Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Festus MO
We weren’t planning to eat out on Saturday. Demolition derby returned to Hillsboro and this we would not miss, gates open at 5:00 PM, normal dining time. So all day Saturday we assumed that we would be eating out on Sunday instead.
I had a sausage/egg/cheese sandwich for breakfast and made Angel one as well. I went out and made a cemetery run, got my oil changed and stopped by Wally-World to pick up my weekly HBA’s (health and beauty aids, we do not ask each other to do this for us.)
I got home around noon and fixed up some of the leftover chili Angel had made the night before. I added flavor and texture in the form of garlic and peppers. Not a large helping, but it would see me through till a late burger after the derby.
After walking a few dogs, checking my Facebook and updating the findagrave site with my day’s discoveries, I took a short nap, I woke up around 4:00. Something guided my hand and I looked up the Demo Derby’s website and discovered that though the gates would open at 5:00, the derby didn’t actually start until 7:00.
I broke the news to Angel and Adam, our schedule was shot. The dogs were already fed and bedded, prepared for us to be out for a while.
So we decided to go ahead and go to Fazoli’s.
The Place:
We had been avoiding Fazoli’s for nearly a year. We had always assumed that it was of low quality, fast and cheap. I pronounced that being as we had such low expectations, based on no actual information, that surely we could or would be proven wrong. We drove to Festus, there it was waiting for us as it has since we moved to Jefferson County. Up on the hill above the interstate, alongside Steak and Shake and McDonalds.
The parking lot was ample and uncluttered, the outside of the restaurant looked very much like the outside of a billion other fast food joints. Inside all was shiny and clean, a few families sat at tables and booths.
There was only one menu, posted above the head of an eager clerk. It took a few minutes as I had not pre-checked online.
Music droned from overhead speakers, faux-Italian, mixed with standards performed by people perhaps with Italian names, but not necessarily Italian songs. If someone named Betty Risotto sang “Xanadu” I think it would qualify as Italian music here.
I chose and we placed our orders one at a time.
The Food:
For myself, combo #8, the pasta sampler with a salad and red wine vinaigrette dressing. Angel picked #3, the twice baked lasagna also with a salad and Caesar salad dressing. Adam went for #2, fettuccine Alfredo with a side slice of pizza. The clerk tallied it up, took our money and handed us three cups and a number (23) on a stick so they could find us.
I led us to a table, that’s right a table not a booth, and positioned myself so I could see the place at work.
Angel and Adam poured themselves some pop, I tinkered with the tea machine, it defaulted to ‘sweet tea’ but with some poking and swearing I got it to change to ‘unsweet’, as God intended iced tea to be.
The tea was cloudy, and unremarkable. I yanked half a dozen napkins from the single bulk napkin dispenser and grabbed three each of the thin, cheap, metal silverware. The table was adequately wiped down, though not completely crumb-free.
The food came pretty quick, all at one time. The salads were better than expected, crisp lettuce, tomatoes, red cabbage carrots delivered with a chilled condiment packet of the aforementioned salad dressing.
My main course was three piles, lasagna, fettuccine Alfredo and spaghetti with meat sauce. Also included on our plates was a light, warm breadstick.
Adam’s pizza slice looked almost like a photograph of a pizza slice. The pepperoni was perfectly arranged and whole as if this slice was prepared and cooked as an individual entity, not part of a larger pie.
The lasagna was a gamble for me, I’m not a huge fan anyhow. The cheese they used was not to my liking, I gave it a couple of bites and let it go. The spaghetti was okay, predictable, nothing wild or crazy. I would have liked a bit more sauce as most of my noodles were naked after just a few bites. The fettuccine was also okay and predictable; it could have been anyone’s Alfredo. The fettuccine noodles themselves were a bit undercooked, nearly raw in the center.
Adam seemed to enjoy it but spent most of his interest on the pizza slice. Angel enjoyed the salad and the lasagna until she ran aground. The bottom layer and up through the next pasta layer in one large corner were rock-hard. She peeled up that corner to reveal that the bottom was burnt as black as overdone toast. Twice baked, once burnt.
No one made it more than halfway through, not entirely because of the quality of the food. Recall that we had not planned to be eating out.
“I shouldn’t have had that chili at one thirty” Angel said. “I shouldn’t have had that chili at 2:30” Adam added. “I had the chili at noon, I regret nothing” I concluded.
So we left. There was a sign that read “No need to tip”, I remarked “Not a problem.”
The food was not awful, even considering the burnt lasagna. But then again, it wasn’t really very good.
We tried comparisons, Trattoria Giuseppe’s? Not even the same planet. Pizza Hut? Not quite as good. Chef Boyardee? Getting closer. Bertolli, Lean Cuisine? Yeah that’s it. The food at Fazoli’s including the pizza was at least as good/bad as a frozen dinner, but not by much. It was uninteresting, predictable, manufactured, industrialized. Fazoli’s is to Italian what Mrs. Pauls is to seafood.
Discussing it afterward, we tried to imagine a scenario where we would want to go to Fazoli’s. We came up blank. We’ve all from time to time craved KFC, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Subway and even White Castle (though not for very long) and could not, now having tasted the food imagine a time in the past or future where Fazoli’s would be the answer to a craving. I can make better spaghetti or fettuccine at home with basic ingredients, even canned that is far and above better than this place with a minimum of effort and time.
There was no service to speak of, the price was not terrible coming in at twenty eight bucks, but for the quality of food, not appealing. We can feast on fresh Mexican fare at Las Portales for that price or take home a family bucket from KFC.
I doubt we will ever go back, I just can’t imagine when it would be what I wanted.
Sure it’s Italian, but it’s certainly no Olive Garden (which I also don’t care for).

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