Please Note: This restaurant is no longer in service
The Hollywood Brown Derby
A Reflection of “The Golden Age”
Overall rating on a scale of 1-10
Service 10 -Food 10 – Ambiance 10 -Price – $$$$
Entry to the Hollywood Brown Derby restaurant at 22 Clinton Avenue in Albany immediately transported my wife and me to the “Golden Age of Hollywood”. Through the imagination and creative interior design of owners (and brothers) John and Bobby Mallozzi, we sat in a soft rolled brown leather and mahogany booth and enjoyed a sumptuous, full-course dinner with Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, Judy Garland, Clark Gable, Bob Hope and Spencer Tracy. This very glamorous and voguish new restaurant, open since last September, has successfully bridged the gap between elegant ambiance and the very best in exquisite food preparation and presentation. It stands out as the most uniquely fashionable and best four-star restaurant we’ve visited in upstate New York.
Like the original Hollywood Brown Derby near the corner of Hollywood and Vine in LA, the Mallozzi family’s high-style re-creation is a $1.2 million “see-and-be-seen” establishment in the heart of downtown Albany. It pulses with conversation, background jazz music and a vitality that is a throwback to the chatter and gossip of Hollywood columnists Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper. Along the upper edge of our booth was a collection of original Hollywood caricatures created years ago by Mr. Jack Lane and autographed by the stars themselves. On the entire back wall of the restaurant is an extraordinary display of the Brown Derby “Wall of Fame”. Framed and hanging here are over 200 hand-copied caricatures done by Bobby Mallozzi himself, of some of the most memorable actors, directors, producers and celebrities of that glorious era. Included among these icons are George Burns, the Marx brothers, W.C. Fields, Robert Taylor, Ed Sullivan, Alfred Hitchcock, Milton Berle, Shirley Temple and even brother, John Mallozzi and Albany Mayor Gerald Jennings. What a fabulous way to immortalize these Hollywood legends and local personalities.
The professional wait-staff and servers, wearing white waist coats and black bow-ties, bustle throughout the 138-seat, high-end restaurant, leaving no detail unattended. A refreshing sorbet is served between the appetizer and main course and crumbs are swept from the white linen tablecloths to ensure a formal, yet comfortable, dining experience.
My wife and I began our evening with a glass of the Santa Margarita chilled pinot grigio ($12 each) and moved to review the extensive menu of appetizers artfully presented by Executive Chef Andrew Otatti. My choice, the Brown Derby “Brodetto”, was a red-sauce medley of shrimp, calamari, capers, olives, white wine, tomato and fresh herbs served over a huge broiled sea scallop ($12). The Gnocchi appetizer, selected by my wife, was equally as impressive. This dish offered chive gnocchi in a very light smooth lobster-meat bisque and cheddar homard fondue ($10).
Next up was the complimentary creamy lemon sorbet to cleanse the pallet and to set the stage for the main course. Had we not skipped the salad course, we would have chosen the Cobb salad, the legacy recipe of California’s original Brown Derby restaurant. It was quickly created one evening by one of the two original owners, Robert H. Cobb, who threw together some refrigerated leftovers and greens for a late-night group of silver screen celebrities.
Selections from the colorful entre menu were difficult to make, so varied and plentiful were the offerings. Sides of herb encrusted potato croquette, buttermilk onion rings, eggplant parcel, savinaird potato and Utica greens could be added to all dishes for $2.50 each.
I briefly sat at the juncture of the Seafood Zafferano and the Pork Tenderloin while my wife vacillated between the Veal Oscar and the Chicken Francaise. With the aid of our articulate and well-informed waiter, Steve, we opted for the pork and veal dishes. And both were nothing short of fabulous! Mine was a nice serving of lean, juicy medallions of pork bathed in a Dijon cream sauce and surrounded by artichoke hearts, roasted fingerlings, oven-dried tomatoes and asparagus ($25). My wife’s veal oscar choice included two very tender veal cutlets in a lemon butter sauce with jumbo, lump crab and asparagus served over Utica greens ($33). We both agreed that Chef Andrew’s preparations were, without a doubt, the best we’ve had anywhere.
Pastries arrive fresh daily from Bobby’s Schenectady-based bakery, Villa Italia, so expect the very best in desserts. From this menu, and from previous experience and satisfaction, we decided to share one large wedge of the Light Milk Chocolate Mousse Devil’s Food Cake ($9) accompanied by a cup of steaming cappuccino ($4.50).
We closed our wonderful evening at the Hollywood Brown Derby with gratitude and kudos to Bobby and John Mallozzi, Chef Andrew Otatti and the entire Brown Derby staff. “Hats off and hooray for Hollywood.”
The Hollywood Brown Derby is located at 22 Clinton Avenue, Albany. For more information visit www.thehollywoodbrownderby.com or call 463.1945.
Frank W. Pidgeon is an educator/school administrator, freelance writer and winemaker who lives with his wife, Nicki, in Rotterdam.