Friday, April 30, 2010

Young, Poor, Footloose And Fancy-Free

Yesterday, Eddie and I had lunch at Nino’s Italian Restaurant in the Bixby Knolls section of Long Beach, CA. I had read about it online and it was only a few miles from our hideout, so we thought we'd try it. It had been around since 1958, so how bad could it be? We were the only ones there when we walked in; understandably, since it was later than the regular lunch hour. We were greeted immediately and shown to a table. We were sitting for only a few minutes before we heard an old lady screaming from the back, "I need dog food! Don't forget to pick up dog food! What??" That's when she was shushed by a man who appeared to be part of the family. He then apologized to us for the disruption.

I wasn't offended at all, as it immediately took me back to the days in my own family's restaurant. That late hour, between lunch and dinner (we didn't serve lunch, but there was always someone in the restaurant prepping for the upcoming evening's meals) was a time when there was usually only family and staff milling around.

Inevitably, someone would yell something from the kitchen or the back room, thinking they were the only ones in the place. And anyone who was sitting at the "family table" (every family restaurant has one - usually in the corner, either by the cash register, in the corner of the lounge or near the kitchen) would yell an answer back. And as in this case, they owner didn't think anyone was there, because who in their right mind has lunch at 1:45 in the afternoon? I turned to look just in time to see the woman take her seat at the family table, next to her husband, the restaurant's owner.

When you first walk in, you're struck by all the chianti bottles hanging from the ceiling. The drop ceiling is made from a large open lattice, which gives the impression of a trellis for grapes. It in fact looked just like the structure in my grandparents backyard in the Bronx, where grapes actually did crawl all over it and were delicious enough to eat.

The dining room was dimly lit (but not dark) and had green leather booths and chairs and the requisite red checkered tablecloths. There were paintings of Italy on the walls and in the other dining areas, pictures of the family and signed pictures from celebrities. This place was old.
We sat and perused the menu. We decided on some Sauteed Fresh Mushrooms as an appetizer. They were made with lots of garlic, a little bit of chopped onions and some sauce I can't identify, but I thought I detected Worcestershire sauce but I can't be certain because I didn't ask.

For lunch, Ed had the Mostaccioli Michelle; mostaccioli pasta baked in the oven with chopped bell peppers, mushrooms, meatballs, tomato sauce, ricotta and mozzarella cheeses. It looked good, but I didn't ask for a bite because I was busy with my own food.

I had the Stuffed Eggplant Parmigiana; fresh eggplant stuffed with meatballs, mushrooms and ricotta cheese with a side of spaghetti. I can almost never pass up eggplant and really liked the taste of it. I wasn't in love with the flavor of their sauce but the dish did give me an idea of something to make in the truck. With summer coming and eggplants being in season, I think I'll be making more of it myself.

My favorite part of the whole restaurant decor were these grape lamps that hovered over each wall table. I wanted to rip them right off and put them in my purse. They were purple ones and amber ones and there was even a similar amber colored chandelier of grapes hanging above our head. Isn't this a beautiful lamp? I want one for the truck.

I think the reason I loved the glass grapes so much is because they reminded me of my grandmother. Nanny had a bowl full of glass grapes displayed in her kitchen and I loved them. I knew I should have snagged those when I had the chance! All I would've had to do was ask; as the first born grandchild, I usually got anything I asked for (in the very non-spoiled sort of way).
My favorite part of the whole experience was their story, from how they met to when they bought the restaurant, which was featured in a framed article on the wall inside the front entry of the restaurant. You can read it HERE.
This picture was taken from that article. Aren't they a handsome couple?Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman,, Confessions of a Pioneer Woman, The Pioneer Woman Cooks, Pioneer Woman Photography, Pioneer Woman Home & Garden, Pioneer Woman, Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, Ladd Drummond, Ree, Ladd, Drummond, P-Dub, PW, Pioneer Woman Homeschooling, Tasty Kitchen,,, thetastykitchen, the tasty kitchen, pioneerwoman2006, yahoo
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Gil said...

Nice story! It sure looks like she is eating a Good Humor Toasted Almond Bar. Maybe because I was thinking of them the other day.

The Daily Rant said...

I love the Toasted Almond Bar!! Thanks. Now I want one.

all things bradbury said...

this place looks the decor!