It had been a busy day, mine started early as I had read about a cemetery cleanup in Hillsboro. Yeah, I was actually excited about this. The local paper had said they were looking for volunteers to show up between eight and noon. I had slept in a little and didn’t get there until after nine. By then it was all pretty much done. There was still one gentleman picking up fallen branches, so I grabbed a few and added them to his pile. Another gentleman was tossing bright yellow trash bags into the back of a large pickup truck. Down the hill there was a young lady with a notebook and pen stopping at the occasional grave and writing something down. I grabbed my camera and my official ‘Find-A-Grave’ cap and headed down to see her. She wasn’t a big talker, and my mere presence didn’t seem to impress her much. I did gather that she was identifying veterans’ graves.
The man tossing the trash bags came down and told the lady that he was going to take the trash away but would be back. I asked him if there was anything else I could do to help. No, even with the early showers and a small crew they’d pretty much got done what they needed to do. We chatted for a while, exchanged knowledge, I logged him as a useful resource. It also turned out that he was my insurance agent, Matt Woods. I’d never actually met him before, as Angel handles most of the administrative tasks.
I went on to Walmart to take care of personal items then went home to catch up on emails, Facebook, etc. The Classic movie channel had run an evening of cheesy Mike Hammer (Mickey Spillane) movies made in the 50’s and early 60’s. I had recorded them since coincidentally I had been reading Spillane for the past three or so weeks. Between one of those and an obligatory nap, it was soon time for dinner.
Adam had chosen this week, a place not too far from where he matriculates. (ITT Tech)
A small strip mall on a hill above I-55. Adam had spent the day in Arnold with a friend and met us there. As we waited for him we grabbed the menu… Yeah THE menu, there only appeared to be one, and looked it over. I made several observations at this point.
Even though the words ‘Eat In’ appear on the window, they are kidding themselves. Inside the place there was a dining area of about twenty feet by eight feet, half of which was taken up by two video games, one an old fashioned table-style Ms. Pacman, the other had a flat screen and a steering wheel. That left room for only two tables, each with four chairs. There was a baby-toting couple at one table, the other was empty but would be a pain to sit at since two of the four chairs didn’t even have room to pull out all the way.
Also, something I noticed when we first drove up, the front door was propped open. When we stepped in to get the menu, we stepped out to read it over as the heat inside the place was near stifling. There was a ceiling fan churning away at medium speed, but it offered no actual comfort. The entire staff was dripping with sweat as was the baby-laden couple and the baby itself.
Angel and I agreed that we’d take the order ‘to-go’ and find a park somewhere to eat.
Adam showed up and looked over the menu. We made our choices, ordered and passed on the drinks. They only offered Coke, Diet Coke and Sprite as drinks, all in cans. Angel and Adam drove across the street to a Circle K (a convenience store chain) and grabbed fountain drinks for themselves and a bottle of water for me. As they were gone one of the young, female workers found me on the sidewalk.
Angel had ordered pizza, one called the ‘Pride of the House’; Salsiccia (Italian Sausage), Mushroom, Ham and Onion. She also shared an appetizer, teriyaki chicken wings. Adam had ordered the Buffalo Chicken Sandwich. I enjoy diversity and wanted to put this dive through its paces. I ordered spaghetti and meatballs, with a side of garlic bread.
When the young lady found me on the sidewalk, she looked distressed. A manger-type stepped out behind her.
“I’m sorry sir we seem to be out of spaghetti pasta.”
Really? I was stunned. Pasta is about the cheapest, most available and storable ingredients on the planet, and they had none. They said that they did have fettuccini, I said fine, just make it with that.
Angel and Adam got back and sat in the car until the food was ready. Angel suggested we head to Kimmswick, a little town down the road. I agreed since I know a bit about that little town and its history and current status is infinitely more interesting than Arnold’s. As it turned out, Kimmswick, which sits right on the edge of the Mississippi River was a little squishy, and the tourist area had not yet opened for the season. Nobody was there and there were no public picnic tables anywhere on dry ground.
By this time we knew the food was cooling, so we decided to just head home.
Sure enough, the spaghetti had congealed to a single red sauce, meatball, cheese and pasta mass. A couple of minutes in the microwave softened it back up, but as you know, nuked pasta is never as good as fresh. I tore a off a small piece of Angel’s pizza, pinched off some teriyaki flesh, and dumped the wad of pasta out of it’s Styrofoam box and on to a standard plate.
The meatballs were large, about golf ball size. They cost ninety nine cents each; I had splurged and ordered three. Like many large meatballs, they weren’t that good, kind of dry and bland, like a wad of unseasoned, slightly overcooked ground beef. The pasta was thick and heavy, the marinara was nothing to write home about. It wasn’t really bad, but it was no better than the stuff we keep a couple of jars of in the pantry. The bread, because of travel time, had gone a little stale. It was okay, but would have been much nicer fresh out of the oven.
The teriyaki chicken was pretty good, the pizza was above average. The pizza was served St. Louis style, thin crust, cut into squares. Angel had opted for mozzarella rather than the traditional St. Louis style provel cheese. She considers provel a little too sweet.
I struggled through my pasta, it was weighing me down fast. I managed to barely make a dent in it and two of the meatballs before I called it quits. I put the rest in the fridge, but had pretty much already decided that I wouldn’t be revisiting it. We had better, more satisfying leftovers already in the chill box. (I ended up dumping it the next evening) As far as pasta goes, this stuff was certainly better than Chef Boyardee and infinitely better than that swill at Fazoli’s, but that’s about it. It was not even close to that which I can make at home. It might have been better had it been fresh, but as I said, dining in is really not a realistic option at this place.
That’sa Nice’a Pizza should be taken for what it is (or should be). It’s a pizza joint best suited only for delivery or pickup. The interior of the place is not suited for dining at all, hot, tiny, noisy, completely lacking in basic comfort and ambience (no restrooms). On the wall above the counter someone had written, in large-lettered pencil: “Join our Mail Club!” with a crude penciled arrow pointing to a stack of sign-up cards. Tacky, and not even chic or cool-tacky, just cheap and lazy.
The pizza, as I said was pretty darn good, better than Pizza Hut, Imo's, Cecil Whitakers, or just about every other St. Louis style pizza we’ve come across. Part of that may be in Angel’s choice of toppings, but they did seem to be good, fresh ingredients prepared well. The only problem is that Arnold is a long way from our compound outside of Hillsboro, and there’s no way to get a fresh pizza from them in a timely manner, so returning there is not really a viable option for us.
The whole diverse meal came in at just over forty two dollars, not too bad considering we ordered from all over the map. Adam’s sandwich, the teriyaki chicken and the pizza were quite good. I wouldn’t waste money on much else though.