When I arrived in
Every new venture we get here is another chain, another Mexican food place, another barbecue joint, or another steak and burger house. You can count the number of chef owned/family owned restaurants that have appeared in recent years on the fingers of one hand.
Let’s do a quick rundown of the available Italian choices in
The Olive Garden is owned by an industry giant The Darden Group. Darden Restaurants is the #1 casual-dining operator (in terms of revenue) with more than 1,600 restaurants in the
I think most people in
I know people long for a Macaroni Grill or maybe even a Carrabbas in our town. We could set our sights a bit higher and hope for an excellent chef-owned Italian dining experience. But the OG and Johnny are what we have and they are what they are. Both of these chains serve average pasta and Italian dishes that appeal to a broad range of tastes and budgets. The Olive Garden gets a slight nod for having a few more adventurous offerings and specials and a far better wine program. If there were no other choices then eating at the OG or with Johnny would be understandable.
I do think that Gratziano's Restaurant is worth a mention although I can truthfully say that I have only ordered from their menu once. Their lunch buffet for $6.99 is a good value featuring soup, salad, pizza, two or three pastas, dessert, and a rotating chicken entree. All are OK for a quick lunch. The quality has improved from two or three years ago. I don't usually think of it as an evening stop because I eat lunch there fairly often. It is never really crowded at lunch, it is quiet enough to talk, and the brownies are tasty. The decor is a little tired after several years and could use a bit of upkeep. New table covers, tables that fit on the carpet, and some better lighting might give the place a new look.
What else is there here in
That brings us to the new guy in town Rosati’s. And guess what? It’s a chain as well! The Rosati Family started a small restaurant in
Located in the Wal-Mart parking lot on Hewitt Dr. at Imperial, Rosati’s has been open for over a year. It has recently added some space next to the takeout pizza counter. The expansion was needed and judging from the crowds on Fridays and Saturdays they probably could expand again. The tables are packed together and the noise level is high. This is family pizza parlor ambience not a romantic candle lit bistro. Go early or plan on a wait.
I have eaten Rosati’s food on several occasions during the past months. Their pizza comes in three different thicknesses – traditional thin (which I didn’t particularly like) – Double Dough and Chicago-Style – a deep pan variety. I can recommend the latter two as very good. This pizza is not cheap. Expect to pay between $12 and $20 for a large pizza with two or more ingredients. The crust is crispy, thick (but not doughy), and flavorful. The toppings were plentiful with a good balance between the cheese and tomato sauce. The Chicago-style looks great when it is brought to the table.
A discussion of who has the best pizza in
Rosati’s offers an array of sandwiches and lunch specials that are reasonably priced and some are very tasty. The Vienna Beef Chicago hot dog may remind some of
Rosati’s has a very tasty marinara sauce that is puts to good use on a limited variety of pastas. It has a bright and tangy tomato flavor with a hint of lemon. Get a $2.50 side of large meatballs to add some oomph. I was less impressed by the meat sauce that didn’t seem nearly as tasty.
This is the section of the menu that could be improved by adding a few additional choices. I do not taste as though they are using fresh-made pasta. My mostaccioli arrived well past al dente. Why not add some linguine, fettuccine, or penne a specials? If you stick with basic spaghetti or ravioli you will be OK. The pasta entrees come with one bread stick. No replacement was offered. I was disappointed in the Baked Lasagna. Both my tastings of this dish have had a strange flavor in the ricotta layers that I did not find agreeable. The price range for a nice sized serving of pasta is from $7 to $9.
Many restaurants will allow you to add on a dinner salad to your pasta entrée for a reasonable additional charge. Rosati’s smallish house salad or Caesar costs an additional $4 and the tablespoon of accompanying dressing is served in a tiny plastic cup.
They have an active bar that features a broad range of beverages, frozen drinks, and martinis. The modest selection wine is below average even for