Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Trattoria Giuseppe




5442 Highway 21
Imperial, Mo

Birthday Feast!
Angel’s birthday is March 4. For years we have celebrated, if at all, any such event on the weekend before, due to our work schedules. So Saturday night was her choice, I offered to take her anywhere in the world she wanted. I felt fairly safe because she is burdened with the same sense of responsibility and frugality as I am, so she wasn’t going to say “Gallagher’s in NYC” or even better, the Captain’s Table in Solomons Maryland. (We have celebrated there before. Highly recommended!) She instead chose Trattoria Giuseppe, perhaps the finest all-around eatery in Jefferson County, Mo.
We don’t get to go very often since it is kind of pricey compared to other places. Not NYC expensive, but for this area kind of hard to justify more than infrequently.
Which makes a celebration there even more of a celebration.
Angel had not wanted much of a fuss over her day, even less so than usual. Neither of us are big on such things anyhow, but this one represented one of those really ugly round numbered birthdays and she’s been fighting the aging process tooth and nail. Not with surgery and harsh diets, but with abject denial. Not me, I long for the day when I will be dismissed as just another dirty old man.
I've promised not to mention her birthday to anyone, so keep it to your yourself, please.
I did not argue her restaurant choice, in fact I wasn’t at all surprised.
The Place:
About the least likely setting for the finest eatery in a county of 220,000 souls. It’s on old highway 21 amidst auto repair shops and junk yards. The signage is minimal, the bar next door could easily host a fleet of big motorcycles and their fat, bearded and leather and denim clad owners. The place is not really in Imperial, which is a relatively small town to begin with, it’s just the nearest post office. It is best described as just north of highway M on old 21. That will help the locals, but only a little.
The place is understated in appearance, inside and out.
There were outdoor tables in front, empty due to the winter chill. Music played though, Dean Martin crooning an Italian ballad.
Angel had made reservations, even at the early Five P.M. hour and that proved to be a wise thing, the place was all but full when we got there and filled completely by the time we left. This place is quite popular.
There’s no need to dress up, the vast majority of patrons were like us, clad in jeans. There were no suits, tuxes or slinky, shiny dresses anywhere.
The ample wait staff, all dressed in white cotton shirts and black slacks, dashed around efficiently and professionally. Inside the doorway the host verified the reservation and Giuseppe himself stepped over and greeted us. He does this at every serving. Every time we’ve been there he makes the rounds, everyone gets personally greeted. He’s classically Italian in appearance, not very tall, jet black hair except for a few gray streaks, loose fitting loud-print chef pants and a chef’s tunic. There’s no mistaking him. A genteel and proud man and rightfully so.
We were led to our table. They seated us near the back of the dining area, near the curtain-doored restroom area. I thought about complaining but there were not many other tables available and  Angel said she liked being back against the wall. After I sat down I agreed, it gave us a full view of the whole dining area.
We were offered a basket of sliced French-style bread, handed menus and asked about drinks. Tea, tea and Coke.
Everything on the menu looked good. This problem was further complicated since we’d tried several things and knew that everything we’d had was indeed very good.
When our drinks were delivered, Kelly, our server, told us about the special. ‘Surf and Turf, a filet with three jumbo shrimp.
I laid down my menu, so did Angel. Kelly stepped away for a moment and soon Adam set his menu aside as well.
Me: Surf and turf, an 8oz filet, medium rare, three grilled shrimp and a baked potato, a salad with the house dressing.
Angel: Surf and turf, filet, medium, asparagus and the same salad.
Adam: Pepper loin filet, cream pasta, and instead of salad, the day’s bacon potato soup.
Kelly wrote it all down, questioning us about options, making note of the details. I poured some olive oil into the little saucer, dashed on some pepper and Parmesan, and broke off and dipped a chunk of the bread. A simple delight, it also lubes the gullet for the feast to come.
Shortly the soup and salads arrived. I pulled out my camera, Adam sighed, and my little Nikon groaned and objected telling me I’d forgotten to feed it fresh batteries. It blinked out and the thing hummed itself into a nap. Normally I carry extra batteries, not this time. Adam didn’t seem to be too disappointed.
My camera was dead, so instead
of pictures of food, here's a photo
of my dog wearing a silly hat.
The salad at Giuseppe’s is wonderful. Simple lettuce, with a single cherry tomato, two dark, rough olives, a pepper pod, a chunk of artichoke heart, a couple of rings of red onion. All coated in a slightly sweet, yet light vinaigrette dressing with just enough pepper. I offered my artichoke and olives to Angel, I just don’t care for them as much as she does.
Angel dipped her teaspoon into Adam’s thick soup, sipped it and moaned approval. Adam nodded. That soup disappeared rather quickly. Although he said it may have been salty, that didn’t seem to slow him down. I sort of expect bacon soup to be salty.
Against my better judgment I dipped another slice of bread with my salad.
After the salads were done and the plates carted off, we glanced around at the growing crowd. The whole time we were there no more than one or two tables opened up at a time, and they were filled pretty quickly.
At one table there was an older group that shared a bottle of wine served in a silver ice stand. Another table was lined with Budweiser bottles. The mood was calm yet happy. Even the children were pretty well behaved.
The plates arrived, three steaks, still sizzling.
I unwrapped my potato from its space suit-like foil and shoved in the butter and sour cream.
I sliced into the perfectly grilled steak, sopped up a little of the steak butter that had been drizzled on it, and savored perfection. There was a slight char on the edge of the steak, the inside was moist and very tender, it melted on my ecstatic taste buds.
The table was quiet as we soaked in the food. Every detail was excellent. Angel applauded the asparagus, I marveled at the precision of the taste and texture of the potato and steak.
A little steak butter spilled into the potato and I was certain that this was exactly what heaven should taste like.
I couldn’t quite finish, that second slice of bread had been a little too much, but I had no regrets.
I asked the family about their meals, which I didn’t need to do, I saw it on their faces.
Angel summed it up when telling me about her steak. “It’s like a fluffy cloud of meat.”
Summary:
Everything about Giuseppe’s is very good.
The staff is always professional and efficient. The food cannot be topped, the ambiance is casual, easy, yet classy. The place is run as professionally and expert as any place I’ve been in the area.
Of course there’s a price to pay for this.
The meal came to eighty eight dollars before the tip. That’s a lot for a meal for three in this area. But trust me on this, it’s worth every penny.
We passed on dessert, we were full. However we did stop on the way home at Dairy Queen and picked up an ice cream birthday cake for later.


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