October 13, 2009

Strombolli's (Update October 2009)

By Angele Sionna

1435 S Milton, Flagstaff, AZ

website: strombollis.com

The Food (taste/flavor/quality of food & drinks)
>>= mixed bag, can be good but can be bad, can’t count on it

The Atmosphere (environment, wait staff, comfortableness)
xxx= good but could be improved

Price (what to generally expect to pay per person per entree)
$ = $10

Value (what you get for your money)
*** = fair -you get what you pay for, not in a bad way

Strombolli's is the first restaurant I ever ate at in Flagstaff. That was about two and a half years ago and we've been back about a dozen times since. While it was good enough to keep me coming back for a while, I rarely left 100% satisfied and have since moved on for the most part.

Strombolli's is right on the main drag, standing alone in the parking lot of a strip mall. Something about it looks welcoming from the outside. The inside is comfy, but nothing fancy. Some of the booth seats could use to be replaced, as could some of the high chairs.

Strombolli's prides itself in being New York style Italian, saying on their website:

All of our traditional pasta dishes and sauces and our pizza dough and sauce are based on family recipes shared with me by Al Borelli, owner to this day of the Borelli Bros. Restaurant & Pizzeria in NY, which he opened in 1955. He was our neighbor and my brother and I worked there for years during the 60’s and 70’s. Before we opened Strombolli’s in 1982 in Page/Lake Powell, a nice family resturant and pizzeria, I flew back to NY to work with Al and his brothers to learn and record their recipes and methods so I could recreate them in Northern Arizona. We have gone back over the years to make sure we still get it right. When you have the ‘real thing’ you don’t mess with it. We have it and it is our commitment to carry on the 50 year tradition of fresh, authentic Italian food in Cottonwood, Flagstaff, and Lake Powell.

But Strombolli's doesn't remind me of any of the Italian joints I've eaten at in New York when I lived there and on the countless number of visits since. The dishes may have New York roots, but over the years it tastes like they have become somewhat generic, depending on who's in the kitchen and what we order. Sometimes when we go to Strombolli's everything is good, but other times it's average. They are by definition, hit-or-miss.

All of the main entrees come with soup or salad. The salad comes served in a family size bowl if more than one person in your party opts for salad. It's nothing fancy, but tastes good. I think there house dressing is the best dressing they serve. There are signs up all around the restaurant warning that just because it says bottomless salad comes with the entree, it doesn't mean you can share it and they say they'll charge you for an extra salad if you do. Not really a friendly impression, but I'm sure they have had plenty of reasons for posting such a sign.

While you're waiting for the soup or salad to arrive the waiter brings out a large braided roll of bread for the table to share. It is glazed with melted butter and garlic salt. It tastes as good as it sounds.

On a previous visit, I ordered that night's special: a bottomless bowl of pasta ($9.95) so I could try the marinara and alfredo sauces back to back to see which was better. When ordering the bottomless bowl, they bring you out a small bowl of pasta and your choice of sauce. Then you can get refills or a whole different combination. First up, alfredo sauce. It was creamy, flavored with garlic and herbs. A little too salty and a little too greasy but overall very tasty. The marinara didn't taste like it was handmade in the kitchen. If it was, I'd bet it wasn't made with fresh tomatoes, but used canned ones instead. So I went ahead and ordered another bowl of the alfredo. This time, just minutes after the first bowl, it wasn't nearly as good.

The Strombolli Calzone
My husband always orders the Strombolli Calzone ($10.45). It's kind of a funny name, seeing that stromboli and calzones aren't the same thing.

According to Epicurious.com food dictionary, calzone originated in Naples, Italy and is "a stuffed pizza that resembles a large turnover." A stromboli (yes, spelled differently from the restaurant's name), on the other hand, they say is "a specialty of Philadelphia, a stromboli is a calzone-like enclosed sandwich of cheese (usually mozzarella) and pepperoni (or other meat) wrapped in pizza dough." There are other differences, of which you can google or click HERE to read more about if you're interested. Stromboli, by the way, is also the name of a volcanic island in Italy.

Whatever it is or isn't - it tastes good. The calzones are the best thing on the menu here because the crust is so good, almost pastry-like. But there are other calzones and stromboli in town that are better. Check out those in THIS story.

All in all, Strombolli's will never blow you away but it will satisfy your Italian cravings. The fact that a soup or salad comes with every entree is a big draw for me and you can get it to go pretty easily. Though do note that EVERYTIME I've ordered out here the prices are never the same as on their website or in their phone book menu- even the brand new phone books. This really irks me and is one of the reasons I don't visit here much any more.


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