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Ellen Descisciolo

Seems Like Old Times
By B.A. Nilsson

3246 S. Broadway (Route 9), Saratoga Springs, 584-8200. Serving dinner daily 4-11. AE, MC, V.

Cuisine: standard continental
Entrée price range: $7 (pizza Margherita) to $23 (N.Y. steak)
Ambience: spacious
Clientele: friends and neighbors

When it was the Joe Collins restaurant, under which moniker this eatery held forth for some 40 years, the place gained a clientele looking for predictable dining. But even the most dedicated consistency doesn’t mean things should never change, and the Collins succumbed, to be glib about it, to too much sameness.

Refurbished and reopened in time for last summer’s season, Morrissey’s was the result of a collaboration between restaurateurs Charles Brucculeri and Mike Kiernan, both area natives. They kept the overhead lamps from the Collins days and not a whole lot else, and the result is a pair of expansive dining rooms flanking a busy bar.

The place is named for a Saratoga icon from the late 19th century, bare-knuckle fighter John “Old Smoke” Morrissey, who went into Congress, and also helped bring horse racing to the city.

Interesting that Morrissey’s should lay claim to serving “fine food in the Saratoga tradition.” I’m not aware of any tradition other than trying to part the summer tourists from their money; in a culinary sense, Saratoga can lay claim to potato chips and not much else. It has matured to the point where you’ll find satisfying food, although you easily can pay too much for it.

The menu is more inventive than what you’d find here in the old days, but it’s not breaking any new ground. While Morrissey’s takes a reasonable approach to pricing, there’s a lot of competition in that range. The food at Morrissey’s has its innovative moments, and it’s clear there’s a lot of dedication in the kitchen to putting out a good product.

Including pizza, there are a dozen appetizers, priced from $4 for soup to $11 for a serving of littleneck clams. Three salads are also among them, including a Caesar for $6 that lays claim to authenticity by sporting anchovies in the dressing. A sherry vinaigrette tops the other salads ($6 each), one of which adds pears and blue cheese, a splendid combination, to the tossed baby lettuce, which is very fresh and crisp.

A grilled portobello mushroom ($7) is served with dabs of goat cheese, another good combo, with lightly dressed arugula to finish the dish.

Three types of pizza are listed, all baked in the wood-fired oven. Exotic combos like prosciutto and arugula or mushrooms and white-truffle oil run $8; the $7 pizza Margherita boasted fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and just-chopped basil that didn’t get the kind of flavor support a pizza sauce should provide; the crust, too, wasn’t particularly crisp or flavorful.

Other wood-fired oven dishes are entrées like roasted monkfish, stuffed eggplant and pork tenderloin, $15 to $17. The pork is served with sides of braised kale and yam purée, which are commendable touches.

Of course there’s beef—a New York strip ($23), which at least has the potential for good flavor, and its side of hand-cut fries will ensure that the nervous traditionalist isn’t frightened.

Lower-priced entrées are a 10-ounce burger ($8), portobello mushroom sandwich ($7) and one of my favorite summer dishes, a poached salmon salad with a lemon-caper vinaigrette ($11).

The brief entrée list also includes a couple of fish dishes, a couple of chicken and some pasta, but they’re imaginatively fashioned, from the straightforwardness of haddock served fish-and-chips style ($15) to an excellent spinach ravioli ($15), on which the pesto sauce was the star but got plenty of support from a liberal scattering of chunks of roasted garlic.

A maple syrup glaze was almost too sweet for the salmon ($17), although it may have been the sweetness of the accompanying acorn squash that seemed to push this over the edge. Barley risotto was a nice touch, offsetting some of that sweetness.

But it would never have worked against the lemon-pudding cake ($5), which was just as the name suggests, combining two textures with a deft sweet-sour flavor. Warm apple tart with ice cream, white-chocolate cheesecake and banana-and-chocolate strudel are other similarly priced dessert offerings.

Early-bird specials are a big draw here, acknowledging the demographics of the steadier customers. It wouldn’t surprise me that regulars from the old days are continuing to visit. One of the traditions from the Collins days also was catch-as-catch-can service, and that also continues, with waitresses hustling to mind their tables without much of a cooperative approach.

This being the most common problem of most area restaurants, it’s no surprise. It’s tough to find good servers, goes the common refrain, yet I never hear that from restaurants where the floor staff works together under a management that knows the secrets of superior service. Morrissey’s has a good handle on the food end of things; let’s hope that the front of the house comes under similar scrutiny and is appropriately smoothed.

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.


Although the event is called Cooking for Kids, it’s grown-up food you’ll learn to make in order to benefit area children’s charities. It takes place from 7 to 10 PM on Tuesday (Aug. 26) at the Saratoga-Wilton Elks Club (Route 9, Wilton), and features Saratoga-area chefs and celebrities, including chefs Mark Graham of the Wine Bar and David Pedinotti of One Caroline Street Bistro. You’ll learn about gelato from Eugene Bizzarro of Eugene’s Café Gelato, experience a professional cheese cracking with a wheel of Grana Padano from Italy, learn desserts from the Brunswick Bed & Breakfast, sample hot sauces from the Saratoga Salsa Company and much more. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at Compliments to the Chef at 488 Broadway in Saratoga, or call 226-4477. . . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland (


(Please fax info to 922-7090)

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