Monday, December 04, 2006
Monday, November 27, 2006
Out of Town
Monday, November 20, 2006
Vero Amore: Vero Good
It's amazing how universal pizza has become. Practically every culture eats this on a regular basis and have developed their own form of the food. Some Japanese restaurants cook it with squid and seaweed as toppings and even some Americans use BBQ sauce as the base instead of tomato sauce. However, it's hard to find pizza in Tucson made the way it was when it was originated back in Italy hundreds of years ago. Something simple but delicious.
That wait is over. Vero Amore (3305 N. Swan Rd., 520-325-4122) has arrived in this fine city and should awaken plenty of palates to show them exactly why pizza became the favorite dish of many.
My girlfriend Breanne and I took the drive last Wednesday night over to this restaurant to find out what exactly these chefs were preparing that was so special. We had both been craving pizza and we heard wonderful reviews about Vero Amore, so we decided to give it a shot. The drive over to the restaurant was slightly arduous considering we didn't realize it was in a strip mall and spent some time driving up and down Swan Road looking for a small Italian place. It was, in fact, next to the Basha's supermarket, and thankfully Breanne's eagle eyes saw it. I pulled a U-Turn and headed over to the place.
Upon parking and walking inside, we couldn't believe how nice it was for the surrounding location. Rustic tables, heavy chairs, and beautifully stained glass lighting really make the ambiance of Vero Amore very enjoyable. The chefs were in the back pulling in and out pizzas from a wood oven as a very friendly waitress came forward to greet us and help us with the menu. Quickly looking over the menu, we chose the anima pizza, ($9.95), which comes with andouille sausage, smoked mozzarella, parmesan and the house tomato sauce. We decided to both drink water. After ordering, we sat while talking and waiting for our delicious dish to arrive.
See, what makes the pizza here so traditional is the way it's prepared. All of Vero Amore's pies are prepared by the Verace Pizza Napoletana's strict standards. This organization sets the guidelines for the way pizza is to be made the way it was in the old country. This means that the sauce is made from plum tomatoes, the dough is made from finely ground flour, and all the dough was stretched on a marble slab. The wood oven and fresh buffalo mozzarella also are guidelines the chefs follow very closely. You're not going to find a fajita pizza or a dessert pizza here. This is what Italy tastes like and they truly respect the tradition.
Our pizza was delivered and I had never seen Breanne eat so fast. She absolutely loved the pizza and so did I. The crust was light but still chewy. The sauce was tangy but not overbearing. The cheese and sausage both complemented each other extremely well and it was phenomenal. After devouring the pie, we decided we were still hungry and ordered dessert. We decided on their panna cotta ($5.50), which is a white chocolate gelatin based dessert with raspberry sauce garnished across the dessert and the plate. This dessert was heavenly and not too heavy, but still had very strong flavors. The raspberry sauce screamed of freshness and everything felt wonderful to the senses.
The service was amazing as well. Our chef came over twice to make sure our meal and dessert were prepared constantly as our waitress was constantly filling our water glasses and getting used plates out of the way. I couldn't believe how wonderful everything, from the service to the food to the atmosphere, at Vero Amore was.
Synopsis: Vero Amore is making pizza the way it ought to be made and tried by every Tucsonian. Put down the phone and stop calling Papa Johns tonight and try what was the basis for the most popular dish in the world.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
I love the mix of spices and ability to eat cheaply, but still in quantities like a king. The curries and herbs warm me up and keep me satisfied. I could eat Indian food every day, especially when I'm sick to help me sweat the fever out. Because of this love, I definitely have done my fair amount of searching for the perfect Indian restaurant in Tucson. I have had my fill of mediocre tandoori and bland creamed spinach. But I have found the perfect restaurant for you to try if you like Indian or even just a good cheap meal that will stick to you for the rest of the day.
Readers, colleagues, and friends...go eat at Gandhi Cuisine of India (150 W. Fort Lowell Rd., 520-292-1738).
My girlfriend Breanne and I went over to Gandhi this past week after I had been in Chicago all weekend for job interviews. I knew I needed a solid meal to help me recover from the plane flights and the stressful time of being able to say the correct answers in the interviews. The drive to Gandhi from campus is fairly short, which is always a good thing, but the restaurant is easy to miss. Gandhi is in a strip mall that is tucked away from the street, which makes it hard to find. I highly suggest watching closely and not speeding around trying to find it because you may zoom right past and miss the amazing food waiting inside.
Once inside, you'll notice the entire staff is Indian and are all very helpful. They are constantly filling your water glasses and asking if you need anything. I love the service here because they really make you feel like you're wanted and not just a customer. After looking over the menu, Breanne decided on the Tikka Saag ($7.95), which is tandoori boneless chicken with creamed spinach. I chose the Margh Makhani ($7.95) that consists of tandoori chicken in a tomato butter sauce. Both our dishes came with basmati rice, raita, katchumber, cantaloupe, and a slice of orange. We also ordered a basket of naan bread to help us sop up the incredible sauces.
Within minutes, our food arrived piping hot. Breanne's was wonderful and not overwhelmingly hot with the tandoori chicken blending perfectly with the spinach. Mine was also incredible with the tangy tomato sauce blended perfectly with the soft and perfectly spiced chicken. The rice and raiti always compliment every Indian dish well and Gandhi knows how to make these to perfection. The orange at the end always refreshes and leaves Breanne and I very satisfied.
Synopsis: Gandhi is the definitive Indian restaurant in Tucson. Stop reading this and go.
Monday, November 06, 2006
Rosa's is Remarkable
I remember when I moved to Tucson from Fairbanks, AK in 2004 that I couldn't wait to try authentic Mexican food. Everybody who had been to the city had told me the food in South Tucson rivals all other Mexican cuisine in the country and they were right. Restaurants such as Mi Nidito (1813 S. Fourth Ave.) and Guerro Canelo (5201 S. 12th Ave.) are consistently good, but there is one problem. From the campus, South Tucson restaurants are a good distance for me to drive to and it makes for a longer evening that I'd prefer, since I have the sleeping habits of an 80 year old man.
However, my girlfriend Breanne and I have found the perfect Mexican restaurant that is very close to campus that has fast service and some of the best tacos, enchiladas, and tosadas this side of the border. That restaurant is Rosa's Mexican Food (1750 E Fort Lowell Rd., 520-325-0362) and it quickly has become one of our favorite standbys.
I found out about Rosa's through my girlfriend's sister, Courtney, and her boyfriend, Chris. They both recommended the place after eating there with his parents over a weekend. Courtney went so far to say she could eat there every day and be happy. With that strong of praise, it was only a matter of time before Breanne and I worked our way uptown to see what the deal is with this place.
Located in a strip mall surrounded by a Blockbuster, Rosa's is not in the most scenic area of Tucson. However, the inside of the restaurant is bright and colorful with the walls painted in beaming shades of blues, pink, and yellow. Amazingly, the restaurant is always packed full of people, no matter what time of day it is and everybody who works there is speaking Spanish fluently at each other. This is definitely an authentic Mexican restaurant.
After being quickly seated, a big bowl full of chips and salsa was delivered to our table as Breanne and I ordered two iced teas. The chips, as they should be, were warm, crisp, and not overly salty. However, the highlight of this was the salsa. I swear this is some of the best salsa I have ever had and promise to buy a pint of it ($4.95) before I move from Tucson. The amazing flavors of cilantro with a strong tomato base make this, if not anything else, a reason to keep coming back.
Needless to say, the chips quickly disappeared as we received our drinks and then ordered our meals. Breanne ordered the #5, which is a plate of one cheese enchilada, a shredded beef taco, a beef tamale, and rice and beans ($8.00). I decided on the #4, which is two cheese enchiladas, a chicken taco, and beans($7.50). Our waiter left, but not after leaving us with another helping of our favorite chips and salsa.
Within 10 minutes, our food had arrived on scorching hot plates. I was so impressed with the speed our food was cooked and brought to us, but not as impressed as I was with the way the food tasted. The beans were made just right with no burnt or charred pieces at all. My taco was delicious, yet very simple as well as my cheese enchiladas. They also accidentally gave me three enchiladas, which I can't complain about, considering how delicious they were.
Breanne's dish was also gigantic and just as delicious. The shredded beef could almost melt in your mouth! Breanne's palate is also very sensitive and she doesn't like overly spicy meals, but Rosa's never upsets her.
Synopsis: If you don't want to drive 30 minutes out of your way for a meal in South Tucson, Rosa's easily can fulfill that desire for a good and hot Mexican meal that only Tucson can offer.
Monday, October 30, 2006
The Chain for Other Chains to Compete With
It was a rainy Sunday and the cloud cover was very heavy. The weather was very cool and I knew I needed a hearty meal to keep me warm throughout the day, but I also wanted to watch some football. So, I called my girlfriend, Breanne, up and asked her out to lunch. She also was looking for a meal that could stick to her bones and we tried thinking of such a restaurant.
Finally, we remembered how we liked going to BJ's Restaurant and Brewery (4270 N. Oracle Road, 520-690-1900) last semester and we decided it was due time for another visit. In the past, the food and service have been fairly decent. We hoped we wouldn't be disappointed on this visit. Considering they have a massive screen that can play four football games at one time and a huge menu full of meals that will satisfy any deep hunger you can imagine.
After driving up Oracle to the restaurant, we were surprised that we were seated immediately. In the past, there is always a 20 minute wait, no matter what time of day it is. But this was a pleasant surprise as we were seated as soon as we walked through the doors.
BJ's is really beautiful on the inside. Even though this is a chain restaurant, you can tell the interior designers spent a lot of time making this place look nice with huge ceilings, clean booths and tables, great lighting, and a spacious bar. Strongly varnished woods, a comfortable temperature setting, and that massive television screen I mentioned earlier, gives you an atmosphere Applebee's or Chili's can't even compare to.
Looking over the menu quickly, Breanne decided on the BBQ Beef Sandwich ($8.95), which comes with onion strings and provolone cheese. I chose the Roast Beef Dip Sandwich ($8.95), which is served with the usual au jus and also has a creamy horseradish sauce on the side. I was drinking a Coke while Breanne sipped on an iced tea. Being so early in the day, we decided not to drink any of the beers they have available. However, they have a wonderful selection of ales and lagers to try from their “Piranha Pale Ale” all the way to “The Nutty Brewnette,” which are all brewed in-house.
Our waitress was fast, efficient, and always willing to give us more refills. She was able to get the food in and out to us within 10 minutes of ordering and I couldn't have been more impressed with that service. The food was also very good. Breanne was really enjoying her sandwich, which had a very smoky and slightly spicy BBQ sauce throughout the beef. My dip was incredible with the beef being extremely tender and the onions in the sandwich were cooked to perfection by not being bitter at all or overly strong. With both our places overloaded with wedge-cut fries, this was definitely a meal that was going to stick to our ribs for a good portion of the day.
Synopsis: BJ's is definitely setting a standard in chain restaurant eating. From the fresh and hot food to the wonderful atmosphere all the way to the swift service, this is a chain worth trying...and normally, I'm not a fan of chains. If you're dining in Tucson, this is a place that is definitely worth trying.
Monday, October 23, 2006
Mediocre Middle Eastern
Normally, I trust what Jimmy Boegle has to say about Tucson restaurants. His reviews for the Tucson Weekly are informative and always give me ideas of places I should try out. Before this, Jimmy was always right and dead on about the service. However, he couldn't have been more wrong when it came to the Sultan's Palace (345 W. Drachman St., 520-622-2892), which has given my girlfriend Breanne and I the worst service possible out of any Tucson restaurant we have experienced.
I was very excited to try the Sultan's Palace because I enjoy Indian and Middle Eastern food so much. The idea of eating tandoori chicken, naan bread, and basmati rice always makes me happy. I was also pleased to see how close in proximity it was from campus. Breanne feels the same way about Indian cuisine and we went almost immediately after reading the review in the Weekly, expecting wonderful food similar to what Aladdin (3699 N Campbell Ave, 520-320-0468) and Gandhi (150 W Fort Lowell Rd., 520-292-1738) offer, which are two other Middle Eastern and Indian restaurants in Tucson.
We were sorely let down.
The service was expected to be slow, as the article stated. However, this was non-existent service where we waited almost a half hour for a check after our meal. The food was made overly spicy for my girlfriend's chicken kabob, even after asking if the food could be toned down. The lamb was not falling off the bone either, as Jimmy said it would. It, rather, was tough and barely removable. With us being the only customers in the entire restaurant (shocking, huh?), I was shocked by the terrible service and poor presentation of food...especially with the many other amazing Middle Eastern and Indian restaurants in town.
For such an amazing restaurant, I was charged with quite the amazing bill of $35.
So, therefore, I encourage you to try Aladdin and Gandhi, which are incredible places to dine at with wonderful prices. I will be reviewing these restaurants within the next couple weeks. However, do me a favor and NEVER eat at the Sultan's Palace, unless you really enjoy being overcharged for terrible food and service.