Blogs > Fresh Ink

Barbara Lombardo of Saratoga Springs, NY, is a journalism adjunct at University at Albany and retired executive editor of The Saratogian, The Record and the Community News. Follow her on Twitter @Barb_Lombardo.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Mio Posto chef moving to much larger Maestro's; an homage to city's fine chefs

Maestro's on Broadway will soon be getting a new chef,
as owner/chef Danny Petrosino is leaving his fine Mio Posto
on Putnam Street, trading an excellent eight-table
restaurant for a much larger challenge.
When a high school friend whom I haven’t seen in about 30 years came through town to meet for lunch, I had to pick one among the many terrific downtown restaurants — and chose well with Maestro’s at the Van Dam.
We lucked out with seats at the last open table for two on the porch, perched above Broadway and set back against the windows. We both enjoyed large chunks of lobster elegantly presented on long, thin platters with peas and greens. Perfect for a warm don’t-let-summer-end day. The homemade dark chocolate was a sweet ending with our French press coffee.

Maestro’s came to mind because this morning I caught Steve Barnes’ writeup in the Times Union about an upcoming switch in chefs involving another one of downtown Saratoga Springs’ finest and most intimate restaurants, Mio Posto.

Barbara Shrager Lombardo and
Pat Quinlan Atkinson -- adding our maiden names
as a nod to our roots as high school pals --
show off our lobster salads at Maestro's.
A member of the Maestro’s staff told me that Mio Posto chef-owner Danny Petrosino this fall is becoming executive chef of Maestro’s, whose owner-chef is taking a break from the business. Meanwhile, Barnes reports, Petrosino will be looking to sell his eight-table restaurant on Putnam Street. Petrosino has set the bar high for whomever ultimately takes over.

The number of excellent restaurants in this city is amazing. I was relieved to discover on Travers Day that Sperry’s hasn’t lost its panache despite losing chef Dale Miller; I’m a duck aficionado, and the breast was flawless. And visiting cousins during Travers Week were impressed by both the food and the warm reception offered at the Crown Grill.

Though the movement of chefs is inevitable, I hope that one of my favorites stays exactly where he is: Executive Chef Fabrizio Bazzani of Chianti Il Ristorante may have a low profile, but he has high standards in the kitchen. His consistently excellent, creative cooking keeps Chianti’s bustling year-round. I enjoy seeing him in the open kitchen, whether I’m trying his specials or sticking with my standbys.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: Keep a good thing going

Barbara Lombardo, Charlie Kraebel
and Mike O'Sullivan, executive editor, city editor
and publisher of The Saratogian, The Record
and the Community News wore Pink Sheet shirts
to take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
Photo by Chris Brown.
Many years ago, when the only person I’d heard of having ALS was Lou Gehrig, the aide of a longtime local assemblyman came down with the disease.  This vivacious middle-aged man was helplessly bedridden, his mind sharp while his body quit on him. Over the years, every now and again I’d learn of someone losing a close friend or relative to ALS, including the fairly recent death of a friend’s sister-in-law.

Suddenly, ALS awareness has gone viral thanks to social media and the ice bucket challenge. In just three weeks and a day, the ALS Association has received $41.8 million in donations, including gifts from 739,275 first-time donors. During that same period last year, from July 29 to Aug. 21, it received $2.1 million.

The number of new donors is as astounding as the amount of money, when the ice bucket splash has dried up into old news. The key will be to keep giving.

“ALS was first found in 1869 by French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot, but it wasn’t until 1939 that Lou Gehrig brought national and international attention to the disease,” the website notes.

It’s taken 75 years for something -- the ice bucket challenge – to return ALS to the national spotlight.

ALS stands for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive degenerative disease that prevents the brain from telling the body’s muscles what to do.

I thought it was a great idea when I first heard of the challenge. But being a woos, when my friends Dennis and Debbie Murphy took the challenge and Dennis challenged me, my first thought was, “Couldn’t I just make a donation?” Then I decided to go for it. And when it turned out Publisher Mike O’Sullivan and City Editor Charlie Kraebel had been challenged as well, we agreed to don our Pink Sheet shirts and do it together. Mike’s son Kevin accepted (a little too gleefully, if you ask me) the task of dumping the ice water.

It was a little cold and wet, but it was fun — and quick.
John Gray made a good point in his column this week when he admonished people whose videos didn't say a word about ALS and acted as if it was all just a joke about ice water. His lead was no joke: His mother died of ALS in their video. 

I think we did it OK in ours. I challenged Maura Pulver, the owner of Five Points Grocery, my corner store; Police Chief Greg Veitch; Marquita Rhodes, as incoming president of Soroptimist International of Saratoga County (or you may know her from the Albany Business Improvement District); and my son David.

I think I even beat Derek Jeter to taking the challenge, though I think he might have reached a few more people. You think?  

The challenge captured people’s attention, thanks to the power of social media. With or without the ice, let’s remember next year.

You can print out a form to donate, go to, or mail a check to The ALS Association Gift Processing Center, PO Box 6051, Albert Lea, MN 56007.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Clubhouse? Grandstand? Mysteries of Saratoga Race Course revealed

Saratogian Ad Director Barbara Fignar at an early breakfast
Friday at Saratoga Race Course, where you can watch horses
work out and enjoy a meal. You can just go right to rail or
sit in the boxes without eating, too.
The New York Racing Association has done a good job this season enhancing the track-goers’ experience at Saratoga Race Course, with such things as better TVs in the picnic areas and a friendly, helpful demeanor from name-tagged employees.

But understanding what’s what and how to get there is still something of a mystery, as I was reminded recently when talking to new newsroom staffers and first-time track visitors.
So here’s a quick primer.
When you go to the track you have two choices: Grandstand admission for $5, or clubhouse for $8 ($10 and $15 on Travers Day); kids 12 and younger are free.
Grandstand is basically general admission (and should be called that, for clarity’s sake). It gives you access to most everywhere on the grounds, from right up to the rail at the races, to half the seating areas, to the huge backyard with all the picnic tables and the paddock area where they saddle up the horses.
Clubhouse admission gets you up to the rail closer to the finish line, to about half the seating areas, and to the reserved dining just past the finish line.
Neither admission gives you a seat in the stands.
The long area of covered seats is actually divided into two areas, called the grandstand and the clubhouse. The difference: the grandstand section is accessible with grandstand/general admission and the sections are in the second half. Meanwhile, the clubhouse area is basically divided into two sections: the regular pull-down seats with sections in the first half of the alphabet and the “boxes” with five wooden chairs that are sold in advance for thousands or doled out as needed by NYRA to horse owners, politicians or celebrities. The dress code for the regular pull-down seats is casual, whether in the grandstand or clubhouse areas; the clubhouse boxes are where men and women are best-dressed by regulation. 
To get one of those seats, you purchase them well before the season begins through a NYRA lottery system or you buy from what’s available on a given day, as explained at
There are lots of benches around, and picnic tables, and people generally respect bench spaces that are informally reserved with a Pink Sheet or other newspaper. People also bring folding chairs.
I picked up a nice map of the grounds at the track information booth last weekend. For an out-of-town colleague coming to the track with her two kids for the first time next week, I recommend watching the horses circling and getting saddled in the paddock area, looking at the brightly colored jockey uniforms through the windows of the Jockey Silks Room, watching races from the grandstand, maybe catching a race at the rail if they can get up to the fence, and enjoying the musicians at the Gazebo Stage, where last Sunday Big Medicine was playing to an appreciate crowd when I wandered by.

Friday, August 15, 2014

5 Seconds of Summer coming to SPAC in 2015

5 Second of Summer coming to
Saratoga Performing Arts Center
Aug. 26 -- 2015!
My membership to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center brought me a surprising mailing this week: a chance to buy seats for the band 5 Seconds of Summer — for their Aug. 26, 2015 performance.
Yes, 2015.
The Australian pop-punk  boy-band (confession: I had to Google them) will be touring next summer. As a member, I have until Tuesday to order up to two inside seats (at $69.50 or $49.50, both limited to rear orchestra and center balcony) and up to two lawn tickets ($25).
Another confession: I think I’ll pass, even though I’m running the risk of getting shut out a year from now at a show that could be huge.
The only thing I book a year in advance are doctor’s appointments.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Happy 1st Birthday, Northshire books in Saratoga

Jennie Grey took this picture earlier this week
 in the expansive children's section at Northshire Bookstore,
which is celebrating one year in Saratoga Springs.
I love the lead to reporter Jennie Grey’s story this week aboutNorthshire Bookstore’s first year in Saratoga, which, she wrote, “has whipped by like the chapters of a late-night page-turner.”
So true. It’s hard to believe Northshire (and the building it’s in smack in the middle of Broadway) is only one year old, so great an impact has it had in the city and surrounding communities.
The store is one of the best things to happen to downtown Saratoga Springs in recent memory, and that’s saying a lot, considering how many terrific things you can find there. The independent, family-owned operation with a fabulous reputation for its Manchester, Vt., shop, jumped right into the community with its diverse offerings and seemingly endless stream of visits by a wide-range of authors, from national to intensely local.
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Doris Kearns Goodwin and Richard Russo; others were enthralled by Anne Rice and thrilled to meet Hillary Clinton; I had fun at an in-store cooking demonstration one day led by Annette Nielsen. The variety and quantity of events are amazing.
“We are happy to be a part of the Saratoga Springs community,” owner Chris Morrow told Jennie Grey. “Independent bookselling is a tenuous effort in the best of times, so it is important to be in a supportive community that appreciates our commitment to quality, enrichment and literacy.”
They are not just good business people, they are good neighbors. I am so grateful to them and the local people who helped them make the logical leap to Saratoga Springs. And I hope we all do our part to help keep them in business for years to come.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Please tell CDTA where buses are needed -- and aren't

The Capital District Transportation Authority reported this week what my neighbors sitting on their front porch could have told them months ago: the No. 473 goes by every 20 minutes every day with rarely anyone on board but the driver. From early in the day to late into the evening, the full-size bus chugs along from its route connecting Skidmore College (out of session since May) to downtown and up Jefferson Street to the racino, where it turns around to repeat the lonely route.
I'm a huge proponent of public transportation, used wisely. It's about time CDTA took a hard look at the well-used and under-used routes -- and did something about them.
The documented travel is a good first step. The routes from Wilton through Saratoga Springs to the county seat in Ballston Spa fills a real need. Less-used routes needn't be abandoned entirely if there's a need. But it might be more cost-effective to subsidize a few taxi rides than to run full-sized, empty buses hour after hour.
Check out the report and let the CDTA know what you think.