Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Trattoria Giuseppe

5442 Old Hwy 21
Imperial, MO

There was no ‘choice’ involved this weekend. It was the eve of Angel’s birthday, an event that only happens rarely. Several years can actually pass between one of her birthdays and the next, at least that’s the only way I can reconcile her age-math.
Trattoria Giuseppe is her favorite place to eat, far and above any other place. It’s pretty high on my list as well. It’s a bit pricier than the dives and chains we typically review, but for the occasional occasion, it’s worth every penny.
This time we had a little help, from the distant past. A time-travelling check.
A couple of months ago I was browsing the interwebs and stumbled across the site for the Missouri Treasurer, the one that lists the state’s unclaimed funds. I’d visited there before, but this time was different. My name was listed.
At first I was reluctant, reminded of sting operations where parole violators, deadbeat dads and other scofflaws are sent offers for pro-game tickets or lottery winnings or big screen TV’s for the first 100 people in line. When the violators show up and check in they are arrested on the spot. And since my default position on any possibility of good fortune is ‘paranoia.’ I didn’t immediately file a claim.
The address listed was legitimate and about twelve years and three houses ago. It was only after I convinced myself that I was not in any trouble, and in fact had undergone an FBI background investigation (for a clearance) since then, I was probably good to go. So I filed. I dug up old correspondence proving myself at that old address, including a certificate from the Secretary of State addressed to me at that address indicating I had won a primary election. (seriously, I’ve done that twice.)
I checked the status frequently online, it went from 'received', to ‘pending’, to ‘verified’, to ‘approved’, to ‘pending check processing’ to ‘check sent’ in a bureaucratic break-neck speed of about sixty five days.
On the day of the birthday meal, the check arrived. Up until that point I had no idea how much it would be for. I assumed it was a small amount since I spent most of my early work life only dealing in small amounts. I didn’t know where it was from, perhaps a closed out bank account balance or something else I’d long since forgotten.
So here was money, sixty-five dollars and change, from my past, a time-travelling wad of cash.

The Place:
Located in Imperial, actually closer to Otto, on old Highway 21 near M Highway. It shares a parking lot with a bar and an auto parts store, about as unlikely and unassuming location as can be found. There’s very minimal signage, no flashing lights or valet parking. To say it was understated would be an understatement.
Nothing had changed since our last visits. The door opened into a foyer with a small bar to the left and modes seating areas on the right. We had reservations (advised but not mandatory) and were quickly seated. On the modest, muted, striped wall-papered walls were photos and posters of Italian-ish things, including a mural of a Mediterranean coastline. The staff scurried about in their Black pants and crisp white shirts., the place , even early on a Saturday was already half filled.
We were handed menus and asked about drinks, tea, tea and coke. The waitress rattled off the ‘special’ steak Oscar, which I recalled having ordered on a previous visit. It’s a New York strip covered in a sauce with mushrooms and provel cheese. I found the sauce a bit too rich for my liking when I’d had it. It’s a provel thing.

The Food:
I’d already decided I wanted a steak rather than pasta. Angel was certain to get her usual. Adam usually gets some form of chicken. We were rather surprised when he ordered a steak, the pepper loin fillet, medium rare. Normally, on the medium rare occasions that he actually orders steak it is cremated, a few degrees from being a pile of ashes. We, of course, asked him about this. “I thought I’d try a steak like it’s supposed to be cooked.” He said. Our little boy is growing up (sniff, sniff.)
House Salad
Along with his steak he asked for bowtie pasta with a white sauce. I also ordered a steak, a NY strip, medium rare, and sided a baked potato.
Angel, as expected, asked for the tutto mare (‘all from the sea’, roughly translated.) It’s a bed of linguini and piled high with clams, mussels, shrimp, mushrooms and tomatoes covered in a garlic butter sauce. If you like things like that it’s probably heavenly. Angel sure likes it. Each of the meals came with the house salad.
Our complimentary bread was delivered first, with our drinks. The bread was rather plain, white with a brown crust, and lacked any specific Mediterranean flavor. However, adding a little pepper to a puddle of olive oil as a dip transformed it to a luscious appetizer.
The tea was dark, clear and fresh, quite good.
Steak and Pasta
There was a pleasant pause for the entrée’s, a place like this doesn’t and shouldn’t rush. The salads came soon enough and were exceptional. Some lettuce, a few rings of red onion, a couple of cherry tomatoes, a pair of olives, a fat peperoncini (chili pepper) topped with small shards of asiago cheese and coated with the splendid, almost sweet, house dressing. This is by far one of the best pre-made salads in the area.
The entrée’s finally arrived, expertly delivered by the always-professional wait staff.  Our steaks were thick and seared black and crunchy. The potato was foil wrapped and cooked to tender perfection.
I watched Adam, he was cautious at first, but in no time had picked up speed and devoured his entire chunk of cow. Angel picked apart the clams and other snotty offerings, eating less pasta to save room for the slimy nuggets.
Tutto Mare
The steaks were cooked perfectly the exact right amount of pink. It was tender and a little peppery. The ‘steak butter’ melted and flowed, juicing the meat up nicely. The potato had nothing but butter and sour cream, and since it was so perfectly cooked, needed nothing else.
Adam finished first, and completely. Angel left a bit of pasta behind, and I just couldn’t absorb the last couple of bites of steak. That didn’t deter us though, when asked we accepted the offer of desserts, to go. Angel, the chocolate-chocolate-chocolate cake, Adam and I the New York style cheesecake, mine with strawberries.

A forgone conclusion. We absolutely love this place. It’s a bit bizarre to find such an exquisite eatery, professional and top-notch in every respect, out here in the boonies. But it is there, and it is well known, for good reason. The management, staff, menu and atmosphere are A-one in nearly every respect. Giuseppe Prezzavento has himself quite the operation, he also has class and mad food skills. Every time we’ve been there he takes time to step out of the kitchen and greet every table of guests. Humble and appreciative, he is the consummate courteous professional.
The only thing that keeps us from eating there more often is the price. The night’s full meal and deserts came in at eighty dollars and change. We simply cannot do that very often. Not that it is not worth it, but it certainly does make special occasions a bit more special.
When you’re in the mood to spoil yourself this is definitely a prime spot to do so.
Highest recommendations, all around!

Trattoria Giuseppe on Urbanspoon

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