Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Still Eatin’ Phoenix

Most of our activities the past few weeks have involved either eating or spending time with family. When we are lucky, we are able to combine the two.

Today’s blog highlights two meals we enjoyed with what I have come to call “The Friday Lunch Club.” While composition of the group changes from week to week, the three constants are our Aunt Evelyn, Chuck’s mother's cousin's wife Beverly (Bev), and Bev’s friend Jeanie.

For our first lunch, we gathered at Cove Trattoria, a family-owned Italian restaurant. “The Monica family, which includes Vinny (dad), Barbara (mom), Heather (daughter) and Daryl (son), opened The Cove Trattoria in 2002. They created a real niche for themselves in the pizza market with their homemade pizza dough and wood-fired pizzas that are baked in the restaurant’s on-site brick oven. ‘We are a family restaurant,’ Vinny says. ‘We project that to our customers. And our staff is considered family, too. And that’s the atmosphere that we want to give off’” (

Our party included Nancy, Jeanie, and Evie

and Jim, Pat, Jean, and Bev. (That fat elbow you see is mine.)

Three of the party made a lunch of the Cove’s pasta fagioli.

While two others ordered the walnut and pear salad with mixed greens, fresh pear slices, caramelized walnuts, and blue cheese tossed with a walnut dressing.

The Cove offers a daily lunch special for $5.00, and that day’s selection—the Tilapia Fish Sandwich—was Nancy’s choice. The sandwich came with a side of house made potato chips that had been lightly dusted with Romano cheese.
I was fortunate enough to be seated across the table from Nancy, and she generously offered to share the chips. I ate more than my share.

Chuck’s choice was the Caprese Panini made with fresh mozzarella, tomato, prosciutto, and basil. While he requested that his sandwich come with the house made chips, he got salad instead. But, without questioning, our server promptly brought out a bowl of chips in addition to, not a replacement for, the salad.
Given that we were seated at almost opposite ends of the table I didn’t get an opportunity to sample his sandwich, so I have to rely on his judgment and say this was very good.

I had investigated the menu on-line prior to our get-together and saw an item on the dinner appetizer listing that I really wanted. Fortunately, the Cove’s staff was accommodating, and I was able to order the dinner appetizer of Prince Edward Island mussels sautĂ©ed with garlic, tomatoes, capers, and onions.
Fortunately for me—being no big fan of capers—these were few in number and didn’t overtake the dish. The mussels came with three slices of grilled bread which were put to good use to sop up every bit of the seafood flavored red sauce that remained after the mussels were consumed.

The following Friday found us at another Italian restaurant—Uncle Sal’s Italian Ristorante, which was owned at one time by former mobster Sammy “the Bull’ Gravano. Now owned by the Molinari family, “Uncle Sal's prides itself on its family atmosphere…. Members of the family work in the kitchen and in the dining room, adding the special, authentic Molinari touch to every aspect of the dining experience.

"‘Making people happy is our top priority. That means the food must taste excellent, the service is fast and friendly, and most of all, a connection is made between our family and theirs. We want them to feel welcome and at-home here. We remember names and faces so that our customers can see how much they're appreciated…something that we know is unfortunately rare to come by in this day and age,’ said Robert Molinari, owner” (Arizona Business Magazine).

On that day, the diners included (from left to right) Walt, Nancy (back row), Mary, Jeanie, Bev, and Evie (front row).

Two of the party shared the sausage, mushrooms, and green pepper calzone that was accompanied by a small dish of marinara sauce.

Another two shared the fresh fish of the day served on a bed of pasta. (Sorry, I have no idea what the fish was.)

Another’s choice (not pictured) was the Bianco pizza with fresh ricotta, mozzarella, basil, and olive oil.

And the day’s special pasta with eggplant in red gravy was selected by another diner.

After an intense interrogation of the server, Chuck ordered the Philly Cheesesteak. Asking about the type of beef used (ultra thin sliced rib eye is the standard) and getting the response: “It’s Philly beef,” should have been a clue.
It may have been a good sandwich, it just wasn’t a Philly Cheesesteak. Fortunately for us, we will soon be in San Diego and can gorge ourselves on the only authentic cheesesteaks outside of Philadelphia—those served at Gaglione Bros.

Reserving the right to finish with dessert, I chose the Mozzarella Caprese appetizer with fresh buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes, marinated mushrooms and artichokes, and fresh basil. This was drizzled with a balsamic vinegar reduction and sprinkled with dry oregano.
And it was the latter than provided the only off note. One piece of advice to restaurant kitchens from an ardent foodie—whatever amount of dry oregano you plan to use, use a quarter of it. Dry oregano has a tendency to obscure the taste of everything else.

Two desserts made it to the table. The first, ordered by Bev, was the tiramisu. No, these are not hot dogs peeking out from the two layers of cream. These are the coffee and rum soaked lady fingers.
After numerous rounds around the table for tasting, it somehow met its end at my seat. This was a very light, although very rich, version of this classic Italian dessert.

The second, ordered by Chuck and me, was the apple tart. It was noted that we did not share ours with the others. The crust here was interesting. At first I thought it was shortbread, but later concluded it was more like a cake.

The next Friday outing will be for Thai food. Too bad that we leave on that day since we have so enjoyed these get togethers with “The Friday Lunch Club.”

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