Saturday, July 7, 2012

We Were Headed…

up the road a piece to Norton, VA, but first wanted to stop at the local Tourist Information Center for some brochures on sites of significance. I jumped out of the truck and headed inside to be greeted by a very nice woman who explained that brochures on Norton (and Big Stone Gap, our home base for two weeks) didn’t exist. But if we were headed to Norton, she advised, we had to take the drive to Knob Hill and handed me a small brochure.

Before I could ask any questions, she developed a spasm of coughing, and as she headed toward the back of the Center, sputtered something about allergies. Soon I heard the sound of running water, and as I exited, I called out a few commiserating remarks.

So off to High Knob we went. After a short stop for better directions, we found ourselves on a road that went steadily upward. There have only been a few occasions over the past four years when we have found ourselves on a road where we had no business being. This was one of them. The road would climb six feet, make a sharp turn, climb another six feet, make another sharp turn. On and on. All without guard rails around steep drop offs. We were whipped back and forth in the truck more than James Kirk on the bridge of the Enterprise.

After five miles of this, we came upon the High Knob entrance sign. Three more miles to go. We looked at each other. “This is not fun” we agreed. Time to head back down. Repeat the previous process. Drive six feet. Sharp turn. Etc. Should we get out of the truck and kiss the ground once we again reach flat land?

At this point I became highly suspicious. Was the woman at the info center really coughing? Or was this a ruse to hide wild laughter?

“I need a drink,” I told Chuck when we reached the bottom. But instead, we went for pizza. (You had to know that another blog about pizza had to happen soon.)

I found a restaurant—Romano’s—that, remarkable for rural Appalachia, had an online presence and whose menu stated that they serve New York-style pizza.

While reviewers warned that the wait for food is long, a sign just inside the doors stated “Romano’s is not a fast food restaurant.”
I’m not in that much of a hurry and prefer my pizza made to order rather than—as with the current Little Caesar’s campaign—“Hot and Ready.” Do you really want a pizza that may have been made a half-hour ago?

A few reviewers complained about the nondescript décor. There was nothing wrong here unless you were expecting red and white checked tablecloths and wax encrusted Chianti bottles with candles in them.

The place was bright and clean with containers of dried pastas, vinegars, and pickled vegetables decorating the deep window sills.

And the walls held prints of iconic Italian scenes like this one. Where is it? I don’t know. When I “Google” Casamicciola and Spiaggia e Pontile all of the responses are in Italian.

Romano’s offers much more than pizza. The menu included gigantic subs like the Steak Special--a combination of grilled Philly steak, mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, and pepperoni topped with mozzarella cheese on fresh baked bread. There is an extensive of Italian specialties that included: Cheese Stuffed Shells, Stuff Shells Florentine, Fettuccini Alfredo, Gnocchi (Italian Dumplings), Shrimp and Mussels Linguini, Linguini with Shrimp Scampi, Mussels Marinara served with Spaghetti, Seafood Cannelloni, and the Trio Pasta (lasagna, manicotti, and stuffed shells). Photos of these dishes were also posted just inside the front doors.

Portions are huge and many diners left with “to go” boxes. A man at a nearby table was served one of the largest salads we had seen, but we weren’t close enough to know if it was the Italian Salad (lettuce, tomato, onions, cucumbers, banana peppers, carrots, ham, salami, and cheese), the Chicken Salad (lettuce, tomato, onions, cucumbers, banana peppers, and carrots and topped with white meat grilled chicken, bell peppers, mushrooms, and onions), or the Fiesta Salad (lettuce, tomato, carrots, and black beans and topped with tricolored tortilla strips, mixed cheese, and grilled chicken). But it looked delicious. And yes, he left with a “to go” box, too.

We ordered the large cheese and sausage pizza New York-style pizza (they also offer a pan variety) with light cheese. After about a twenty-minute wait (which is not long for made to order pizza), the pie arrived at our table.
This was a better than average version of New York pizza. While the crust is thicker than brick oven pizza, this still had a nice crisp bottom crust. The sauce was not too sweet, nor was it infused with
too much oregano. And there was a copious quantity of sliced fennel sausage.

Still there was way too much cheese. When we received our bill, the notation for “light cheese” was nowhere to be found. Since this was a computer generated bill, I suspect that the server transmits the order to the kitchen via one of those key pad terminals rather than a face-to-face oral encounter. Whether she followed up verbally with the kitchen, we’ll never know. But I am sure that there is a button on the computer for “Extra Cheese.”

This was certainly not the best pizza ever but wins hands down over the pizza we had at RJ’s in Galax, VA and earns a 3.5 Addie rating.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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