Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Trattoria Giuseppe, the sequel

Imperial MO.

Our anniversary was Saturday, we didn’t have to think a lot about where to celebrate. Angel made reservations a day or two ahead of time.

We returned, not just to celebrate, but because nearly any excuse will do to go back there. We usually are not big celebrators about much of anything, birthdays, mother’s/father’s day. Usually just a card and a nice meal, if we remember the card. We pretty much stopped giving each other gifts a few years ago, opting instead, if at all , to just go pick up a little something we wouldn’t normally buy for ourselves. This year Angel wanted a gold chain so she could put her wedding ring on it and wear it around her neck. We both stopped wearing our rings quite a while back, Angel because of getting snagged on dogs and dog equipment, mine after I smashed my finger on something and just never put it back on. I’m pretty sure I know where it is. That’s right ladies, I wear no wedding ring, but I’m still very happily married, so back off!

Like I said, we are neither big celebrators nor are we sappy sentimentalists. In a battle between symbolism and practicality, we’ll both side with the practical. We know we’re married and so does everyone we know so the rings are sweet, quaint and nice, but sometimes just in the way.

The Place:

Near the intersection of Highway M and old Highway 21, close to, but not actually in Imperial. It shares a parking lot with a saloon and a Pizza shop, and as I recall, an auto parts store.

There was no one sitting outside at the few metal tables provided, no doubt because of the excessive temperature, which was as I recall around one hundred, fifty nine degrees. Inside it was dark and cool, and very friendly. Familiar faces greeted us, a floor staff of seven or eight, all ready and eager to please, dressed in black pants, white button-down shirts, black ties and some with aprons.

We were seated immediately near the back; I opted to face the front so as to keep up with all the activity. There were others there but only a few as this was the early (five P.M) seating. The music was soft and Italian, the aromas simply wonderful. Our drink orders were taken, tea, tea and Pepsi.

We were informed of the daily special, a mushroom laden steak. Though it sounded quite good we’d already discussed amongst each other that in this heat steak would be quite burdensome. So I scanned the menu for alternatives.

The Food:

I waffled between things while everyone else scanned for choices. Everything looked good, everything I’ve ever had there was very good, making the choice difficult. Adam chose the Fettuccini Alfredo, Angel once again ordered the ‘Tutto Mare’, pasta served with shrimp, and clams, and I asked for something completely different, the ravioli.

I decided on the ravioli as we munched on our appetizer, fried ravioli. Fried ravioli is a St. Louis thing and it is exactly what it sounds like. Ravioli, breaded and deep fried, then served with a dipping sauce, usually, and this was the case here, the house red sauce. It was the marinara that nailed it for me, I wanted more.

I’m quite cosmopolitan as you well know and a have sampled some of the finest red sauces available in both cans and jars. I’ve even made my own on many occasions. I know red sauce. The stuff here at TG’s is seriously better than all I have tried. There is a depth of spices that pleases and teases but does not overwhelm. If you let it sit on your tongue for a bit, it will blossom from one spice to another, subtly, pleasantly.

The fried ravioli was superb, not overdone, crispy, light, only slightly breaded and not oily at all.

The complimentary bread was very good as well, big fluffy slices with an almost crunchy crust. Dipping saucers were provided. I prefer mine simple, olive oil and a dash of pepper.

The ravioli appetizer disappeared, the salads arrived. The salads were hand assembled, not just tong’d out of a big batch. Each salad plate had the same ingredients: lettuce, a little red onion, two, flavorable olives, two cherry tomatoes, a small pepper and a couple of slivers of artichoke. Fresh grated parmesan cheese and the best salad dressing in the universe topped it off. There was plenty of it too.

Adam and Angel’s pastas arrived; the waitress offered an apology saying that the ravioli would be a couple more minutes. I didn’t mind, I really didn’t. The atmosphere of the place, the soft din, the music, the very feel of the place mellowed me.

The ravioli did indeed arrive and was well worth the wait. A deep pool of red sauce, sprinkled with parmesan and bits of herbs. Swimming in it were about a dozen beef raviolis, each of which I quartered as I came to it, the better to savor each bite. When I finished Adam and Angel had already given up. The portions were generous and we seldom finish a full pasta dish there. Sensing this, or knowing this, the waitress arrived with a couple of boxes and a dessert menu.

I was proud of having ordered sensibly, I was satisfied but not filled up. We ordered desserts and coffee. I had the plain cheesecake, Adam the Snickers cheesecake, Angel celebrated with a triple, or quadruple chocolate cake-thing. They arrived shortly. I was the only one that finished dessert. Angel started to go into a chocolate coma, Adam was twitching as well, but in a good way. The coffee was dark and delicious, the ambiance just perfect.

“You can bury me now, for my life has certainly peaked.” I told them. They did not disagree.

“I take it you enjoyed your meal?” Angel asked me.

“If they had high speed internet in this place, I’d never leave.”


If this quest were simply about finding the best place in the area it would have ended right here, several months ago. The whole experience is heads above anyplace else. The service is crisp, professional, yet friendly. There is no snooty here. Giuseppe comes out and greats each table, each guest, sometimes twice. Gentile, courteous, you get the sense he really enjoys people enjoying his offerings. The food is simply perfect, the atmosphere splendid. It’s casual but it makes you feel classy. The price for this feast came in at sixty-something, to which we happily heavy-tipped. Olive Garden will cost you about the same, but the difference is night and day.

Don’t waste your money on some inferior faux-Italian franchise joint, drive down to Imperial and get more, much, much more than your money’s worth.

Trattoria Giuseppe on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Waffle House

Festus Mo.

Over the weekend Angel was attending a seminar on agility training for dogs. She took our most agile dog Deidre (Dedee) along with her. As such Adam and I were in charge of the house and the remaining seven dogs for the better part of a couple of days, which also meant we’d be on our own for Saturday’s critique meal. Adam and I had agreed earlier in the week that this would be a great occasion for an old standard, Waffle House.

I hadn’t been to one in fifteen or more years, in fact I couldn’t recall the last time at all but had to put some sort of date to it. That was about the time my dear sweet, yet very high maintenance daughter was finishing up high school. Between school, cheerleading, basketball and savage mood swings she worked part time at the local Waffle House in Springfield Mo. I would visit her from time to time, usually ordering nothing more than coffee.

I’m sure I ate there, pretty sure; anyway my memory of the food there was lost to the distant past.

The Place:

Festus’ Waffle house is located, as are all Waffle Houses, right next to the Interstate. We found it almost empty this very hot and humid Saturday evening. We escorted ourselves to a two-man booth in the back affording an ample view of the sizzling grill, the other patrons, and outside the window, the likewise sizzling parking lot.

The place is small, about the size of a freight car, and has no tables that accommodate more than four people, having been modeled after old-style diners. The place was staffed by three young folks, two Goth-like, life-addled, pale and wispy girls in the front and an injured, slightly older grill master. I don’t know exactly what the injury to the young man was, but it required a half cast on his right arm.

The laminated two-sided menus were already on the table. As expected breakfast fare is always available, though there was a rather impressive list of sandwiches and steaks as well. We ordered our teas, Adam’s sweet, mine not.

“They offer eggs without yolks here.” Adam noted. I explained to him that back in the old days that it was quite a source of pride for a place to serve eggs without the yolks as they were supposedly healthier that way. “There was a time, before you were born when many restaurants posted big signs proclaiming ‘Whites Only’ on their windows.” I explained.

“I don’t think that’s the same thing, dad.”

As we pondered our meals someone put some coins into a large red jukebox and a country song oozed out. From the size of the box I assumed it had the capacity to blow out the windows. It was not all that loud though and sounded muffled, as if its speaker was being smothered with a pillow.

As we waited I scanned the area for oddities, features and curios. I noticed the well appointed condiment rack at the side of the table. It contained salt/pepper of course, but also steak sauce, Tabasco sauce, and a few other items, all perfectly compartmented. Adam agreed that this was probably the most perfect rack we’d ever seen in a restaurant, sized just right, not too big or too small. We joked a bit about perfect and imperfect racks, because we’re guys.

Adam was a little quicker to decide on his food than I was, after all he was just there for the meal, I had to sample and scrutinize. I knew I would get a waffle, which was the easy part, choosing what to have with it was more difficult.

The Food:

Adam picked the Chicken bacon sandwich and hash browns, I finally decided on the 'All-Star Special' which included various options, I chose the waffle, two eggs over easy, bacon (three strips) and hash browns. I could have had biscuits and gravy or grits, or sausage, but I thought having a waffle and biscuits and gravy might trigger cholesterol overdose alarms across the state. Not that what I ordered was much less loaded, it’s just too many people’s early deaths are dismissed as inevitable, even humorous when their last meal included gravy.

I didn’t order the grits because grits, when prepared properly and carefully, are still absolutely disgusting. Creamy sand is all it is and adding butter or cinnamon merely makes it slightly less disgusting. I chose bacon instead of sausage simply because bacon is by far the single best and most perfect food ever invented.

As we waited, the grill sizzled and the aromas wafted as aromas are prone to do in a small place. There was a distinct aroma, more like an odor that hung in the background beneath the bacon and the aging cooking oil. Sweet, sickly sweet and maple-y. I knew this smell, dreaded it, hated it, feared it, but tolerated it.

I tolerate the sight and smell of maple syrup simply because I know that most people like it. Even at home there is a bottle of syrup that Angel and Adam will grab whenever I make pancakes or waffles. I understand that most people, even those close to me, like the crap. Just please, respect my vehement and somewhat condescending disagreement.

Of course there’s a story behind this.

I Digress:

Many, many years ago, before the internet, cable TV, Ipod’s, Hot Pockets and even before anyone in America had ever heard of Viet Nam, I liked syrup. I was like five or six at the time and fortunate to be born into a family that treated pork and poultry products like vitamins, and a country breakfast as the king of meals. Dad could certainly make a good pancake. Being a kid I saw a pancake as I saw bread, as a mere vessel for something even better, and preferably sweeter. I was trained, even encouraged to drown my pancakes with thick, sickly sweet syrup; Log Cabin was the family favorite.

This period of time also predated the MMR, Measles/Mumps/Rubella vaccine. So I got the mumps. I think I had measles too, and perhaps rubella, although we would have called it ‘German Measles’, since the Germans invented this particular disease and tried to wipe out poor people with it. But I digress again. This is about the mumps.

I had the mumps and either before, during or after that I had learned, I KNEW, that kids could develop lockjaw if they ate anything really sweet like syrup when they had mumps. It might be an old wives’ tale as is much of my ancient, yet ingrained knowledge, but I distinctly recall hearing it stated as fact. I have an image in my head of my father laughing at my plight as I fell to the floor from my syrup laden pancakes and desperately tried to close (or open) my locked jaw. I remember this image vividly, the aroma of syrup wafting through the air as I gagged and struggled, my father laughing.

Full disclosure: It’s only honest of me to also add that along with the crystal-clear image of my father laughing and my rolling on the floor there was also a giant, angry chicken in the room jumping up and down in a dusty, deafening, cackling fit. Long time readers will recall that this is not my first mention of giant, angry chickens haunting my otherwise pristine memories. I should probably get this examined by a professional someday.

Anyway, could anyone out there verify this mumps + syrup=lockjaw malady/myth? Several of my dear readers happen to be old wives, as is my beloved sister. Surely I’m not the only person who knows about this. I asked my lovely, much older sister about it and she said only that she remembered something about mumps, but since it was me that had them and not her, that she likely didn’t think it all that interesting, important or even memorable at the time, or since. (Worthless, absolutely worthless.) To this day however, when I use the word ‘sickly’ to describe the aroma of syrup, I mean it quite literally, it causes my brain to think of being terribly sick. (and mocked and taunted by giant angry chickens) Is it any surprise I can’t stand the stuff?

The Food: (continued)

The plates arrived. Adam’s sandwich was thick and full, a tender, perfectly prepared chicken breast. He was quite pleased with his sandwich.

The hashbrowns, his and mine, were toasty brown. My two eggs were absolutely perfect, the injured man at the grill had obviously mastered this task. The whites were perfect, done, but only. Solidified, but just barely, they were clean and pure white. The liquid yolks perfectly centered, bright and impossibly yellow. The strips of bacon were crispy, straight, and flat, arranged side by side in an almost military formation. On the plate with the eggs and hashbrowns were four half-slices of good ol’ American toast, buttered and warm. The waffle, nearly a foot in diameter, came on its own plate. Alongside it was a small condiment package; a single container of ‘butter spread’. I checked the ingredients, it was completely devoid of any actual food product, produced entirely from a chemistry set. I slathered it on anyhow just as a familiar putrid odor assaulted my nose. The thin, vacuous looking girl had shoved a decanter of syrup directly under my face.

I threw up my hands making a frantic motion that any aircraft pilot for miles around would recognize as ‘wave-off!’ causing them all to punch the thrusters and climb for the sky. She misunderstood, obviously not a pilot, and set the bottle down beside my plate. I cried out “Excuse me, please take it away.” My hands making the upside-down wave, a sweeping motion to indicate disgust and the desire to be quickly rid of a foul thing. She looked at the syrup, at me, at Adam, the syrup again. She shrugged her bony slumped shoulders and removed the decanter without ceremony, without a written apology, without any emotion whatsoever. Crisis averted. Adam was shaking his head at something, but as usual I paid him no attention.

The eggs were indeed perfect. I lanced them like they were ripe pimples and the thick fluid flowed into the hashbrowns, slowly undercutting them. The toast stayed high and dry on top of the potatoes.

I tried the waffle first. This place is called ‘Waffle House’ so it was imperative that the signature, titular dish passed muster. It needed to be superior, unlike Red Lobster’s lobster or that awful hot dog place’s hot dogs. A bad waffle at Waffle House simply would not be tolerated.

I make waffles, pretty good waffles, though not perfect. I’ve yet to find the ultimate recipe. Since I eat waffles commando style, bareback, you know without syrup, when I bite a waffle, I taste the actual waffle itself. I was not at all displeased. The texture was light, yet firm. Unlike Eggo’s which tend to be dense and heavy, these seemed dense yet light. The texture was spongy, in a good way, and the taste awakened some taste buds I had not expected to be called into service.

I took another bite and concentrated. I offered Adam a taste, he simply said it was quite good. I was looking deeper.

“Sugar, maybe just a little, but it’s there.” I told him. He nodded and covered his hashbrowns in ketchup. (I considered punching him for his act of gastronomic blasphemy, but contained my fury for the moment.) I worked the waffle across the far reaches of my tongue. “It’s not uncommon to put some sugar in pancakes and waffles.” I explained to him. But I wasn’t done, there was something else there.

“Vanilla!” I shouted under my breath. Adam looked up. “I distinctly taste vanilla!” He gazed at me proudly and respectfully, in awe, I am sure. Adam truly admires his father.

Aside from the unnecessarily fake butter, the meal was fantastic. Well, the tea sucked, but I’d ordered a cup of coffee halfway through the meal and that was that. The coffee was dark, strong and delightful. When the girl served it she held the creamer at a distance and inched it toward me, leaning back as if to brace herself for some sort of violence. “Would you like some cream?” She timidly asked through frightened eyes as the creamer drew closer to me. “No, thank you.” I replied, unable to figure out why she was so sheepish about it.

Adam made several kind remarks about the place and his food, his only negative remark was that the hash browns weren’t cooked as he preferred them, which is to say, burnt to a crisp top to bottom. I thought about explaining to him that the ketchup bath he gave them didn’t help either, but I really didn’t care enough to get that involved.


My only real gripe aside from the nasty tea and the fake butter was the tiny napkins. We had a dispenser sitting alongside that awesome, perfectly proportioned rack, but the napkins were tiny, and not very absorbent. They would not come close to being able to contain even the most timid girly sneeze or tipped glass.

The bill came to an easy eighteen bucks, I tipped three on top of that to prove once again that I am more generous than Angel. I figured the pale, gaunt, shadow of a girl could use the extra money to buy something for her iron-poor tired blood or maybe some sort of pigment augmentation supplement.

She was actually very nice and I suppose in her own way quite friendly for a clinically depressed introvert with daddy issues. I have a soft spot in my heart for Waffle House waitresses; I know from personal experience how drama-filled and incendiary their lives can be.

So for twenty one bucks my son and I had a pretty good time, a great meal, in a place that was so down-right comfortable that even drunks and crazy people felt at ease. No pressure, no airs, no frills, just an awesome comfortable meal at a reasonable price. Okay it’s not the healthiest place to eat, the cholesterol cops have surely drawn a bead on it by now, but it’s no more unhealthy than the breakfasts your country grandma raised your parents on, and hey, look how well they turned out.

Highly recommended, highly satisfied.


I checked when I got home, I looked up the recipe for Waffle House waffles. Of course the actual recipe is proprietary and super-secret, but there are many recipe sites devoted to imitating restaurant food:

1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup butter-flavored shortening

1 egg OR equivalent of egg substitute

3/4 cup half and half cream

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Yup, sugar and vanilla just as my handsome, highly trained and discerning taste buds had detected.

Look closely and you bakers, old wives and young alike, will notice that if you simply swap the baking soda for baking powder you’d have nothing more than a basic cake recipe. No wonder the waffles there are so delicate and tasty, it’s cake!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Chevy’s Fresh Mex

12466 Tesson Ferry Rd

St. Louis Mo.

The Place:

South St. Louis County, Highway 21 (Tesson Ferry) near 270, a large strip mall anchored by a Dierberg’s grocery (where fancy people shop for food). Chevy’s is a chain of Mexican restaurants that somehow we’ve managed to completely ignore up to this trip. Large, noisy with too-loud, though not Mexican music. A few TV’s spread around showing noting particularly interesting. There was outside seating available, which we opted against. There was nothing outside to look at other than the parking lot filled with fancy people loading groceries and the highway itself, hardly an appetite enhancing vista.

Inside it was darker, bar-like with a wall covered in rustic rock in the entry, the dining areas were rather dark as well with drab painted walls. There were dozens of neon signs touting Mexican and American beers. For décor there were ancient farm implements, crude wooden rakes, oxen yokes, buckets and hoes, all very rustic but hardly uniquely Mexican, aside from the implication that Mexican = grueling and archaic manual labor. There was not a sombrero to be found anywhere.

We were seated, our drink orders taken, tea, tea and Pepsi. The chips were delivered along with a bowl of peculiar looking salsa. (more on this later)

The staff was strictly young and pale American, dressed in black trousers and bright red shirts, no serapes or sombreros there either. As for overall ambiance, it was hardly Mexican at all. I like sombreros, bullfighting murals and bright primary colors. I like lively songs about cockroaches played on large guitars, it adds to the authenticity. This may as well have been TGI Friday’s.

The Food:

The drinks were delivered, the tea was quite good, and possibly the best restaurant tea we’ve had in a very long time. It helped that it was served in a large glass exactly like the glasses I have tea in at home. It tasted right and felt right. The chips we were munching on were okay, thin and for the most part crispy, though there were a few too many rubbery ones. The salsa was weird. Most Mexican places serve a thin red salsa as a default, and bring out the more powerful brown stuff only on request. This stuff looked like the hotter brown stuff, but it wasn’t really very hot. It wasn’t tomato-y either. It was just odd. There was a taste we couldn’t quite put our finger on. It was okay, but disappointing. We asked about ‘regular’ salsa and was told that this was their regular stuff, “made fresh every day.” Angel asked for the stronger stuff hoping it would be better, it wasn’t, it was just hotter. She asked the waitress about the regular stuff, what was in it, and the answer was ‘cilantro’, to which I added, “Too much cilantro.” The waitress, bless her little heart, added that she didn’t care for it either.

The menu was typical of Mexican restaurants, burritos, enchiladas, tamales, fajitas, tacos, etc. Angel and I decided on a combo called ‘Taste of Chevy’s’, an enchilada, tamale, taco, which included beans and rice. Adam went a la carte, two tacos, chicken and beef, soft and hard respectively.

By the time we decided that the salsa just wasn’t very good, and the loud family across from us reached about fifty percent inebriation, the meals arrived. This was fast, too fast Adam said, merely seven or eight minutes after the order was taken. We were suspicious.

Apparently a la carte means ‘one plate per item’, Adam had three small plates, one for each taco and one for the rice. Our combos came on one large plate each, crowded.

Adam liked the rice but wasn’t happy with the tacos. They were laden with tomato chunks and he hates tomatoes. As he picked away at them we jumped into the combos.

The first (or next) disappointment was the beef. They had used ground beef rather than pulled, which in my mind put this place on par with Taco Bell. Real Mexican cooks don’t use ground beef in my mind. The chicken was only marginally better, rough chopped, some of the chunks big enough to choke on, and a little rubbery, though not awful.

The beans were whole in a thick sauce, not the way I like them which is mashed and mingled with a puddle of cheese. It was little more than a serving of generic brown beans. The rice was okay but such a minor player, even a good one, can’t carry a merely mediocre team.

Adam asked for another taco without the tomatoes and stuff, having tired of plucking the two he had. About this time Angel and I decided the tamales were not very good. She said they tasted like pimentos, not normally a bad thing, but in the tamale it was too strong and out of place.


Neither Angel nor I finished much of anything; nothing was really bad it was just that nothing was all that good. We discussed the too speedy service, the seven to ten minute order to delivery time. This was a symptom, a clue. We decided it meant that all that was occurring after the order arrived in the kitchen was final assembly, all the cooking having been done in batches earlier. This was not prepared to order, it was assembled to order. This is exactly what Taco Bell does with slightly fewer ingredients.

The service was okay at best; our waitress was friendly and honest, but not especially attentive. They didn’t query us about not actually finishing a single thing, even Adam’s virtually untouched tacos.

The lackluster décor made this place little more than just another franchise restaurant, punctuated by the staff clapping and singing ‘happy,happy birthday’s!’ at a couple of tables, not even in Spanish. They may as well just give up on the pretense and start serving overpriced burgers.

Speaking of price, this round came in at forty eight dollars and change, just over fifty if you add the shorted tip. That’s about fifty percent higher than all the other family owned Mexican places we’ve reviewed. With the possible exception of La Pachanga, it was the least impressive of the lot. I’d rate it about two sombreros out of a possible ten, but only partially because they didn’t even have sombreros.

Take your money and appetite for Mexican fare somewhere else.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Cecil Whittaker’s Pizzeria

Sunday evening of the big three day Memorial Day weekend. We’d had home-grilled chicken the night before, and I made a big breakfast including homemade biscuits that morning. It was hot and humid out, both the temperature and humidity hovering around ninety. Angel was very tired, her second day of tending to the eleven dogs in her care. She said it was like spending the entire weekend at Chuck E. Cheese with as many preschoolers. Constant watching, corralling, trips to the potty, boo-boos, general loudness, wrestling and running around, hunting for lost toys.
I was not quite so busy, resting up from a rather hectic few weeks at work, tending to the occasional dog that needed quiet time or personal walks or attention.
A full heavy meal appealed to neither of us so we opted for a place that we had discussed before.
Pizza means you can have just a little, or a lot, and take the rest home.

Cecil Whittaker’s Pizzeria
Festus, Mo.

The Place:
On the west side of Interstate 55, near the Waffle House, and next door to a place that called itself a ‘Physical Therapy Clinic’ I noticed it was closed and that Cecil’s looked closed as well, no patrons at either.
“So you want some physical therapy while we’re here?” Angel asked.
I answered; “Is that what they call it these days?”
“What did they used to call it?”
“Oriental massage parlor, and yes, I could go for a quick round.”
“It’s not a massage parlor, Oriental or otherwise.”
“Yeah right, wink, wink, nudge, nudge, a folded twenty into mama-san’s sweaty palm, it’s all the same.”
The conversation changed subjects at Angel’s insistence as we approached the pizzeria. “Are they open?” She asked.
“The neon sign says it is.”
So we pushed on the door and it opened to a burst of cooler, quiet air. There was someone else there, a single table load, two adult women, a couple of toddlers and a tiny wrinkled baby that looked about twenty minutes old. Other than that the place was empty.
A staffer behind the counter instructed us to find a seat, which Angel did, a booth directly beside the other family, right next to the three small children. She did this I am sure to punish me for not helping more with the dogs or something, though I never really know exactly what I’m being punished for.
The menus were delivered and the drinks ordered. Tea, tea and Coke.
The pizzeria was rather sparse, a strip mall building with concrete floors, high, exposed ceiling, walls bare except for sporadic sports things in frames, a couple of crossed hockey sticks, and for reasons that are still not clear to me, the chrome grill from an old Dodge. If sports bar was the goal, they came up seriously short. If pizzeria was the goal, they missed completely. There were three suspended TV’s blaring some network expose show, the topic was all old news about the folks involved in the panic a few years ago where it was said that measles shots led to autism in children. Nothing new was actually exposed. I would have ignored it completely had the respective volume controls not all been set to eleven, and had the walls and high ceiling not bounced all that noise around till it sounded like a prison riot in a tunnel.
The Food:
We ordered, I wasn’t all that excited, but for the sake of you, the fans, I split a ‘Cecil’s Combo’ (add shrimp) with Angel. Adam had his own, pepperoni, bacon, olives. Angel and Adam conspired to split an order of something called ‘cheese fries’ I countered their conspiracy of insolence by asking for onion rings.
We knew that this would be ‘St. Louis style’ pizza which I’ve explained before, but just so you don’t have to bother with using your own memory, here goes.
St Louis style has distinct features. 1. Very thin, cracker-crispy crust which is always served cut into small squares as opposed to the triangles of other styles and 2. ‘Provel’ cheese, which is a blend of Cheddar, Colby, Swiss and, Mozzarella cheeses, made in Wisconsin specifically for the St. Louis market. Available toppings are the same as any other style.
The toddlers started making noise, the infant bubbled and squirted, the women caring for them oooh’d and ahhh’d at every move and sound the pipsqueaks made. The young boy, about, I don’t know, he didn’t have facial hair and stood less than a yard tall, so I’d guess he was somewhere between two and six, started jumping up and down in his wobbly chair. His drooling and obviously evil younger sister laughed and cooed. Mom told him to stop jumping up and down in his chair, so he jumped down from the chair and started jumping up and down on the floor, his sister went wild giggling, mom just looked away.
Why is it that people like children?
Adam excused himself to go play one of the arcade games, Angel and I just sat together, romantically, I guess, and discussed the dogs, and other certainly fascinating stuff that I don’t recall now.
The cheesy fries came first, looking not at all appealing. It’s French fries drowning in a puddle of melted cheese sauce, the cheese acting as a sauce on top of the fries and highly adhesive, fast-drying spackle on the bottom. To pull an individual fry out meant tearing it in half. I tried a torn chunk, it tasted like a fry with melted cheese on it.
Mercifully my o-rings arrived shortly and I laid into them. These were pretty good and the portion was generous. Real onions, not that re-constituted onions you find at McDonald’s and in Funyuns.
The other family’s pizzas arrived, two of them arranged one above the other in a wire plate racking system that reminded me of the 3-D chess board form the original Star-Trek. The toddlers went wild, naturally burning themselves on the initial bites… such idiots children can often be.
Ours arrived shortly, looking kind of bland and colorless.
Angel pulled off a square and burned her mouth on it, but did not confess as much. I waited, chomping my o-rings for a few more minutes before I stuck a shingle load of molten cheese into my precious face.
Adam’s arrived, he busied himself for a couple of minutes tearing a few more fries from the rapidly solidifying cheese. The bottom of the cheese fry basket ended up looking like someone had just ripped up some glued-down carpet.
My first bite of the pizza left me unimpressed. Not near as sweet and rich as we’d had at Frankie Gianino’s (which was almost too sweet and rich) the toppings were sparse and thin, the sauce nearly non-existent. The cheese carried the flavor and it was not very pronounced. I had maybe a couple of slices, Angel one or two more since she’d worked harder and had less than a full basket of cheese fries. I was full, though not necessarily satisfied. Adam didn’t seem all that pleased with his pizza either, abandoning it after only three or four small chunks. We boxed up more than half of the total.
The tea had flavor, stronger than most places, but it wasn’t necessarily a great flavor, could have been Lipton, could have just been old.
We were unanimously not very impressed. The ambiance was stark and barren, the pizza only okay, and the service was uninspired. The price however was a standout. Forty three dollars for one medium and one large pizza and two sides. That’s kind of steep for what we had. I’ve had much more enjoyable, tastier and less expensive pizza meals at a Pizza Hut buffet.
If this is the best St. Louis style pizza, and some say it is, I’ll stick with the other classics. Like New York, Chicago and Dominoes. To me it was just barely better than those two dollar frozen pizzas found on sale at the grocery store.
Of course on Monday I grilled up some of the best burgers in the universe and suddenly all was right again in the culinary world.