Monday, March 16, 2015

Trattoria Giuseppe

5436 Hwy 21
Imperial, Mo.

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By now, we shouldn't need to explain why we decided to go to Trattoria Giuseppe. It is our favorite place to eat in Jefferson County, it has been since we first went there several years ago. It's a little more expensive than most places we go, but it is worth it.
On the way we struck up a conversation about a very unusual occurrence in our lives. The previous evening while watching 'Glee' (don't judge me) one of the new kids performed a song that I recognized.*
"Oh, I love this song!!" I said.
"I don't know this song." Angel replied.
That struck me as very odd. You know by now that I do not listen to contemporary music often, so it was strange that I would have ever had the opportunity to recognize a popular song that she'd not already known about. So I struggled to figure out where I could possibly have heard it. I figured it out eventually.
On the drive to the restaurant Angel asked Adam if he knew it, giving him the name of the song and mangling the artist's name.
"Doesn't ring a bell." He answered. This made me giddy.
So Angel handed me her smart cellular telephone and talked me through the icons to get to a browser.
I dialed up the Youtube and played it.
After a minute or so, Adam replied that no, he'd never heard it before either.
"How is it possible that you've heard a song before we did?" He added.
Well, actually because of St. Louis Public Radio, not on it. The previous week had been rattle-the-tin-cup week for the public station. At least half of every hour is devoted to begging, cajoling, and guilt-tripping. I can't stand it. I know they have to do this, but because I have options, I don't have to listen to it for the nearly three hours a day I spend in the car. So on button 2 on my VW's  radio, I have a local station that also is mostly talk and news, though with a decidedly and sometimes wildly, more conservative perspective. It's not so much that I disagree with many or most conservative positions, it's more the tone and tactics that usually repulse me from most conservative talk shows. In the afternoons on this station there's a local guy who is at least more realistic and less pompous than some of the nationally known pundits and often he talks about movies and other things.
After I pondered for quite a while, it dawned on me that the local show was  using this song as the bumper music after the news break. I'd never heard the whole song, but I definitely knew the chorus.
Angel has already ordered a CD, she really liked it too. Adam was less impressed.
The Place:
TG is oddly, out in the middle of nowhere. It's not in Imperial, just the post office designation for this
particular area is in Imperial's coverage zone. It's on old highway 21, off of M.
It's an old, single story building, an early strip mall configuration.
Inside the place is rustic, but clean.
Its low ceilings and three dining rooms make it feel cozy and homey. We were greeted by a mature lady and handed over to Ashley, the young, pony-tailed hostess. We had forgotten to make reservations so we were fortunate that it was early. She led us to a four top next to the window in the 'space available' section near the front. I called it this because it seemed that the three or four tables in this area were separate from the bigger dining areas and it felt like we were in 'coach' for this flight.
Which didn't concern us too much, even a less than desirable location inside TG's is better than most other places' places. The service has always been exceptional and the food always well above par.
Within a minute or two, Tony, a handsome young man stopped, introduced himself and set a basket of bread in front of us. He then recited the special, some kind of cheesed and sauced steak that sounded good, but very, very rich and heavy.
We asked for drinks, Tea, tea, Pepsi.
After only a moment, Angel set her menu aside. She poured olive oil into a saucer to dip her bread. I did as well, but I also dashed it with some black pepper. The bread was fresh, soft and tasty.
I finally narrowed it down to two dishes, one pasta, one steak and left it at that until I actually told Tony what I wanted.

The Food:
Angel asked for spaghetti and meatballs, with the house salad.
Adam went next with a peppered sirloin steak, baked potato and house salad.
I opened my mouth and asked for New York strip, house salad and baked potato.
We'd not had S&M at TG's before. I should have thought of it, I've tried that dish at a few places just to see how the places hold up with a fairly simple, old standard.
    The wait for the salads was not long. Guiseppe makes a salad good enough to write to your mom about. That may seem a little over the top, but trust me, it's not. Iceberg lettuce, cherry tomatoes, red onion, artichoke heart, dark olives and a small pepper. He tosses this with a house made vinaigrette. That vinaigrette is what sets the salad as a standout. Not too sweet, oily or vinegary. The taste is difficult to pin down. It is not strongly one thing or another. Rather than a single note taste, like Ranch, French and most of the others, this is a perfectly harmonic blend of flavors and spices where there is no single dominant flavor, it's like a chord on a multi-stringed instrument. You hear all the individual notes, but yet didn't.
Adam plucked the tomatoes, olives and onions off of his. I took the tomatoes and scooted my olives and artichoke over to Angel.
As we ate, I noticed the overhead music, not too loud, big bands and Italian-ish crooners mostly. I can live with that. I've made a few CD's for Angel from my own big band collection. She says the dogs like it better than most other music.
I also noticed a framed movie poster over my right shoulder. Fellini's 'La Dolce Vita.' Translated, that means 'The Sweet Life'. Not that the translation matters, only 'Fellini' matters to movie snobs. It's supposed to be one of the ten best movies ever made. I don't know why, there are  no shootouts or gratuitous explosions. About the only interesting thing about the film is that one character, Paparazzo a news photographer, is the source of the word Paparazzi, the word used in many countries to label intrusive photographers.
The salads, finished off and set aside, we waited. Not too long of a wait, just a fancy restaurant wait. Tony kept an eye on us though, our drinks were never allowed to get more than halfway drained before the next refill showed up.
When the food finally arrived, we were more than ready for it. A foil wrapped potato and a thick, charred steak covered with about a quart of garlic butter. Three condiment packs of butter and one of sour cream lay beside the wrapped spud. I peeled away the foil and the tops off of the condiments and inverted them on top of the steamy potato. Once it had softened up I carved up the potato and folded in the creaminess. With almost religious reverence I carved my first chunk of the steak. Oh yeah, dreamy. Butter tender, perfectly pink, and meaty and juicy. As always, the potato was perfect.
Adam plowed through his smaller sirloin rather quickly. I could tell by the fact that he didn't say a word from start to finish that his was heavenly as well.
   He was able to finish his, I stopped about two thirds in. Not a problem, you're probably thinking the same thought. 'Sunday breakfast.' Oh yeah.
Every bite of the meat was divine. It's not that hard to cook a thick steak, but the quality of the cut is critical. This was not your dad's backyard grilled shoe leather.
Angel's spaghetti pile was, as is typical in many Italian places, enormous. More in her platter than I usually make at home for the whole family. However, unlike many other places, there was enough sauce to cover it so that there would be some for all the pasta. You know what this means. Sunday breakfast.
She shaved off a corner of one of the golf sized meat balls and laid it on my plate. Man oh man, that was a tender, tasty meatball. A beautiful blend of meats, not dry or gritty at all. Beautifully assembled and cooked. The sauce was amazing. If I didn't know better I'd say that the tomatoes for the sauce as well as the herbs had only been picked that day. The ingredients screamed 'fresh' and bright. But my God, there was a lot of it. Too much really. As I write this, even after Angel's Sunday breakfast, there's still quite a bit left. This is, of course a silly criticism, but it really was too much for any single human. Half this much would have been more than generous.
As my only criticism, I suppose that's not so bad.

Yeah, it's a bit pricey. The steaks were over twenty bucks each, the S&M about thirteen. With just the three dishes and tea/Pepsi, the tab came in at just under seventy five dollars. That's pretty much more than we spend anywhere else, so we can't afford to go there as often as we like, but every time we do, it seems well worth the price.
Giuseppe has a great thing here. He not only knows his food, but he knows how to run a restaurant. The staff is always professional, sharp and competent. Rarely does something go wrong.
He's also a gentleman and a professional in his own right. We've never been there when he didn't come out and go table to table to personally thank the diners. You can see the pride on his face. He has every right and reason to be proud. He's brought and maintained a high level of dining to the rural Jefferson County hills.
Trattoria Giuseppe, still number one in  my book.

* "Take me to Church"
Hozier version.
Glee version.

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