Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Lorenzo's Italian Kitchen

106 Main St.
DeSoto, Mo
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April 18, 2013: DESOTO, MO. (KTVI) – No one in De Soto recalls a flash flood like the one that hit on Thursday.  The city’s fire chief estimates water rose 5 to 6 feet in a matter of 20 to 30 minutes.
An 80-year-old woman died when rising waters swept her car away.  Her body was found inside her car after the waters receded.
First responders made more than a dozen water rescues as heavy rain flooded the Joachim Creek.
The city believes 125 homes were damaged east of the Creek.  Power was shut off to the entire city on Thursday as a precaution to keep first responders safe.


So a little over a week ago the meandering Joachim* Creek stormed over its banks and meted out considerable carnage. The creek defines much of DeSoto's layout and history. There is a very nice park above its banks and small bridges cross over it in several places. It has flooded before, most notably in the 30's and 40's, but this flash and crash was faster and mightier than any such breach the natives could recall.
DeSoto is miles form the big rivers and not routinely accustomed to this force of nature.
As we drove through lower DeSoto a week and half after the flooding, we could still easily make out the wrath of the raging waters. Carpeting, furniture and other ruined materials were piled up in several yards. the pristine park had fences down, walkways undercut and washed away, some climb-on playground equipment crumpled and broken. In many places it looked scorched like a giant power washer had hosed the place down.
Desoto is not a river town. The Joachim is not a navigable waterway. DeSoto is a railroad town, it has been for over a hundred years. Main Street abuts the rails at the lowest altitude of the town. Behind Main Street the neighborhoods and churches climb a steep hill, terraced with small streets. Most of the town is completely safe from anything the creek can possibly muster. Across the tracks though lies the creek, normally a few feet below the banks along those neighborhoods.
DeSoto is a decent sized town, though hardly a city. People know each other and several generations of families have remained rooted there.
The Place:
Along Main Street are the quaint, old storefronts. Aging brick facades fronting restaurants, a single-screen cinema, a bar or two, several flea markets, a few furniture and appliance stores. The street is well maintained and kept modern for safety, yet antique in style. Cobblestone walkways and crosswalks, old style street lamps, trees planted in carved-out spaces on the sidewalk.
It is along this idyllic street that you will find Lorenzo's Italian Kitchen. A small place, about a dozen tables and booths. Inside it is dark and cozy and the aroma is heavenly. Dark carpet, black tables and booths, dark brown wainscoting, the back walls light yellow the sides and front a dark, comfortable rust-red.
A few oil paintings and other objets d'art were scattered sparsely around the dining room. A hostess's podium centered in front of the door. In the back, a large counter separates the diners from the kitchen. The counter was, on this day, covered with gift baskets and various boxes of donated items.
The owners of Lorenzo's were taking up donations, holding raffles and splitting the day's pizza proceeds to raise money for flood damage relief.
I'd read about this on Facebook earlier. They had received lots of odds and ends donated from other local businesses and were an ad hoc collection point for the effort. A noble and kind example of business as good neighbor.
We sat in our booth, ordered tea, sweet tea and a Coke.
The Food:
Fried Cannelloni
Although Lorenzo's serves pasta, many kinds, we were all in the mood for pizza. For $6.25 you can design your own 9 inch pie with a choice of sauces, traditional, barbeque or garlic butter, a choice of cheeses and up to six toppings. The dough is house-made Neapolitan style. For an appetizer we shared fried cannelloni. This is a thumb-your-nose at a  popular St. Louis treat. The big city brags about its breaded and fried ravioli as if it were a discovery on par with hamburgers or ice cream or a cure for cancer. Actually it is pretty good. It's jusy ravioli, breaded and fried then dipped in a red sauce. Crunchy, meaty, a great appetizer. Lorenzo's steps it up a notch by using cannelloni, a large pasta tube filled with about twice as much filling as a ravioli can hold. It tastes pretty much the same, just the filling to pasta ratio is greater. For dipping they offered up their own house made marinara, sweet and herb-y. The sausage in the filling was house-made as well, rich and spicy.
It took us a few minutes to finalize our pizza designs. I had a list in my head then noticed that they offered one called a Deluxe that was pretty much the same as what I'd constructed on my own. So that's what I ordered. Traditional sauce, mozzarella cheese, hamburger, sausage, pepperoni, peppers, onions and mushrooms.
Angel went way in the other direction.She chose provel, that St. Louis favorite cheese blend, garlic butter sauce, onion, spinach, artichoke garlic and bacon. I shuddered, she ignored me. It was like she'd never actually had a real pizza before.
Angel's
Adam went basic and simple. Traditional sauce, mozzarella cheese, pepperoni, black olives and bacon.
We were offered salads but refused. This was no time to be thinking about nutrition, we were after rich, heavy pizza.
People came and went, some sat down and studied the menus, others dropped in to pick up a raffle prize. Everyone seemed to know each other or at least knew someone the other person knew. I saw a couple of gift baskets go out, a box containing a shop light and stand. Pictures were taken to be posted later on Lorenzo's Facebook page.
You have to wait a bit for custom made pizzas, but the place was lively, friendly and busy enough that the wait didn't seem long at all.
Mine, the 'Deluxe'
The pizzas arrived. They looked bigger than nine inches. The crust was toasty, and was neither cracker thin nor Chicago thick. The pies were topped very well, not leaving too much bare crust at the edges. The ingredients looked fresh, the aroma was, as I said earlier, heavenly. They were also insanely hot. Cut into quarters there were gooey bridges of cheese that would not let go of the adjacent slice. I knew better than to bite right in, I let it cool for a minute or two. The four slices all looked too big to me so I cut a couple of them in half again. Even after the cutting and the waiting the cheese seared my tongue and clung to it like napalm, tasty, rich and creamy smooth napalm.
There wasn't a lot of discussion between us as we dived in. This was serious feasting. We ate like famished laborers.
Adam's minimalist pie
The cheese was rich and velvety, not your industrial mozzarella. The sauce was sweet and herb-y, with a taste that had to be house made, this was definitely not Ragu. Sure enough the peppers and onions still had bite to them, the sausage was spicy and even the pepperoni tasted better than one finds in a typical pizza.
Adam and Angel each finished three of their four slices, I only managed two. I've been working on my lousy eating habits, trying to stop eating when sated rather than until the plate is empty. There would be boxes though, and Sunday brunch.

 
Summary:
I asked the table what they thouught. "Very good." was the typical answer. To put a scale to it I asked a follow up question. "Better than Pizza Hut?"
We like Pizza Hut just fine. I've never had any complaints about the chain. Of all the pizza chains it is our favorite.
We're known to have the occasional frozen pizza, usually the less than cheapest ones, and they are fine for what they are. When we want a decent pizza we got to Pizza Hut.
When I asked this question though Adam's  answer was "That's not fair."
What he meant was that there was simply no comparison, they are not in the same class. It's like comparing Mom's apple pie with those frozen, industrial pocket-pies sold at fast food chains. It's simply not comparable.
The price is amazing. A full, generous nine inch pie, custom made to order with up to six toppings for $6.25. Roughly the price of a burger and fries at the fast food chains.
What you get is a tasty, rich and completely filling portion of house-made food and deep, fresh flavors. The entire bill came to thirty two dollars and change, much less than a meal at Ruby Tuesday's. Price-wise more in line with a fast food meal.
The ambiance and staff were relaxed, friendly and inviting. The fact that Lorenzo's directly invests back into the town is a not-too-small bonus. I have absolutely nothing negative to say about the food or the experience. If anything I want to extend my thanks to a place that not only respects their food, but also their customers and community as well.



* Joachim: Contracted form of JEHOIACHIN or JEHOIAKIM. According to the apocryphal Gospel of James, Saint Joachim was the husband of Saint Anne and the father of the Virgin Mary. Due to his popularity in the Middle Ages, the name came into general use in Christian Europe (though it was never common in England).  (http://www.behindthename.com/name/joachim)

Good luck pronouncing it. It is a common name  in several languages but pronounced differently in all of them.
I called Faye Adams, a fellow writer, though only of poetry, and more importantly for this discussion a long-time member of the DeSoto Historical Society. I asked her to pronounce the name of the creek that recently flooded. Without pause she said 'Joe-ACK-um.' She added that this was the way she'd always heard it pronounced but was unsure if it was actually correct. I told her what I'd found out that various languages pronounce it variously and that whatever the locals here said was as correct as any other version. Thanks Faye, for the assist.


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2 comments:

  1. Great review, Dennis. I live in DeSoto, too. The flood was devastating. The woman who drowned was one of my friends.

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  2. Ye-ho-yaw-keen. That's how you say it phonetically. It's a Hebrew word. There is no letter "J" in the Hebrew language. The letter is a "Yod" and when it appears at the front of a word, it always makes the "y" sound.

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