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Food Network

Food Network Magazine editor comes to Albany.

By Brianna Snyder, Times Union

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Click here to register.


When Maile Carpenter became the Food Network Magazine's founding editor-in-chief, "foodiesm" was still on the rise. Those fast-lapse food videos weren't even twinkles in ambitious social-media innovators' eyes, yet. Ah, yes. The Twitter-is-still-new heyday of 2008.

Now, Food Network Magazine is the best-selling monthly food magazine on the stands; it has 1.75 million subscribers. With print media ever-contracting, this magazine's uber-success is more than noteworthy. And Carpenter, who got her start as a reporter, is at the helm of that success. We asked her what makes for good food-reading.

She's coming to the Capital Region on Oct. 6 to headline the Women@Work event "Food Is Big Business," at Reel Seafood Co. in Albany.

In the meantime, here's what she had to say about the food scene.

Q: It seems like when it comes to cooking, women dominate home kitchens, while men dominate professional kitchens. Would you say that's true?

A: I think a lot of that is changing. My nephew once turned to my sister and said, "Mom, can women cook?," because he had never seen a woman in the kitchen in his life. My brother-in-law would cook and of course my husband is a chef, so ... I grew up ina  fairly traditional house, where my mom did all the cooking. But I think a lot of those roles are changing and you can see part of that in the breakdown in our magazine demographics. There are many more male subscribers than you would epect. There's also a cool factor: a lot of man are starting to take interest in it, because cooking is part of being a well-rounded person.

Q: Do you think cooking is cool because of foodie culture?

A: We actually don't use the term "foodie." We did some early testing on asking readers and fans. The word would either make people feel excluded or, for people who were truly food lovers, they thought it would sound trite. So we safely avoid it. But I think the food movement for sure has changed things for men and men in the kitchen. It's part of how our culture is changing, period.

Q: So how much are you taking gender into account when you're putting together the magazine?

A: I would say food is a neutral space. It's a comfort zone for everyone. We talked about it very early in the development of the magazine: We had to find a voice. You turn on the Food Network and every show has a voice. We had to think about how to do that in the magazine. You have to think about gender and who you're talking about.

It's not age-specific, it's not gender-specific. We have kids reading the newspaper, toddlers who are just looking at the pictures, up to 85-year-olds, everyone. It's a nice place to be. I can honestly say I've never had a gender issue ever.

Q: Why do you think the perception persists that women can't hack it in professional kitchens?

A: Well, with restaurants, there is a logistical aspect to working in a restaurant that makes it difficult to stick with it. I know that [my husband, professional chef Wylie Dufresne] has always tried to keep women in the kitchen, because the dynamic is so much stronger. Women bring such a great energy in the kitchen and help with the whole building of a team, so he's always tried to mentor chefs, women chefs. But the reality is if you look at professional kitchens, women are certainly underrepresented.

Q: Do you ever get exhausted with food as a subject? Like, do you run out of things to write about?

A: Ha! Yeah, when we get to Thankgiving every year we're like, OK, we're done. We've done everything we can do. But it's similar to songwriting. You would never say every song has been written; there's always new songs.

And trends change. Our job, particularly in print, is to be hyper-aware of what people are eating. We take field trips to grocery stores, we eat out not just in NYC restaurants but as often as we can at other places, too, so we can pay attention to what people are talking about.

Q: Was there any time you wrote about something that didn't go over well?

A: Any time you focus on one food, like when we did the chocolate issue or cheese issue, there are going to be some people who will happily tell you they're not happy. We got 10 or 15 letters from people who don't like chocolate.

Q: Do you think you might have influence on food trends?

A: My guess is yes. At this size, we certainly take things that are simmering and focus on them in a big way. Just the basic things, like how people photograph food, that reality factor was missing sometimes in the food space. I think in the past, when people would show food, they'd show it in heavily propped scenarios. Our goal was to show food in a real situation, exactly as it would look when doing it yourself.

Part of doing that is shooting food in focus. That sounds really obvious, but if you look years back there were a lot of food covers with these kinds of dreamy, soft-focus images. It became less about the art of photographing and let's make sure people see what they're making.

Food is Big Business Event

What: Hear Maile Carpenter, founding editor-in-chief of Food Network Magazine, talk about the business of food . (Event includes brunch)
When: 8 to 10am Thursday, October 6th
Where: Reel Seafood Co. 195 Wolf Rd. Albany
Cost: $30 for Women@work members; $35 for non members

Click here to register.

Read the Full Times Union Article Here.


Voted #1

Reel Seafood Co. has been named the #1 Seafood Restaurant in the March 2015 issue of Capital Region Living.

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Early Seating Menu on Albany.org Culinary Blog

Real Easy Deals for the Early Birds at Reel Seafood Co.

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Reel Seafood Co. recently developed a new Early Seating Menu which offers 3 delicious courses all for just $22 per person. The Early Seating Menu is available Mondays through Saturdays 4-5:30 PM and all day on Sundays.

Read the Full Article Here.

Valentine's Menu Mentioned on Albany.org Culinary Blog

Reel Seafood Co.

Valentine's Day Specials available throughout the weekend

Delectable specials available throughout the weekend include oyster stew for two, a spicy tuna roll, a seafood trio pasta, and surf & turf for two all at reasonable prices!

Read the Full Article Here.

How Faith Takes Came to Own the Reel Seafood Company

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For the past year, Faith Takes has been making business decisions as both an owner of a for-profit college and a restaurant owner. The owner of Albany-based career college and technical training school has been running the business side of Reel Seafood Co.

Takes, owner of Empire Education Corporation, purchased the restaurant on Wolf Road last January with Aliki Serras, then the general manager of the restaurant. Serras' father, LeGrande Serras, opened the restaurant in the 1980s. Today, Reel Seafood is one of the last independently owned restaurants on Wolf Road.

LeGrande Serras asked Takes, a longtime family friend, to help Aliki write a business plan. Takes agreed to help with a business plan and introduce Aliki to bankers for financing. 

"It turns out, as I got involved in writing the plan, the more we explored, the more interested I became," says Takes, who runs Mildred Elley and Austin's School of Spa Technology.

Serras says she developed about seven business plans over a year and a half. Today, the restaurant serves simply-prepared seafood in its newly renovated interior. The two women undertook a complete interior renovation of the restaurant last winter and will do an exterior renovation later in 2015. 

Though Serras and Takes purchased the business together, Takes did not publicly identify as an owner for the first year to emphasize the restaurant is still family owned. Takes says she's involved with Reel Seafood on a daily basis and handles the business end of the restaurant.

"I see so much of the passion I had for the business I grew in her," Takes says of her co-owner.

For now, Serras and Takes are focused on growing Reel Seafood's audience by promoting its space as fit for business meetings and small gatherings. A side room off the main dining room can fit up to 50 people. Serras also added a happy hour that's bringing in a younger crowd for $1 oysters.

Read the Full Article Here.


Reel Seafood Voted 1 out of 10 Best Restaurants in Albany by The Culture Trip

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Centrally located on Wolf Road near the Albany International Airport, Colonie Center, and Crossgates Mall, Reel Seafood Co. has offered the freshest seafood in New York State’s capital for over 28 years. The newly appointed chef Alan Maki hails from 677 Prime and brings contemporary innovative twists to delicious seafood dishes with his recently instated menu featuring fun dishes like ying yang scallops and lobster lollipops as well as wasabi pea-crusted halibut. Enjoy a meal in their recently remodeled dining room or on the outside patio while the weather is nice.

Read the Full Article Here.


10 Minutes with Aliki Serras

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A liki Serras balances the demands of the restaurant industry with yoga, music and biking -- that is, when she can squeeze it all in during her 90-hour work weeks. In January, she became owner of Reel Seafood Co. in Colonie, the restaurant her father opened three decades ago. Serras says she had never planned to stay in the business she grew up in. Now that she’s there, she’s devoted to positioning Reel Seafood to reimagine itself for the future and survive the onslaught of chain restaurants. A renovated Reel Seafood is one sign of her progress.

Did you really grow up in the restaurant?
I remember being 8 and gluing oyster shells and clam shells to a bucket. I started hosting when I was 12 or 13. I definitely grew up in the restaurant.

Was it apparent that you would take over someday?
I always had in my mind that I wanted to be a translator. It became apparent that without a dialect of Arabic or Chinese, I wouldn’t be competitive. I was a Spanish major in college and also spoke Greek.

What was the moment you realized you weren’t going to be a translator?
I was studying abroad in Granada, Spain, and realized that what I had wasn’t unique. It was just a realization that it wasn’t a skill set that was going to propel me in that capacity. I had to revisit what I wanted to make a career out of. I don’t regret my language major. It enabled me to travel.

What did you consider doing as a career?
I’m a product of both of my parents. My mom is a Reiki master and sound-healer. Holistic nutrition has always been a hobby of mine. I explored the idea of attending a holistic nutrition school in Manhattan. The restaurant -- it clicks differently than anything I’ve really experienced. It’s so full-circle.

How so?
When I was little, my parents always had friends and family over. There were always people at our home. I remember being 9 years old and excited for Christmas, not because of the presents, but because we host Christmas dinner and it was the first year I was able to set the table by myself.
When I get disheartened, I connect to how I felt at 9. I feel that at 29 in the restaurant. That motivates me.

What’s your typical day like at Reel Seafood?
I’m here by 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. I come in, prep for lunch and greet people. We have a lull between two and three, where I get paperwork done, set up meetings with distributors and meet with our chef. I’ll work dinner hours.
Then business dictates when I leave. Saturday and Sunday is more of a reprieve. I have time in the afternoon, where I’ll go to the gym. I live on the bike path every weekend. It’s a little oasis. Then, I come back and work at night.

How was the transition from general manager to owner?
We made the decision that my father wouldn’t be present for the renovation and my first month as owner. He would have been a crutch. I needed to make decisions to rise to the occasion. There were moments where it was very overwhelming. Nothing could have prepared me for it.

What is your vision for the future of the restaurant?
The irony is that what I think will keep us relevant in the future is our connections to our roots. We’re the only independent restaurant on Wolf Road and one of a few restaurants owned by families across generations.

How’s the competition as the last independent on Wolf Road?
It’s two-fold. Against chains, it’s direct competition, especially at lunch when people have a finite period of time. There are also people who only support independent restaurants and there are a lot of choices. It’s part of the changing landscape.

Do you see yourself here in 10 years?
I’m excited for the future. Each day, I get more settled, and it proves to me that people appreciate we’re independent. I have 150 percent of my heart and soul involved. I’m not motivated by money. I know the importance of being profitable. I genuinely do this because I love the power of hospitality in its most unadulterated form.

Aliki Serras

Title: Owner, Reel Seafood Co. in Colonie
Age: 29
Resides: Guilderland
Family: Father, LeGrande Serras, owned Reel Seafood Co. for 30 years. Mother Arji Cakouros is a Reiki master and sound-healer.
Education: Attended Ithaca College, studied abroad in Granada, Spain
Outside the restaurant:“I do consider myself to be an artist and music is my medium. ... I grew up playing piano. My mom has a beautiful baby grand. I’ll go over to play that.”

Read the Full Article Here.


Reel Seafood Co. sets table for next phase of renovations

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The giant octopus sign outside Reel Seafood Co., a recognizable symbol of one the last independent restaurants on Wolf Road in Colonie, New York, will be replaced in the second phase of renovations at the family-owned seafood restaurant. Aliki Serras' major project as new owner of of Reel Seafood Co. was to renovate the interior of the seafood restaurant her family has owned since the 1980s. Now, she's planning a second phase of improvements so the exterior matches the inside's blue-and-white, Mediterranean and Aegean inspired decor. Renovations will include improvements to the awning, facade and landscape, in addition to a new sign.


"As much as I love it, it doesn't fit with the aesthetics of the interior," Serras says of the sign. A number of people have expressed interest in owning the sign after its taken down, she says.  Serras, 29, who became owner in January 2014, says she's surprised by the number of people who come into the restaurant and were unaware the restaurant went through a redecoration. The exterior renovations will indicate the changes at the restaurant, she says.

The second phase of renovations, with a price tag of $150,000, will begin in either November or early 2015, with minimal disruptions to the business. It will be complete in time for the 2015 patio season, she says. The first set of renovations, which cost $750,000, required the restaurant to close for three weeks. The general contractor is Tom Picozzi of TMP Construction Services LLC in Clifton Park, who was general contractor for the earlier renovations. 

Serras also plans to eventually expand the building at 195 Wolf Road to create a banquet facility to host small events.

Read the Full Article Here.


Albany Business Review Article

How to appeal to the next generation (and not alienate the last)

Aliki Serras

A few years ago, Aliki Serras, would see customers her age only when they were out on dates. For anyone under 45, the restaurant her father founded was a destination, but only for special occasions.

Now, Serras, the 28-year-old owner of Reel Seafood Co. in Colonie, is welcoming a larger number of younger diners, and they’re not waiting for that one special occasion to come in.

Serras, who took ownership from her father, LeGrane Serras, this winter, has rebranded the restaurant to appeal to those between ages 27 and 45.

Read the Full Article Here.


Times Union Culinary Blog Feature

Take a fresh look at Reel Seafood

If you haven't been to the Reel Seafood Co. on Wolf Road lately, it's time to return. Since January, the restaurant has undergone a $1 million renovation, hired a new executive head chef and extensively trained their staff on the new menu and launched a new website, all under the leadership of the new owner and daughter of the founder, Aliki Serras.

Voted the #1 Seafood Restaurant by Capital Region Living, Reel Seafood offers guests the freshest seafood cuisine in the area.

The seafood is shipped in daily from the fintest seafood purveyors and you'll know after your first bite that they mean fresh. From the ocean to your plate, Reel Seafood Co. demands perfection. You can count on Reel Seafood Co. to provide you with the freshest seafood in the Capital District.

Read the Full Article Here.


Reel Seafood Mentioned on The Culture Trip

Located on Wolf Road near the Albany International Airport, Colonie Center and Crossgates Mall, Reel Seafood,  is an easily accessible seafood restaurant. Reel Seafood, formally known as Real Seafood has been serving the freshest seafood in New York for over 28 years. The team has been voted the best seafood restaurant in Albany by local voters. Reel Seafood’s fish is shipped in daily from the finest seafood purveyors making it the freshest of its kind.

Read the Full Article Here.

Reel Seafood Appoints New Chef

New Head Chef, Alan Maki

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Reel Seafood Co. in Colonie has a new head chef, Alan Maki, who most recently was executive sous chef at Angelo’s 677 Prime in Albany and, before that, worked at Prime at Saratoga National in Saratoga Springs. He starts Tuesday (7/22). Maki replaces Dustin Aipperspach, who was hired late last year and overhauled the menu in January following the restaurant’s $600,000 renovation.

Reel Seafood owner Aliki Serras tells me she re-evaluated Aipperspach after six months on the job and determined he was not a good fit for the restaurant. Aipperspach tells me, “I have decided to move on from Reel Seafood Co. for another opportunity that better suits me.”


Serras says Maki may make slight modifications to the menu but won’t introduce a full menu of his own until the fall.

Visit Our Friends

Our friends at Fuccillo would like you to visit their new websites at:

40 Under Forty Ceremony

Congratulations to our very own Aliki Serras, Owner of Reel Seafood Co., at the 40 Under Forty class of 2014 ceremony.

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Wine Dinner

Guests Enjoyed the Wine Dinner Hosted by Empire Merchants North. 

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Voted #1 Seafood Restaurant by Metroland Readers

Metroland Readers Voted Reel Seafood Co. as the Best Seafood in the Capital District - April 2014

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Read the Full Article Here.


Times Union Review

Reinvention of Venerable Reel Seafood Largely Succeeds

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For 30 years, every chain restaurant you could imagine approached LeGrande Serras with an offer to buy his real estate at Reel Seafood Co. Serras turned them all down.


Year after year, as those chains set up shop around him on Wolf Road in astonishing numbers — there are more than 40 currently on the 1.6-mile commercial strip that parallels the Northway north of Central Avenue — Serras held out hope that a person, not a corporation, would come along and take over his life's work.


Serras never thought that person would be his daughter. Aliki Serras went to college to become a translator, after all. But late last year, after years of working her way from buser to assistant manager at Reel Seafood after the translator career didn't pan out, Aliki Serras officially purchased the restaurant from her father.


Changes were sure to follow. LeGrande is 68; Aliki is 28. By Jan. 6, a week after the deal was finalized, the restaurant was closed for a $600,000 overhaul. It took two days to remove everything that had stood for the past three decades — the booths in the dining room, the bar, the mosaic that separated the two, the ceiling, the carpet, that giant glass octopus.


Three weeks later, a new dining room, a new chef, his new menu and a new restaurant were open.


Gone are salmon Oscar, parsley garnishes, bright lighting and big portions, with presentation that could have been clipped from a 1985 issue of Food & Wine.
Replacing them are tuna poke with cucumber, sweet onion, macadamia and crisped wontons, sea bass en papillote with saffron orzo, leeks and fennel, an expanded raw bar, a new bar area and a startlingly different dining room.


The aquatic ambience is still here, though it's no longer a night at the docks with the anglers, but rather an evening in an ocean-deep lounge. A trio of bubbling tanks with bright exotic fish is framed by hardwood and now separates the bar from the dining room. Teal and white-and-black combos make up seats and booths, including a quartet of U-shaped booths, their backs turned against one another, in the middle of the dining room.


There is a lot of blue as well. It beams out of the fish tanks and from a long, curving LED light that traces across the dining room ceiling. It all has clean, glowing Aegean feel.
Our party seemed split on the interior. One thought it was too much, another thought it worked, given the concept. I feel somewhere in between. Some of the new interior is a bit loud — the carpet is a rather dizzying array of semicircles — though I'm a big fan of the new, more contemporary bar. Another $400,000 will be spent later this year to redo the patio with a retractable roof to make it year-round seating.


Aliki admits that the change has thrown off some regulars who just want to sit in the same seat and eat the same thing they have for decades. But that is an increasingly older crowd — last year, LeGrande told the Times Union he felt as though he was spotting regulars in the obituaries on a weekly basis — and, to survive moving forward, Aliki doesn't want to exclude them, but knows she needs to appeal to young professionals.


Selling $1 oysters and $1 clams with happy hour — Reel Seafood did not previously have a happy hour — seems like both an excellent start and an excellent deal.
Oysters here come from both coasts. At dinner, a West Coast oyster sampler ($15) featured smooth, whistle-clean Kushhis from British Columbia, sweet and mild Kumamotos and, our favorite, big, plump, Hammerslys from the Puget Sound.


The fried buttermilk oysters ($9) are recommended as well, retaining excellent moisture and served with roasted lemon and jalapeno buttermilk ranch.


Service is more formal. Our waitress walked us through the menu, made a few suggestions and took the time to explain why ingredients were paired as such.

"The yuzu-miso really just brings the whole dish together," she said of the wasabi-pea-crusted halibut ($27), which she strongly urged one of us to try. I did, and while there was a tad more chew than flakiness, it wasn't ruined by any means, nor overwhelmed by wasabi heat. The miso sauce, thickened but still light, tracing around the fish in a bright circle, rounded out the fish as nicely, as our waitress said it would.


Another entree under the "Chefs Compositions" was the highlight of the night, a beef short rib and sea scallop dish ($28) with roasted wild mushroom, barley risotto and a soft cauliflower puree. With the puree smeared on in a sweeping swoosh, a chunk of fall-apart beef over risotto and a pair of perfectly seared scallops to one side, this was the type of presentation you never would have seen here just four months ago. It was on par with any scallop entree I've recently had in the Capital Region.


All fish except tuna arrive whole at Reel Seafood. To showcase them, you can order a portion of any and have it simply grilled and broiled, brushed with lemon butter and served with an "enhancement" — lemon beurre blanc, basil pesto, etc. — of your choice. I love this idea, a restaurant trusting its centerpieces are of a pedigree that they can stand largely on their own. A salmon paired with tzatziki ($23) did not disappoint.


The revamped wine list, still a work in progress, is heavy on California but has solid options from around the globe.


A night at Reel Seafood still is not cheap. Dinner for three — oysters, two appetizers, three entrees, a bottle of wine and dessert – came to $200 after tax and tip. This is not Reel Seafood as it used to be. However, it is certainly worth a trip to find out whether you welcome the change. Though work still remains, I certainly do.

Daily Gazette Review

A Special Thank You to The Daily Gazette for a Wonderful Review. Check it out:

Daily_Gazette

— Reel Seafood has gotten a facelift, and boy, does it look sharp. Aliki Serras has taken over from her father, LeGrande Serras, who opened the restaurant in 1983, and she’s put her stamp on it.
More than $1 million for a facelift and thorough menu revamp has resulted in a swanky and sleek restaurant that will be one of the Capital Region’s best-regarded.


Things were pretty good at the old place when I visited in 2007. It had a solid reputation for serving the best fish around. Service was dependable, desserts were homemade. Now it’s all that, and more.
When Mary and I stopped on a weeknight, every seat at the modernist white bar area was taken.


The main dining room is clean and elegant, with a ring of recessed blue lighting in the ceiling. There are booths on one wall, and banquettes on others. Four large C-shaped private seating areas each face out from the center of the room.
There are two smaller rooms suitable for private parties, and a patio in front, sheltered somewhat from Wolf Road by shrubbery.


The decor is sparkling white with traces of clear blue — a clean Mediterranean theme. Glass turquoise pendant lamps dangle elegantly, the place mats sparkle, and tea lights flicker in cobalt blue glasses.
The lighting is low and flattering, but strategically placed spots shine on the tables so you can read the menu and admire your food. Jazzy music plays softly. Lots of black-dressed, well-trained staff move noiselessly around the dining room. It’s definitely an upscale feel.


We were seated comfortably and immediately attended. The server suggested a Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand for me, and a cabernet for Mary, selections we both liked.

Reel Seafood Co.

WHERE: 195 Wolf Road, Colonie, 458-2068, www.reelseafoodco.com WHEN: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday HOW MUCH: $98.15, with tax and tip MORE INFO: Children’s menu. Master Card, Visa, American Express, Discover, Diners Club. Reservations accepted by phone or at www.opentable.com

And the menu. The raw bar is up first, with an array of fresh oysters at market price and two kinds of fresh tuna. There’s the seafood tower, an extravaganza of Maine lobster, oysters, shrimp, clams, crab claws and more, at $55, for two to three people.


Oysters and clams get various treatments in the hot appetizer menu, and they’re accompanied by crab cakes, mussels and escargot. You can get a poached lobster ($15) or a shellfish Cobb salad ($19). I like the chef’s compositions, which include lobster ravioli in cream sauce ($25) and sea bass in parchment paper ($32).

Sumptuous selection

The purest incarnation of fish, steaks and fillets, are simply grilled or broiled, and you’ll find the likes of Chilean sea bass, halibut and salmon.
And for those who don’t care for seafood, there’s roasted chicken ($21), and a good selection of steaks, including a hanger steak ($23) and an 8-ounce filet mignon ($37). Whew.
The homemade rolls were just out of the oven and almost too hot to handle. Steam poured out when we pulled them apart and we slathered them with salty whipped butter. Delicious.
Mary started with the buttermilk fried oysters ($9) which were piping hot, served over mixed greens with a gently flavored jalapeño ranch sauce. The coating was light and the oysters were big, juicy and meaty, she said.


My salad was a sculpted pile of Romaine and mixed greens, covered with grated gruyere cheese, but it was the dressing that really impressed me. Pomegranate, of all things, and its flavor jumped right out at me. The dressing was sweet, but the salty cheese balanced it right out. Really well done.
Mary had the beef short ribs and scallops ($28), a wonderful dish. She is picky about scallops, and declared these perfect: enormous and perfectly browned. The boneless beef fell into tender pieces. The barley risotto was more chewy than she expected, but it was full of mushrooms and tasted delicious, she said.


My swordfish steak ($27) was a thing of beauty, thick with perpendicular brown grill marks. Swordfish is so easy to overcook but, helped along with plenty of butter, this was very juicy. It was a fantastic piece of fish, more subtly flavored than the fish that we often got just off the boats on Long Island.


The mixed vegetables were broccoli, carrots, green beans and thinly sliced yellow squash, some with grill marks here and there, none overcooked and all soaked in butter and salt.

Homemade desserts

Mary chose dessert from well-priced homemade options that include dulce de leche cheesecake and the obligatory chocolate dessert. We got coconut custard pie ($7) and two spoons.


There was coconut in every part — the crust, the custard and toasted coconut on the real whipped cream topping. The crust was crumbly with shredded coconut and unsweetened, a nice contrast to the filling. The custard had body and was rich and dense. The fresh blueberries that garnished the plate were surprisingly sweet.


The tab for our meal, without the wine, came to $98.15, with tax and tip.


Ms. Serras has preserved the best qualities of Reel Seafood, including the largest variety of fresh seafood in the area, homemade desserts and solid service, while updating the menu and the building and adding an air of exclusivity. I’ll be back.

Voted #1

Reel Seafood Co. has been named the #1 Seafood Restaurant in the March 2014 issue of Capital Region Living.

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People to Watch

Capital Region Living Magazine has named Aliki Serras, owner of Reel Seafood Co., one of the featured "People to Watch" in the March 2014 issue.

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ALBANY, N.Y. - When Aliki Serras took over her father's 30-year-old Colonie restaurant, she heard a lot of "Oh, you're LeGrande's daughter."

That was to be expected. LeGrande Serras has been a fixture of the Capital Region restaurant scene for more than four decades. His establishments included The Lexington Grill, Kirker's Steakhouse and, most notably, The Reel Seafood Co.

It is Reel Seafood that 28-year-old Serras now owns. She and a private investor spent more than $1 million to purchase and renovate the fine-dining restaurant on Wolf Road, which opened in late January, with fresh decor, a new menu, a larger bar, an expanded raw bar and a banquet room.

Serras, who lives in Guilderland, knows the community is watching her, and she has felt the pressure.

"Initially I would get some anxiety," she said. "People would say 'You have big shoes to fill,' and I would think 'how am I going to do this?' Then I had a revelation of sorts. I realized that I didn't have to fill his shoes, per se. I could create my own path, my own identity."

Donna Purnomo, co-owner of Yono's, a fine dining restaurant in Albany, has known Serras since she was a little girl. She said that while it is evident that "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree," Serras has her own strong qualities.

"She is such a smart, well-rounded, warm, personable young woman," she said. "She also strikes me as a very practical young woman. I think she will do very well."

Purnomo was impressed with how much Serras and her team, including TMP Construction Services of Clifton Park, accomplished in the three weeks the restaurant was closed.

"That renovation was major in that period of time," she said.

The new Reel Seafood is very much a reflection of its young owner. Serras hates clutter, so designer DeLaCruz Enterprises of Niskayuna created an unencumbered look with clean lines. The blue and white Mediterranean theme was inspired by a photo Serras took on the Greek island of Santorini, which she visited as a child and remembers as "the most beautiful place on earth."

Since her overarching goal was to attract young professionals like herself, Serras thought about what she looks for in an establishment when developing her business plan. She also considered what needed to be done to make Reel Seafood stand out among the 55 restaurants, including some popular seafood chains, that operate on Wolf Road. Many have opened just in the past few years, and have made their mark.

"I'm going to be very candid with you, it's been tough. Especially when Bonefish Grill came in, we took a hit."

The revised menu includes more smaller-plate, lower-priced items, updates some classic Reel Seafood dishes, and highlights the expanded raw seafood bar.

The cocktail bar doubled in size and was made sleeker and more contemporary.

"I think people by nature want to be in an environment that is hip, where there is a lot of energy, where you can people-watch and be seen," she said. "That is the environment we looked to create in the bar area."

Serras also put Reel Seafood in the banquet and meeting business, a market in which it never competed before.

But she has not changed everything. All of the employees, half of whom have been with the restaurant for more than a decade - including five who have worked there for 25 years - stayed through the transition. Serras is committed to maintaining the warm atmosphere that has kept not only the staff, but many customers, coming back.

"The biggest thing I am keeping is the way [my father] treats people," she said.

Like Purnomo, these long-time employees and customers have watched her grow up. She began helping out in the restaurant as a child.

"As young kids we would go in there on Sundays after church," she said. "At first it was scary, being in this big space with all these customers around. My dad would say 'Okay, you go portion pasta' and my brother would peel potatoes. We had a ball with it, though."

Even so, Serras went off to Ithaca College with no intention of coming back and joining Reel Seafood. She studied Spanish with the thought of possibly becoming an interpreter.

But the restaurant business kept calling to her. Even when she did a semester abroad in Spain, she found herself befriending people in the industry.

"I knew I was legitimately being drawn back to it," she said. "Coupled with the fact that this restaurant, in particular, has afforded me the life that I have been privileged to have. And you can't really get away from the familial obligation because that's a big part of it – the opportunity to carry on a legacy and a name."

She is actually the fourth generation of the Serras family to own a restaurant.

But her father never pressured her to keep that legacy going.

"Quite the opposite, really," she said. "He almost tried to talk me out of it. 'Are you sure? Are you sure?' He, more than anyone, knows what a commitment it is."

She closed on her purchase of the restaurant in early December, with financing from her investor and Berkshire Bank.

Prior to that, she spent five years working as a server, a hostess, a bartender, a kitchen helper and weekend manager.

"I said 'Okay, I am going to immerse myself in this business and work in every possible capacity,’" she said. "I wanted to understand the lifestyle, the hours, the level of commitment, and figure out for myself if I was going to be happy and healthy living and working in this way."

As much as she takes after her father, Serras also has much in common with her mother, a reiki massage practioner and sound healer who introduced her daughter to new-age thinking and yoga.

"I don't think I would be able to work the schedule I do if I didn't make a conscious effort to maintain balance in my life and yoga helps me create that balance," she said.

She is an avid reader, a passion developed while living in her first post-college apartment on Madison Avenue in Albany with no television or Internet. One favorite is Mists of Avalon, a fantasy novel that allows her to escape to a world far different from the one in which she lives.

Serras also has acquired her mother's taste for holistic nutrition, which she realizes may seem odd for the owner of a fine-dining establishment.

"I am very much a product of both my parents," she said. "I enjoy eating a really good piece of foie gras and I don't feel bad about that. But I'll also drink my green juice in the morning. I am a walking paradox, but that is okay. You can be this contradiction, this person who loves yoga and reading Mists of Avalon and still achieve success in business."

Purnomo agrees.

"I would hope that every restaurant has someone like Aliki," she said.

For Aliki Serras, success in business may eventually go beyond operating a flourishing seafood restaurant on Wolf Road. She sees possibilities in catering, as well as in other area cities.

"I have always envisioned this kind of spinoff, a smaller bistro version of Reel Seafood Co.," she said. "Even if it is just seasonal, wouldn't it be great to have an oyster bar, a few entrees and some interesting cocktails and have it be in Saratoga Springs or downtown Troy or Schenectady?"

But that is in the future. For the moment, Serras’s focus is on making Reel Seafood a destination for both young professionals and the not-so-young customers who have patronized the restaurant for decades.

"I still have a long way to go, but this is the first step," she said. "And it's a big step in allowing the community to see me as Aliki rather than LeGrande's daughter."

Barbara Pinckney, Capital Region Living Magazine