A roodfood.com journey - OR to FL 3
We breakfast at The Black Bear Diner (2795 Main St.). My wife, Sandee, has this thing for bears, so that’s our criteria for selection. Besides, half the tables are filled with locals; at least we think they’re locals. I’m into a Biscuits and Sausage Gravy thing for this trip, you know, with an egg or two on top. Although I think of this as a southern dish, it appears on all diner menus out here – probably because it’s cheap and fast to serve. But, if it’s too cheap, I shy away. I like sausage in the gravy, and this one tastes like sausage. The coffee is OK; hey, it’s a diner. At least it’s not weak, and it doesn’t hurt going down.
Our route for the day is the infamous 395. In California, roads are referred to as “the 395” rather than Route 395. Interestingly, as soon as you cross the border, no one will use that terminology. It’s part of what makes California different – there’s lots more. Actually, Route 395 slips temporarily into Nevada, goes through Reno, and slips back into California for the duration. Along the way is great history, more old gold mining towns, fantastically beautiful peaks, forests, and lakes, and most of CA’s unpopulated terrain.
Although there’s plenty of diversion to slow us along the way, we choose not to stop – our interest for the day is Yosemite. This is another of our errors, for ultimately, we see none of these diversions, and little of Yosemite. This section deserved two days.
We arrive in Bishop in the late afternoon, and find the town under siege by a large band of seniors with classic cars. Frankly, I’m not keen on co-existing, even temporarily, with a large group of seniors – individually they may be peers and fine folks, but put ’em together for any reason and it all goes to hell. That’s exactly why I moved out of Florida for my retirement! The innkeeper we talk with tells us we won’t find any rooms in Bishop this night, so we move on to Big Pine. We find a room immediately, but now the challenge is where to eat? I look in the phone book, and find maybe 5 or 6 restaurants listed, several with out of town addresses. I decide to do a town walking tour.
Ten minutes later, I’m back to the motel and inspecting our last choice, a nondescript block building in serious need of attention. The north side has been painted, perhaps some 50 years ago, to read “Rossi’s – Italian and American Food”, now fading and peeling badly. I’m not even sure if the place is functioning. The front is as unattractive as possible, with the only focal point a heavy, utilitarian door which looks as if it may have once been on a warehouse. I pull it open and peak inside. I’m surprised to see an inviting and cozy dining area. It’s all the encouragement I need.
Our meal that night is a trip back in time. Reminders of my adolescence keep flashing past me – of times when 50% of all restaurants were Italian – of first dates – of times when menus would offer a simple dish of spaghetti. I’ll bet this place hasn’t changed a thing for 50 years! Oooh, one exception, the prices. This can’t be labeled a cheap restaurant, if it ever was. I chose lamb chops at $22, but in keeping, this is an all inclusive price, right up to the desert – Spumoni. Haven’t seen that for awhile.
As our meal wears on – we’re slow eaters – the restaurant fills to waiting and the crowd noise drowns out the dinner music. It’s obvious the Rossi’s is a social center hereabouts. Opposite our table is an upright piano with at least 5 foot high piles of sheet music on top. It’s obviously used often, and we’re sorry we missed that. As we finish an enjoyable dinner, we realize that we’ve witnessed a cultural institution at work – we feel good. jm