Spaghetti Western


To be fair I didn’t have spaghetti but the restaurant was such a ghost town tumbleweeds were blowing through.

It occurred to me that I have really given Italian restaurants a short shrift for much the same reason I avoid the standard Chinese & Mexican restaurants in every shopping plaza in America. They tend to be generic and for all practical purposes share the same menus. Acknowledging that prejudice I decided to give a local Italian joint a chance.

Right around the corner from me I have two to chose from, located in adjacent shopping plazas, Mario’s & Luigi’s. It makes me chuckle every time I think about it, all we’re missing is a Princess Peach Ice Cream Parlor. I’ve eaten at both since moving to Rock Hill so I knew Mario’s had very little in the way of atmosphere and the menu was pretty standard. Luigi’s has the Italian restaurant aesthetic with pictures, vines, and wines.

When I got there the staff was already outnumbering the customers and the single table of 3 left shortly after I arrived so I was soon the lone diner. My server was very nice and attentive throughout the meal. The menu did have the staples of various noodles with red sauce or alfredo and various parmigianas plus of course pizzas. I decided on the Chicken ala Luigi as something that was a little different.

The Chicken ala Luigi was a couple of thin chicken breast pieces lightly floured and seasoned along with mushrooms and artichokes in a garlic, white wine sauce over fettuccine. It came with 3 little garlic bread sticks. The first bite was not impressive. The sauce was decent but it felt like it was missing something. I got a bite with some of the chicken and the blank was filled in, salt. The bit of salt from the seasoned chicken made the difference and the same for the bread that had garlic salt on it. It had the effect of making one appreciate the chicken and bread more than usual. Now lest you wonder why I didn’t just add some additional salt, I probably would have as a reflex except there was no salt or pepper on the table. I decided not bother requesting any and just enjoy the extra importance the chicken and bread assumed.

Honestly if I had to pick between this and Olive Garden the only reason I’d pick Luigi & Sons is because they were local and not a chain.

One bit of amusement I probably wouldn’t have gotten at the Olive Garden was my server talking with a co-worker about things going on in their lives and a subject came up that the one said to the other, “That’s probably not something to talk about out here”. They walked into the kitchen and because of the noise raised their voices so I heard the conversation even clearer than when they were standing in the dining area.

It was good enough I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it even if I’m not making it a regular on the “I’m too lazy to cook tonight” tour.

Mangiare a Milano


As promised last post this week is devoted to the food & drink from an overnight trip to Milano.  The trip was quick but we managed to have some great meals just by wandering into places we were passing by.

I was joined on the trip by friend and co-worker Levina and we decided to go towards the downtown area and start roaming around.  The cab ride made it quite clear there was at least one pizzeria per block so we walked only a little way before we found one that looked very inviting, Ristorante Pizzeria da Sasa.  The waiter was standing in the doorway smiling and waved us in to enjoy some pleasant outdoor dining.  His English was only slightly better than my Italian but we managed to get drinks ordered and an English menu.

The beer was a local draft that tasted like a lager and it was nice and cold.  We placed our orders and while we waited they provided us a wonderful eggplant appetizer with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese accompanied by a basket of fresh bread.  It whetted the appetite for our entrees.

The entrees we ordered were spaghetti with garlic oil and spicy peppers and the calzone Napoletano which had tomatoes, mozzarella, ricotta and spicy salami.  We shared the dishes so we could enjoy each.

The spaghetti was cooked just right and the simplicity of the garlic olive oil and peppers meant you didn’t have a ton of competing flavors and could enjoy those tastes.  The calzone was cooked in a real pizza oven with fire and everything, witness the slight char.  There is no substitute for a good wood or coal fired pizza oven.  The fillings weren’t as copious as they are in a lot of the calzones here in the States but the ingredients tasted fresh and the salami was spicy as advertised so it was quality over quantity.  Pizza & pasta, what more iconic first Italian meal could you ask for?  Well maybe an espresso to put the capper on the meal.  The staff was very friendly and inviting and I’d recommend this place to anyone.

From this leisurely lunch we walked, bussed and subwayed around Milano until we would up at the Duomo where we spent a little time gaping before deciding we’d really pay attention to that the next day and chose to stroll through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II next to it.  This place was loaded with high end shops and some nice restaurants as well so we stopped at one, Ristorante Galleria,  more for something to drink than a meal since lunch had been so substantial.

We settled on the cheese plate which came with five different cheeses with preserved figs and a basket of assorted rolls.

I’m not even sure what all the cheeses were except good.  The brie was obvious and there was parmesan and what I think was romano but it could have been some other hard cheese. It was mild and had a kind of nutty flavor to it.  The other really soft cheese was akin to bleu cheese but it was more finely veined and creamier and the last was a semi-soft cheese that had a bit of a tang to it that went well with the roll laced with pumpkin seeds.  So this was a light dinner but very tasty and filling.  Of course there’s always room for gelato.

I had hazelnut topped by mixed berry and as you can see it came with some crispy thin cookies that you had to eat just to gain proper access to the gelato.  Sacrifices must the made.  This was a nice place that matched the high end shops surrounding it in that it felt fancy but dress code wasn’t really that much of an issue if you could pay the bill.

When we got back to the hotel we relaxed and I had a darker local beer and Levina enjoyed a cappuccino.

The next day we had breakfast at the hotel which was not bad but not blog worthy either.  Lunch was at a restaurant off the Duomo’s square and was mostly notable for the lack of ability to communicate.  We ordered panini sandwiches and Levina asked if it was toasted and was told “No!  No toast!”  I tried to mime both pressing something and also closing a panini press but the answer was the same.  Of course we’re thinking “how is it a panini if it isn’t toasted?”  They arrived, pressed and toasted.  It was no better or worse than any other busy café next to an Italian landmark.

Great trip, good food, you should go.