Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Consol's Family Kitchen

Name: Consol's Family Kitchen
Location: 101 Oak Hill Ave., Endicott, NY 13760
Phone: (607) 754-7437
Cuisine: Italian
Attire: Casual
Price: Entrees range from $7-$20. Usually $40 total for two.

Consol's Family Kitchen is considered the veritable mecca of great Italian cuisine by many in the Greater Binghamton area. They have a long tradition of excellence dating to the area's heyday of the 1940's. Its location in the Little Italy neighborhood of Endicott at the corner of Watson Blvd. and Oak Hill Ave. provides an authentic, neighborhood feel. Its loyal patrons defend the place enthusiastically. It's certainly one of the most popular places in the area. It has been busy every time we've gone. A shame, then, that it's so tragically average.

Consol's has an odd layout. Upon entrance there's a (too) small waiting area with a bar adjacent on the right. To the left there are three distinct dining areas. One thing that sticks in my memory most about Consol's is the lighting. It's too yellow, too bright or something. I'm not crazy about the ambiance, especially considering other Italian places in the area that have a much more relaxed and refined feel like Cacciatore's and Tony's. The Christmas-style lights strewn from the ceiling in the dining room closest to the kitchen border on tacky. In truth though, I'm not an interior decorator by any stretch and I really don't care as long as I get amazing food put in front of me. So let's turn to the food.

The menu at Consol's has many choices. You can get regular, round pizza or one of their specialties, the grilled pizza. They have many pasta options with homemade pasta in addition to some specialty pasta items. They also have entrees with various meat options (chicken, veal, the usual). It's really very much like you'd expect most Italian menus to look, with the grilled pizza being a somewhat unfamiliar option.

I've been to Consol's about five times and tried a few different items, as has Megan. The first time I went, I got the Italian Trio, which is a sampler of their manicotti, chicken parmigiana, and homemade spaghetti. I thought the manicotti was very good and is something I would definitely get again. The chicken parm didn't really do anything for me. The chicken was a little dried out and I didn't care for the breading. The spaghetti was, well, spaghetti. Some places where they offer homemade pasta, you really can tell the difference between the homemade and the store-bought. At Consol's I really couldn't tell much of a difference.

Another time, I got the lasagna. It was pretty decent but nothing that had me clamoring for more. Megan got the Rigatoni with Vodka Sauce, a personal favorite dish of mine, and it was not good at all. Too many tomatoes and very watery. At that point we kind of swore the place off. Why head out to the far corner of Endicott when there are places we prefer that are significantly closer?

Lately, we've gone back a couple more times. Each of those times I opted to try the grilled pizza. They offer it in four different varieties: margarita, grilled sausage, artichoke hearts, and prosciutto. Last night, I went with the grilled sausage.

There it is. Zoom in and get a good look at that bad boy. This pizza is among the most unique I've ever had. Very thin crust, grilled to give it a somewhat smoky, robust flavor, with sausage, tomato sauce, roasted red peppers, parmesan cheese, and mozzarella. It's sliced horizontally and vertically so it doesn't have the usual triangular slices. I really like the taste of this pizza. After the first couple slices I was more intrigued than impressed, not knowing quite what to make of it, but by the time I got halfway through it I was pretty hooked. But I do have a couple of criticisms. Look at this pizza very closely and you will see there are puddles of grease on top. This causes the parts toward the middle of the pizza to get very soggy, which combined with the thinness of the crust means that this pizza is prone to falling apart too easily. Also, the toppings are not spread entirely evenly meaning that some of the smaller pieces toward the outside had next to no toppings at all. Minor criticisms all things considered. On my next trip to Consol's, whenever that may be, I am inclined to go with this pizza again.

Megan ordered the Chicken Sofia, which consisted of breaded chicken cutlet and rigatoni topped with a garlic cream sauce and broccoli. Allegedly, this is a quite popular item among the clientele. She didn't really care for it too much. I tried a bite and was equally unimpressed. Our friend (and loyal blog reader) Jaime came along for dinner as well and ordered the Linguine Alfredo. Her two-word review was that it was "passable Italian." Not exactly what I would call a ringing endorsement.

My advice as far as Consol's goes is to try the Grilled Pizza. It's unlike anything you've probably ever had before and this is one of the only places you'll get a chance to sample it. Plus, it's really quite good, albeit Greasy with a capital G. As for the rest of the menu, I think Megan and I have tried to give it a very fair shake, but we're really not impressed too much. We know how much some people love the place, but we don't see why. Perhaps Consol's is past its prime, and is getting by on tradition now? Perhaps we just haven't found the item(s) on the menu yet that we're destined to love? Whatever the reason, for now I have no choice but to award a somewhat mediocre rating. Flame away...

Grade: B-

Consol Family Kitchen Incorporated on Urbanspoon

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