Worth a Detour: Jerlando’s at Watkins Glen Cooks Great Italian Food | Restaurant Reviews
Have you been to Jerlando’s? It’s right in the corner of the main drag in downtown Watkins Glen (and has another site in Montour Falls) about a half hour drive from Ithaca. It is a family business and one of the best restaurants in our region. Forgive the food metaphor, but the proof is in the pudding and Jerlando’s has specialized in serving Italian-American cuisine since 1983 – an admirable record in any setting.
The interior of the restaurant is decorated to suggest an outdoor Italian garden, with stone walls separating the dining rooms, 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 main topic.
A dozen different starters ($ 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 for relatively light eating, the salad selections ($ 9.99 to $ 13.99) include basics like Caesar, Chef, and Grilled Chicken, plus four original concoctions.
Of the dozen pasta selections, I had the scampi shrimp linguini ($ 18.99). Six medium-sized shrimp were incorporated into a large serving of linguini in a discreet white wine and garlic and butter sauce. It was a nicer version of linguini alfredo.
In the pollo (chicken) section, I enjoyed the grilled Cantonese chicken ($ 18.99). The grilled chicken breast was topped with a generous helping of a creamy garlic sauce with lots of chopped tomatoes, all cooked in a mozzarella cheese sauce. Rich and delicious.
Baked dishes include Italian basics like ziti and meatballs, manicotti, stuffed peppers, mushroom ravioli, and eggplant parmigiana. I ordered “Jerlando Lasagna” ($ 16.99) which was featured as the chef’s original recipe. It was, in the sense that I’m used to the middle layers of dough and here the middle was made of soft chewy cheese, a different texture but very nice.
Cioppino is a fish stew that originated in San Francisco in the mid-1800s and is now on some Italian-American menus. If you’ve ever had Bouillabaisse, a French favorite, it’s basically the same. It starts with a tomato-based sauce, or broth, mixed with wine, herbs and spices, then adds all kinds of fish and shellfish. At Jerlando, in the pesce (fish) section of the menu, you will receive scallops, mussels, shrimp, haddock, squid, clams, green peppers, garlic, red onion, celery and tomatoes accompanied by a generous portion of crispy bread for dipping ( $ 23.99).
Speaking of bread, each starter is served with a delicious thick loaf of bread spread with margarine (in response to my question, I was told some people are allergic to butter) and garlic and sprinkled with oregano.
Other categories include Hot Sandwiches, Grill (which includes half a dozen burgers), and a small section just for kids.
There are all kinds of different pizza combinations. You can choose small ($ 13.99) or large ($ 15.99), then choose from 16 different toppings. The toppings are $ 2.49 on a small pizza and $ 3.49 on a large.
Most entrees come with a large salad including fresh lettuce, cucumber slices, tomatoes, onion rings and ripe olives and a choice of a dozen dressings.
There are four desserts. The tiramisu was rich and thick, but the apple cobbler was pretty ordinary. It was reheated and served with a scoop of whipped cream and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The apples and cream seemed to come out of a box and were quite nice.
Wines by the glass ($ 5.75 to $ 6.25) are served generously and include a comprehensive selection of wines from around the world, including New York.
Jerlando’s is one of the best restaurants in our region, offering a wide selection of large portions of delicious food served by attentive and efficient staff.
Would I drive to Watkins Glen just to eat there? I have, I do and I will.
Tidbit: There is off-street parking on-site behind the Famous Brands discount clothing store.