the fryer.
For the main portion of our meal, I was eager to try the rabbit ragu dish once again, and it was every bit as luscious and savory as I remembered it being a few years ago. The rabbit is served in small chunks in a rich marsala sauce with large pieces of pancetta and mushrooms over garganelli pasta with spinach. If you’re wondering what rabbit tastes like, the answer, although cliche, is a lot like chicken. The color and texture is somewhere between white meat and dark meat chicken. In this preparation, it was meltingly tender and mild in flavor. If you didn’t tell someone that they were eating rabbit, they would have just assumed it was slow-cooked chicken instead.
One of the great things about MezzaNotte is that almost any dish can be ordered in a full or half portion. The rabbit ragu above is a half portion, which was still more than enough to fill me up, but cheap enough that we were able to add dessert at the end of the meal without completely busting our budget. We opted for a creme brulee, which was just about perfect in every way. It had the right amount of creaminess and sweetness under the classic thin layer of caramelized sugar, but it wasn’t overpoweringly sugary. It was also topped with a couple of fresh blackberries.
Final Rating: 9/10. The ambiance at MezzaNotte is slightly above casual, and the prices are also a step above some other nearby Italian restaurants. But if you order half portions to sample a few dishes, the overall bill isn’t unreasonable. They have a nice mix of seafood and pasta choices on the menu that stray from the typical, uninspired fare of most red sauce joints in the area. And the option to sample rabbit is definitely unique, and worth a visit. I can only hope that they’ll add a second rabbit dish to the menu again in the near future, and perhaps inspire some other restaurants to get more creative in terms of their meat choices.