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Little Falls, New York - A Great Place to Dine!

Locals and frequent visitors alike know that the Mohawk Valley is an oasis of fine dining in the parched desert of homogenous tastes and corporate restaurant chains. Not only will you find hundreds of locally-owned and operated restaurants ranging from cafes and delis to full-blown five-star restaurants, but even more importantly you can discover and enjoy several distinctive regional cuisines and styles! In particular, it is no secret that the Mohawk Valley is a paradise for lovers of Italian-style cuisine, and our riggies and greens are renowned throughout the nation.

Dine in Little Falls!

Even though Little Falls is a small city (we have fewer than 5,000 residents), it stands out as one of the best of the best in terms of regional dining opportunities. Within just a five-mile radius, you can find everything from haute-cuisine in the French style to some of the finest Italian cooking to New York style delis to European-style espresso bars. As in much of the Mohawk Valley, you will find that the service in our restaurants is friendly and personal, the portions are generous to a fault, and the prices are mind-numbingly low to anyone who is used to dining out frequently in locales across our proud nation.

On this page, we want to tantalize you with some reviews of local restaurants. You may find a (nearly) complete list of local restaurants in our directory section on this web-page. Check back often, as we will add reviews regularly, or at least as often as we get the chance to dine out someplace new!

Dining at the Canal Side Inn

We chose to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary with a family dinner at the Canal Side Inn, which is well-known regionally as the home of the most authentic if unpretentious French-style cuisine in the entire Mohawk Valley. The proprietor, James Aufmuth, who was trained in the culinary arts in both New Orleans and Paris, went out of his way to make the evening memorable and special, helping with such details as the wine selection, and even offering a congratulatory Facebook post the next morning!

What a lovely time we had! Every detail was perfect, from the pre-dinner drinks in the charming bar, to every champagne glass filled and refilled, to water being poured at the first sign of there being room for more in the glass, to the marvelous courses brought in a dance-like sequence, with empty plates disappearing and new delights appearing as though by magic.

The appetizers were excellent, and I still remember with fondness the brie en croute, French baked brie in a pastry puff with raspberry coulis, and the crevettes Provençale, shrimp sautéed with diced tomatoes, green onions, garlic, lemon and herbs. For the main course, several of us enjoyed one of the evening specials, the individual-sized Chateaubriand, while one of my sons had the rack of lamb marinated with the herbs of Provence, and my oldest son and his girlfriend had escalope de saumon. We all loved every bite!

What a night to remember for all of us! And doubly so for Mike and Carly, who later that evening came back to spend the night in one of the efficiency suites upstairs at the Canal Side Inn. Their room was spacious and tastefully but simply decorated, with hard wood floors and a large comfortable bed. The next morning Mike and Carly were able to walk over and enjoy a specular sunrise view of the beautiful Mohawk River.

As you might guess, foodies throughout the Mohawk Valley speak of the Canal Side Inn with loving, rapt tones. But it is worth noting that the Canal Side Inn has also played an important role in the post-industrial development of Little Falls. James founded this establishment in 1982, and his presence has helped to pioneer the repurposing and transformation of the grungy old shoe and garment mills of lower Ann Street into the splendid arts and culture mecca of Canal Place, nestled between the gardens and public sculptures of Sterzinar Park and the historical Benton's Landing on the banks of the Erie Canal. Today, when I spend an hour enjoying a glass of wine and the grill menu in the bar of the Canal Side Inn, I inevitably meet not only friends, but tourists and business people from around the world who have chosen to spend some of their time in Canal Place.

Canal Side Inn. French-American cuisine. 395 Canal Place. (315) 823-1170.

Dining at the Bella Vista

We went to Bella Vista to celebrate a post-Thanksgiving meal with our three adult children. Although we didn't have reservations, as it was a last minute decision to go out, the staff at Bella Vista were wonderful about fitting us in. I told the Cindy, the owner, that we were celebrating, and she made a bit of a fuss about it, which made us feel welcome and special.

What a pleasant surprise awaited us as we were taken to a window seat in the room with a fireplace. The view outside of hills of the Mohawk Valley was breathtaking, and the warm beauty of the fire was outstanding and set the mood for a perfect, convivial evening with the family. The superb service continued with both the owner's sons taking care of us as our waiters. Such well-presented young men they are, and outstanding athletes at the local school as well! These young men went out of their way to ensure we got exactly what we wanted, and had a good time. Sensational service!

Guy, the other owner and Cindy's husband, is the chef. The food was excellent and well presented, in a haute-cuisine style. My daughter had the lobster and scallop alfredo and said it was excellent,and I had the filet mignon and thought the same. My husband and son both had the beef tenderloin with green pepper corn sauce and raved about it. All in all, it was a wonderful dining experience in a splendid setting.

Cindy and Guy Vespi have owned and operated the Bella Vista since 1990. They have made their restaurant welcoming and relaxing, and the meals delicious!

Bella Vista. Haute-cuisine. 3622 State Route 167. (315) 823-2861.

Dining at the Piccolo Cafe

We love coming to the Piccolo to eat! If you are looking for a comfortable, casual place to enjoy a satisfying meal, then the Piccolo Café is for you! This well-established fixture in the Little Falls restaurant scene is located in a lovely historic building - a nineteenth century Art Deco train station - that is mere steps away from scenic Canal Place!

Robin and Lynn are the co-owners, and Lynn attends to the lunches while Robin plans the dinners. Additionally, there is the amazing the Other Side of the Tracks Happy Hour on Friday nights. So, basically, you get three terrific experiences from just one restaurant.

The lunches are known throughout the Mohawk Valley for the unique and delicious soups which Lynn makes fresh from scratch every day. Her ingredients are always top-quality, and are often paired together in unique ways for delicious and sometimes surprising results. At lunch today we had the Irish Cheddar Beer Soup, which was perfect for a cold overcast day!

In the evenings Piccolo features a great dinner menu, offering both traditional American, Italian and Mexican favorites, as well as trendy dishes that you would expect to see in the big city, such as Seafood Mac&Cheese (with scallops and shrimp). Everyone around Little Falls knows that the old favorites like the chicken or sausage riggies simply can't be beat this side of Lansing Street in Utica. Plus, there is a gourmet special every week, featuring innovative fare such as shrimp & seafood enchiladas, home-made tamales, and black & blue steak. There are simply so many choices that I really couldn't say what my favorite dish is!

Now, to go back to that fantastic Other Side of the Tracks Happy Hour; it is just not like your typical crowded and noisy happy hour. Rather, happy hour at the Piccolo is upscale, low key and friendly. Robin and Lynn dream up different free appetizers every week, and the ever-personable barkeeper, concocts her exotic variations on margaritas and manhattans. Everyone enjoys the food and drinks, but most of all everyone enjoys the camaraderie!

Piccolo Café. Specializing in traditional American, Italian and Mexican cuisine, with creative weekly specials. 365 Canal Place. (315) 823-9856.

The Sandwich Chef is one of those lovely little neighborhood nooks where smiling faces greet you; a place where communal seating is a norm since it's small and often packed. The owner, Bonita Humphrey, is frank, warm-hearted, and a fountain of absorbing stories. She knows her customers and stocks trimmings based on their demand. Her menu is simple, unpretentious, reasonably priced, and includes all the classic hot and cold sandwiches you'd expect from a great deli, plus homemade soups, salads, cake, and pie. Absolutely nothing is fried; even the burgers are prepared on a small Foreman grill. She uses only high quality, fresh ingredients that are healthful and delicious.

A house favorite is her hot meatball hoagie with hand formed, bacon infused meatballs topped with rich homemade marinara sauce and melted provolone. Each satisfying lunch includes macaroni, potato, or three bean salad. She also makes one of the best breakfast sandwiches in town, aside from thick French toast and a variety of omelets.

The space is well lit and the atmosphere inviting and cheerful. Bonita prepares delicious meals quickly and maintains a meticulous kitchen. This is a perfect place to dine in or take out.

The Sandwich Chef is open Monday through Saturday, 7:30am-to-5pm, and Sunday 9am-to-4pm.

The Sandwich Chef. Deli-style dining. 604 East Main Street. (315) 508-5192.

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