Have you been to Jerlando’s? It’s smack dab on a corner on the main street of downtown Watkins Glen, (and has another site in Montour Falls) just about a half-hour drive from Ithaca. It’s family owned and one of the best restaurants in our area. Pardon the food metaphor but the proof is in the pudding and Jerlando’s has specialized in serving Italian-American cuisine since 1983 — an admirable track record in any environment.

The interior of the restaurant is decorated to suggest an outdoor Italian garden, with stone walls separating dining areas, as well as painted walls of imaginary surrounding buildings, trees, bushes, and flowers.

The menu is huge, with a large number and variety of items. For this review I tried to order something from each major heading.

A dozen different appetizers, ($6.99-$12.99) range from basic mozzarella sticks, chicken wings, and brussels sprouts to steak and cheese pazotti.

If you’re in the mood to eat relatively lightly, the salad selections ($9.99-$13.99) include the basics such as Caesar, chef and grilled chicken, as well as four original concoctions.

Among the dozen Pasta selections, I had the linguini shrimp scampi ($18.99). Six medium-size shrimp were incorporated into a large portion of linguini in a white wine and understated garlic and butter sauce. It was a most enjoyable version of linguini alfredo.

In the pollo (chicken) section I enjoyed grilled chicken cantonese ($18.99.) The char-grilled chicken breast was covered with a generous portion of a creamy garlic sauce with lots of chopped tomatoes, all baked in a mozzarella cheese sauce. Rich and delicious.

Oven baked dishes include Italian basics like ziti and meatballs, manicotti, stuffed peppers, mushroom ravioli, and eggplant parmigiana. I ordered “Jerlando’s Lasagna” ($16.99) which was billed as the chef’s original recipe. It was, in the sense that I’m used to middle layers of dough and here the middle was composed of soft chewy cheese, a different texture but very pleasant.

Cioppino is a fish stew that originated in San Francisco in the mid-1800’s and is now featured on some Italian-American menus. If you’ve ever had Bouillabaisse, a French favorite, it’s basically the same thing. It starts with a tomato-based sauce, or broth, mixed with wine, herbs, and spices, and then has all sorts of fish and shellfish added. At Jerlando’s, in the pesce (fish) section of the menu you’ll receive scallops, mussels, shrimp, haddock, calamari, clams, green peppers, garlic, red onion, celery and tomatoes accompanied by a generous portion of crusty bread for dunking ($23.99).

Speaking of bread, every entrée is served with a delicious individual loaf of thick bread spread with margarine (in response to my query I was told some people are allergic to butter) and garlic and sprinkled with oregano.

Other categories include hot sandwiches, from the charbroiler (which includes a half-dozen burgers), and a small just for kids section.

There are all kinds of different pizza combinations. You can choose small ($13.99) or large ($15.99) and then select from 16 different toppings. The toppings are $2.49 on a small pizza and $3.49 on a large.

Most entrées come with a large salad which includes fresh lettuce, sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, onion rings, and ripe olives and a choice of a dozen dressings.

There are four Desserts. The tiramisu was rich and thick, however the apple cobbler was rather ordinary. It was warmed and served with a scoop of whipped cream and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Both the apples and the cream seemed like they came out of a can and were pleasant enough.

The wines by the glass ($5.75-$6.25) are served with a generous pour and include a comprehensive selection of wines from around the world, including New York.

Jerlando’s is one of the best restaurants in our area, offering an extensive selection of large portions of wonderful food served by a thoughtful, efficient staff.

Would I drive to Watkins Glen just to eat there? I have, I do, and I will.

Tidbit: There is off-street, on-site parking behind the Famous Brands discount clothing store.

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