A love letter to Radici Kitchen

With the restaurant shutdown in March, my first critic’s notebook began: “A little over two weeks ago, I was dining at a restaurant that would have been today’s review. … (E)very plate seemed to confirm that this was shiny and exciting. I’d be telling you to rush a reservation before getting one was a fight.”

That restaurant was Radici Kitchen in Glens Falls, a restaurant opened in February by chef Brian Bowden and his life partner, Carly Mankouski, after Bowden’s lengthy career at 15 Church, 30 Lake, R&R Kitchen + Bar, Sperry’s and Javier’s Nuevo Latino, all in in Saratoga Springs, The Ginger Man in Albany and Creo in Guilderland. Having found an ideal turnkey location in the former Bistro Tallulah building on Ridge Street in Glens Falls, Mankouski and Bowden had tweaked the slim, exposed brick space, put finishing touches on a menu rich with modern, flavor-driven small plates inspired by Italian cuisine and opened to a quiet chorus of rave reviews from those who scored a table. By March 16, they were closed.

In April, while writing about fine-dining restaurants offering dinner to go, I drove back for what I later wrote were “cloudlike ricotta gnocchi with ragu, charred beets, a tomato and avocado salad with buttermilk and basil puree.” I didn’t mention the buttery lobster bisque I tasted and loved before dropping it on the floor. And I didn’t get to try the six-person meal kits later rolled out in a creative expansion of chef-assembled dinners to grill and plate at home. But, straight from takeout cardboard, Bowden’s ebullient combinations hit the spot.

Now, 24 weeks, or 168 days, after my first dinner at Radici, I was back. Arriving masked, as we’re now conditioned to do, I was seated at a sidewalk table with an Italian friend visiting from Saudi Arabia, and once again I was ordering a scattering of vibrant sharing plates with a Radici Smash cocktail in hand. As we pulled wraps tighter against the evening chill, it felt restorative, as if confirming that the pleasure of fine dining — albeit in more casual mode — had survived.

So here I go, in a love letter of sorts. Bowden’s Italian chops are on show in demis, agrodolces and hand-cut pappardelle, but I’m more starstruck by the union of fresh, sometimes surprisingly united flavors. It’s in the citric bleed of ruby red grapefruit in hamachi crudo, where finely slivered Fresno chile stings against cool torn mint and radishes sliced glass-thin. It’s in tempura squash blossoms battered as delicately as brittle spun sugar — a carapace to cradle warm goat cheese. As a moat, puddling tomato agrodolce adds umami and a connection to Italian roots.

Bowden pays homage to his career in recognizable dishes. His octopus a la plancha from R&R days is perfection: Tender, white grilled flesh paired with the tang of bright oranges, the fatty salt from crisp chorizo and smooshable gigante beans for contrast on the tongue. You might know the roasted heirloom baby

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