Monday, June 13, 2011

I admit it ...

... I'm a food snob.

My earliest memories of a food variety are from the Mediterranean Basin. Maltese and Gozitan (of course), Italian, some Greek and a little of the western Iberian Peninsula.

One thing that all of these cultures had in common was that the diner never got up from the table hungry. The concept of an evening meal that lasted less than a couple of hours was a completely foreign concept to me until I got to England and the United States.

Well, that and serving a no-name house wine with your meals, but that's a rant for another time.

When I sit down at a table for a meal -- especially one that I'm paying for -- I want food on my plate, not two Brussels sprouts and a stalk of asparagus delicately balanced on a chunk of pork the size of a quarter and surrounded by a pattern of sauce which I'm fairly sure is actually the chef's signature.

Some months back, Herself and I were noodling about in a small town some ways south of home when we stumbled across a tiny little hole-in-the-wall place where the maître d' greeted us with a lilting Italian accent.

Not a Brooklyn accent, mind you, but one just off the boat from Tuscany.

Scarcely daring to hope -- I mean, seriously, it's a town of about 5,000 souls in North Texas -- we ordered food.

Oh. Mah. Gawd. About half-way through a glorious chicken piccata, I looked at Herself and opined, "Somebodies Nonna is chained to the stove back there."

Seeing our absolute rapture, the maître d' apologized profusely for not being able to serve wine with the meal (his utter bafflement at the concept of a "dry town" sent Herself into giggles), confided that the quality of bread had forced the restaurant to buy a five digit specialty bread oven, insisted that we try the house blend coffee with the tiramisu, and finally confessed that business had been good enough that they were opening a second eatery in a town that would allow them to serve wine.

A town that just happens to be about fifteen minutes from Rancho LawDog.

Now, the fact that I'm in an area of the country that thinks that Pizza Hut is great Italian food makes me a bit concerned that my taste-buds might have been deceiving me. That maybe my missing that sort of food makes me think that second-rate chow is magnificent merely because it's not from a chain restaurant, so last weekend the Atomic Nerds were staying over after PhlegmPhest and since they're foodies we decided to see if the food was as good to them as it was to us.

Heh.

As we reluctantly left the restaurant, Stingray was plotting various methods to drag it back to the Nerd Ranch behind the Nerdmobile.

Snerk.

Good food. It pops up in the oddest locations, and often where you'd never expect to find it.

LawDog

29 comments:

Farmmom said...

Usually the little hole-in-the-wall places are the best to eat at. I watch for them when traveling.

SHARON said...

Went out to eat Saturday with friends. Tried a new LITTLE place in the city. OMG, the green beans were actually cooked. My steak WAS rare, the whole meal was fantastic. And, we were the only ones in there!! Gonna spread the news about this place for sure. These little hole-in-the-wall restaurants are THE places to eat.

Tim Covington said...

LawDog,
For those of us in North Texas and desperately in search of a good Italian restaurant, could you give us the name of this place and one of the locations.
In the Dallas area, there are some OK ones that are run by Albanians. But, no truly great ones like you have described.

Anonymous said...

I stumbled onto a place like that some years ago - can't remember exactly where, but feel like it was at an exit from I-30 between Dallas & Texarkana (maybe around Mt. Vernon?)

Jack said...

Back in Little Rock there was a chain chineese food place called Go-Go China. Everything else there was meh, but the Hot & Sour soup was fit to serve to a gawd.

Jedi Knight Ivyan said...

I second Tim's motion

Buddy said...

I third it !

Shrimp said...

Being of German-Austrian (and a whole bunch of others) descent, I feel the same way when I find an authentic German restaurant, serving authentic cuisine, and not just something they called schnitzel.

Ain't life grand when you find that place where you could happily eat for days, and still not tire of the food?

Shepherd K said...

Add me to the list of people demanding the name and location of this culinary delight.

SgtRed said...

C'mon LawDog, you must share the name and location for the rest of us.

Pops said...

I used to stop at a little Italian restaurant in Carlsbad , CA, which I enjoyed very much. One night, just as they were closing, I stopped to get a cup of coffee.

Mama dragged me in, soaking wet leathers and all, sat me down and dried my riding suit by the stove while she served me.

And served me some more.

And served me DESERT!!!

Then, she refused payment, as "That was all leftovers, anyway."

I miss them.

Pops

KBCraig said...

There was a similar place in Texarkana, named after the owner/chef, Alfredo. It was a tiny hole-in-the-wall downtown. You had to pass through the kitchen to reach the restrooms.

Oh. Emm. Gee.

The owner was persuaded to move to a much-too-expensive brand new location, and lost much of the charm. He closed up and moved to Dallas, where he was in a tragic car accident that left him completely disabled and unable to work.

Anonymous said...

The wife & I went to buy a car several years ago. While we couldn't make the deal, the salesman did give us a good restaurant tip. The hole in the wall restaurant was in the City of Industry, really unappetizing looking from the outside. We ate like the Emperors of yore!

Ulises from CA

LabRat said...

We were underprepared. Next time we'll bring the Dodge Testosterone and some stout chain.

Anonymous said...

If you ever go to LaVeta Colorado stop for dinner at the inn.
after 20+ years of backyard grilling i have admitted defeat. their herb crusted pork is better than mine.

Old NFO said...

Damn... NOW you tell me!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the Thai/Viet place in downtown Albuquerque (on Central. Not the snooty one a few blocks south). Kinda raise an eyebrow going in but Ooooohhhh yeah. Marginal English spoken and the food is fantastic. Sushi King up the street is pretty good too, all jokes about seafood in Albuquerque aside.
LittleRed1

Anonymous said...

I remember - it was Luigi's Italian Cafe in Mt. Pleasant, TX; Of course, it was in 2002, so.....

Stingray said...

Littlered1: Which joint is this? We'll have to give them a shot next trip we're down that neck of the woods.

Larry said...

If you are ever in southern Virginia and hankerin' for some Greek, you might check out Mitchells in Blackstone. The baklava will put you in a diabetic coma.

Anonymous said...

Stingray, it's Asian Noodle Bar, near 3rd and Central. I've not been there for about two years, so YMMV. There was/is a real Japanese place in the western-most strip of shop on Central across from the University. If it is still there, I liked that one, too. No, I can't remember the name, sorry.
LittleRed1

Jay G said...

'Dog, remind me to bring you to this place I know if you're ever up North. Lots of Italians and Greeks here in the Northeast...

;)

Chuck Dye said...

A family game that gets tougher and tougher as we age, has long been the restaurant referral. The "tougher" part is the increasing frequency with which the location is some variant on "Get lost,turn right, it's the third place on the left."

Stingray said...

Thanks, LittleRed, we'll throw an eyeball towards it next time we're down. Unfortunately, I do know the Japanese place you speak of, and haunted it frequently in college, but I know for a fact that one is gone now- went to stop at them for pre-tattoo food only to find the hole in the wall was just a hole.

Chocolatesa said...

I agree that the hole-in-the-wall places are often the best. I'm a foodie too, my upcoming two-week vacation is planned around my cooking projects. I'm lucky to live in a great place food-wise, there are so many great holes in the walls around here that it looks like swiss cheese!

I often go somewhere I've never been before and end up finding great ethnic grocery stores with all sorts of food I've never seen before, and end up buying some too! Just yesterday I stopped at an Asian/Philipino place and they had some freshly made fried things drizzled with dark sweet syrup by the cash, it was plantains wrapped in a crispy roll thingy, so good!

Kirk said...

There's a Luigi's in Rockwall, Texas, as well...exit hwy205, head north, its about a block up on the left....last time I was in Rockwall, it was, at any rate.

Laughingdog said...

Based on this post, I'm pretty sure you'd appreciate this John Pinette bit.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wpMkRIXhLH0

Buddy said...

We just got back from trying Bellas... A real pain to get to, but it was worth it! If you get to Decatur, try Veronas just off 287, also Italian family owned!

site said...

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