October 30, 2009

Where to find spaghetti in Flagstaff

Celebrating the classic Italian dish: Spaghetti
By Angele Sionna

We’re in the midst of Italian-American heritage month. So what better time to talk spaghetti, one of the most popular dishes at Italian restaurants world-wide.
Lots of cultures (Italian, Chinese, Arab, and Greek) claim the invention of spaghetti- the pasta, dating back thousands of years. But the spaghetti dish as we know it today, complete with a tomato sauce, is much, much younger. Tomatoes are native to the Americas and they weren’t combined with pasta until modern times. According to InMamasKitchen.com the first recipe bringing together tomatoes and pasta was written in 1839 by Ippolito Cavalcanti, Duke of Buonvicino and the spaghetti dishes we love today came to America with the huge Italian immigration in the early 1900’s.
Here’s a look at where in Flagstaff, you can dine on the classic Italian entrĂ©e…

Pasto Cucina Italiana
19 E Aspen Ave
menu at pastorestaurant.com
For fine Italian dining and spaghetti Pasto is your place. This romantic restaurant brings the love with its Spaghettini e Polpette (spaghetti and spicy meatballs)… the best in town. The spiciness in this sauce is more flavor than burn and is sure to please. It comes in two sizes. The large is a slim portion, so I wouldn’t opt for the small unless you’re ordering that for a child or its going to be just one of many courses for you that night. Pasto makes their own pasta as well as the meatballs and sauce, as you’d expect from a high end restaurant. They open at 5pm everyday (besides Sunday) for dinner only.

Dominic’s Italian Bistro
1850 N Fort Valley Rd
menu at: flagstaffpizza.com
From the recipes of Great Grandma Lucia comes the bold, home-style taste of the spaghetti at Dominic’s. They give you a plentiful portion, just like grandma would too. Dominic’s menu says, “We’re not pretentious here– we proudly serve old fashioned one of a kind comfort foods at an affordable price” and that does seem to be what you get there. Dominic’s serves up this classic dish (with meatballs or chicken if you want as well) from 11am-2pm and 5-8pm Monday through Saturday.

Pesto Brothers
120 N. Leroux, suite 104 (in the Old Town Shops downtown)
The family run Pesto Brothers has a homey feel and classic food. The walls are decorated with pictures of the owner’s kids and you get that same kind of touch in your meal. Pesto Brothers saves their spaghetti just for the dinner crowd. Order the Papa Tony’s (aka spaghetti with meatballs) from 5-9pm any night of the week.

Mamma Luisa Italian Restaurant
2710 N Steves Blvd (at Kachina Square)
Mamma Luisa is a family run, cozy place serving Flagstaff for almost three decades. It may be tucked inside a strip mall but you’d never guess it from the quaint atmosphere inside. Spaghetti here comes served several ways, with tomato sauce, meatballs, meat sauce or mild Italian sausage. It comes with soup or a salad. You can order this dish at dinner only, which is served 4:30-9pm Monday-Thursday and 4:30-9:30pm Friday-Sunday.

Strombolli’s Italian Restaurant
1435 S. Milton
Strombolli’s also serves up this classic dish. Here you can order spaghetti with tomato sauce, marinara, spicy Italian sausage, or meatballs. Strombolli’s says the tomato sauce has a pork base and the marinara is a vegetarian sauce with more of a spice to it. The spaghetti is served with soup or salad 11am to 9pm everyday.

Roma Pizza
1800 S Milton Rd
menu at: romapizzaflag.com
Needing a spaghetti fix late night or any other time of the day, then Roma Pizza is your spot. This small little joint serves up spaghetti and meatballs with a house-made marinara sauce everyday from 11am to 10pm. It comes with breadsticks too.

October 16, 2009

Best deal on breakfast in Springdale, Utah

Many restaurants in Springdale (the gateway to Zion National Park) serve breakfast, lunch and dinner at resort prices.
To get the most for your money in the morning - and a tasty meal, opt for the breakfast buffet at the Spotted Dog Cafe (at Flanigan's Inn- 450 Zion Park Blvd).
The spread costs $8 for adults, $5 for children under 12 and kids 5 and under are FREE. You won't find anywhere else in town with a deal this good for any meal.
Do note beverages are NOT included, but the tap water in Springdale is quite good tasting so there's real need for other beverages plus it'll help you fuel up to fight the heat and sun.
The buffet includes house specialty scrambled eggs which have cream cheese, parsley and other seasonings in them, regular scrambled eggs, waffles, pancakes, bacon, sausage, fresh fruits, cereals and more.

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.

October 10, 2009

Best Mexican restaurants in Flagstaff

Best Mexican
By Angele Sionna

From chips and salsa to tacos and enchiladas, Mexican food satisfies. It’s more than putting ingredients into tortillas. It’s about the sauce, the spices and tasting the love cooked right in, no matter how simple or deluxe the restaurant. We’ve got quite a few great spots to fill those cravings for Mexican food in town. Here’s a look at some of the best…

¡Ay Caray! (next to Picazzos)
1300 S Milton Rd

¡Ay Caray! is a surprising little find in a strip mall along Flagstaff's main drag. The restaurant is nothing fancy, but has friendly service and fab food.
The menu's pretty simple - tacos, enchiladas, tamales, tortas plus some salads and soups - all of which are freshly made, as are the chips and salsa. From the first bite of their chips, you know you’re going to have a good meal.
The enchilada platter is the thing to get here. It comes with sour cream and guac on top plus rice and beans on the side. A filling meal for sure. Be sure to try ¡Ay Caray!'s smooth and flavorful flan for a sweet and rich topper to your meal.

Salsa Brava
2220 East Route 66, Flagstaff, AZ

This is the place to go in town if salsa is your thing. Salsa Brava has a salsa bar with lots of great choices from the mild but flavorful pico de gallo to a hot salsa plus a tangy tomatillo salsa verde and the sweet, spicy pineapple habanero salsa. All are good and none give more fire than a trained mouth can handle. You really could just eat salsa and chips here with a margarita and go home happy!
The menu features everything from quesadillas and fajitas to more unique offerings like a lobster/shrimp enchiladas, Maui tacos, and stuffed sopapillas. The wide array of seafood dishes combine Arizonan and Baja for a nice twist. There's definitely something for everyone here. It’s no wonder that they were featured earlier this year on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

La Fonda
1900 N. Second St

La Fonda has been in business in Flag for over fifty years. This locals’ favorite is in the Sunnyside neighborhood, tucked away from tourists but not away from the crowds.
Classic Mexican best describes the food flavorings of La Fonda. The menu features dozens of traditional combinations from fajitas to tacos and everything in between. Lunch specials are a good deal too and a great way to sample the flavor of La Fonda.
Just because they’re half a century old doesn’t mean they aren’t hip to new things. You can find out about specials and discounts by following them on Twitter, Facebook and MySpace. Good way to save some money on good food.

Burritos Fiesta
1530 S Riordan Ranch St # 405C (next to Bookmans)

Burritos Fiesta is a laidback kind of joint where you order at the counter and wait for your food. It always seems to be packed with satisfied customers who don’t even need to look at the menu board before ordering… always a good sign.
On the menu here – nine types of burritos (of course) and you can get them served up traditionally, deep fried or enchilada-style with red or green sauce. The ‘Fiesta Burrito’ is number one on the menu for a reason. It’s the best –with charbroiled chicken or steak plus jack cheese, guac and pico de gallo. Other featured items include tacos, tamales, enchiladas, and salads.