Name: Lampy's Mediterranean Grill
Location: 105 W Main St., Endicott, NY 13760
Phone: (607) 748-5200
Cuisine: Pasta/Steaks/Seafood, leaning toward Italian
Price: $75+ for two
Lampy's is the so-called "sister" restaurant to Binghamton's best known fine dining establishment, Number 5 Restaurant. We've been to both restaurants several times over the years and while Megan has a slight preference for Number 5's attention to detail and consistency, I have historically tended to prefer Lampy's more relaxed atmosphere despite some occasional inconsistencies with the food. These are restaurants we are apt to save for special occasions like Valentine's Day, birthdays, and New Year's Eve. So when it came time to make New Year's plans for 2011, Lampy's was one of the first places that sprung to mind. We made a reservation, brought along a couple of good friends, and hoped for a great meal.
Lampy's is at the corner of Main and Nanticoke in west Endicott, with parking behind the restaurant (I suggest turning into the HSBC bank parking lot just past the restaurant to get to the parking area). If you're going to Lampy's, I highly suggest making a reservation for two reasons. First, it's nearly always busy, and more importantly, there's hardly any waiting area to be found at all. There's a bar, but finding a seat there is unlikely. The point is, this is a place you'll need to make a reservation.
The restaurant is divided into four distinct regions. As you enter, there's the bar area off to the left, and a small dining area straight ahead. To the right lies the main dining room, and back and to the right lies a smaller dining room that looks like it could be used to host private parties and the like. The decor is modern and appealing and low lighting offers an air of sophistication to the classy establishment. On looks alone, I prefer Moxie Grill in Conklin to Lampy's, but they are in the same vein.
We were seated in the back room, and the first thing we noticed was that it was ROASTING back there. We were pretty much dripping sweat by the time the meal was over. And the tables were a little bit closer together than I prefer. There was enough room to move awkwardly between the tables but no more than that. I was bummed that we weren't seated in the main dining room, which was much less stuffy and offered a bit more room to maneuver.
Lampy's menu offers a diverse array of appetizers, soups, salads, steak, chicken, veal, and seafood options. My friend Tom and I decided to split the Honey Horseradish Shrimp appetizer, and I ordered the Linguine Frutta del Mare as my entree. Frutta del Mare (literally "Fruits of the Sea") features a variety of seafood--in this case, shrimp, scallops, calamari, and clams--served over linguine and topped with marinara sauce. As a complimentary starter, I ordered the soup of the day, a Rhode Island-style Clam and Corn Chowder. Megan ordered Lampy's signature namesake dish, Lampy's Scampi. Lampy's Scampi offers a unique take on classic Shrimp Scampi. In this case, the shrimp are breaded and deep-fried, smothered in a somewhat creamy marsala sauce, and topped with button mushrooms. Sounds different, I know, but it is probably Lampy's most popular dish and one I've ordered and enjoyed on several occasions.
Another hallmark of any Lampy's visit is their spice tray. At the beginning of the meal, each table is given some Italian bread and a metal tray with fresh garlic cloves smothered in balsamic vinegar, parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes, and butter. Pretty tasty stuff and a good start to the meal, for sure.
Next came the Honey Horseradish Shrimp appetizer. This, I did not care for at all. It featured four small shrimp covered in honey and wrapped in burnt bacon. Combined with our uncomfortable seating arrangement, this meal was on the fast-track to disappointment in a big hurry. Perhaps the soup would save the day?
It would not. The Rhode Island-style Clam Chowder was pretty mediocre. It featured a cream-based broth but was much thinner than the classic New England style. That was not the problem I had with it. My issue was that the portion I was given had hardly anything in it. One measly clam, a few kernels of corn, and some stray bits of carrot, celery, potato, and bacon. I will admit that the broth had nice flavor, but I ordered clam chowder, not broth. Next.
The Frutta del Mare entree offered some improvement from the mediocre starters, but was not a dish I really loved. It was a little cumbersome to eat without splashing myself; the dish it was served in was somewhat shallow and the marinara was watery. Aside from the logistics of eating it, this dish was alright. The shrimp were tasty, and the scallops were some of the hugest that I've ever seen. The marinara sauce had a nice, fresh taste and was well-seasoned. I did not care much for the clams or calamari; both were overly rubbery and the clams were not cleaned properly--I found some sand inside a couple of them. Yuck. I am not in a rush to order this dish again.
Megan's scampi dish was just OK on this night. She did not care for it, commenting that the soggy texture of the breading on the shrimp was a particular concern. She would have preferred it crispier. Overall, as far as Lampy's Scampi is concerned, I will say that on other visits, it's been nothing less than outstanding in my opinion. Clearly, Lampy's was not on top of their game on this night in many ways.
For dessert, Megan and I split the Coconut Cake, which looked similar to the coconut cake we got at Frank's in Maine back in the summer. Both of us thought it was just OK. Normally, I am a sucker for any dessert, but this one was dried out, tasted like it had just come out of the freezer, and just simply not very good.
Overall, this visit to Lampy's was not very good and I am in no hurry to go back anytime soon. We were uncomfortable due to the stifling heat for the entire meal, and the food was lacking in some very fundamental ways. I realize that it was New Year's Eve and that many restaurants are not at their best on special occasions, but I know they are capable of better. We went there for Valentine's Day last year, for example, and had a great meal from start to finish. I know this review has been harsh, so let me make it very clear: I think this visit was more the exception than the rule. But I'm of the belief that if you're going to plunk down $100 for dinner, quality should never be a concern. Had this been my first visit to Lampy's, it almost certainly would have been my last. I realize this is cheating, but...
Grade (this visit): D
Grade (overall): B