Thursday, January 14, 2016

Mazzone resurrecting Empire State Plaza restaurant

Restaurant location circled in blue.
ALBANY -- Even in the endless storage space of the Internet there isn't enough room to chronicle all the foul-ups New York State government has created. So, let's concentrate on just one -- the Sign of the Tree.

That was the original restaurant on the Empire State Plaza with phenomenal views of that complex, one side looking out at the skating rink, the other offering a view down toward the Hudson River. Besides the visuals, it had a built-in clientele, with thousands of state workers in the area Monday through Friday, free-spending lobbyists and politicians on many days, underground parking which is a great draw in winter, and a taxpayer-supported infrastructure. Designers of the Plaza considered it a slam-dunk.

In various incarnations, and for a variety of reasons, it fizzled, floundered, and flopped its way along, and now has been closed and gathering dust for a decade except for an occasional catered event. OGS gave it a bit of a makeover several years ago, making it a neutral "vanilla box" in hopes of attracting prospective tenants with their own ideas of decor.

The last operator was Troy restaurateur Michael LoPorto, who ran it under the name LoPorto's Sign of the Tree until he got into a nasty squabble with the state's Office of General Services (OGS), which runs the Plaza, and their relationship splintered. Several other restaurateurs looked into the possibility of reopening the restaurant, but nothing came of it. Until now.

OGS has just announced that the huge, and hugely successful, Mazzone Hospitality restaurant and catering operation will reopen the venue under the name Cornerstone at the Plaza.

If anything Mazzone Hospitality has tried has flopped, I'm unaware of it. It has a restaurant division, a catering division, retirement home food service, business-venue food service, and other services throughout the Capital Region.

Cornerstone at the Plaza will be a renovated 250-seat restaurant co-managed by Mazzone Catering and its sibling Prime Business Dining. For 2016, it will be an event space, but in 2017 will be a bistro featuring New York State products. It will be open for lunch and dinner only on days the Legislature is in session.

Mazzone Hospitality includes the restaurants Angelo's 677 Prime (Albany), Angelo's Tavolo at the Glen Sanders Mansion (Scotia), Prime at Saratoga National (Saratoga Springs), Aperitivo Bistro (Schenectady), Tala Bistro (Latham), Angelo's Prime Bar + Grill (Clifton Park), Art's Dining at the Hall of Springs (Saratoga Springs).

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