Mom and Pop Italian Rest vs Chain Ones

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bbqjimbob
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Mom and Pop Italian Rest vs Chain Ones - Thu, 08/24/06 11:09 PM
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My wife and I went to a "Mom & Pop" Italian restaurant last night about which we had read many glowing reviews, including how huge the portions were. The critic for the local paper said that they were so big, one dinner would feed 2 people. We'd been wanting to try it for a while now, and broke down and decided to go last night. On the other side of the coin, is Carrabba's, a chain Italian restaurant that has been our favorite for a long time. We figured that as good as the chain was, a local M&P would be better. Unfortunately, we weren't impressed. I had 2 long island ice teas ($10 total), we had calamari for an appetizer, my wife had stuffed flounder, and I had the lambchops. My lambchops were medium well to well done, and I told the owner. She took them back, but since the kitchen was closed, I was out of luck- no dinner for me! The salad was mediocre at best, the rolls like hockey pucks, and when I tasted my wife's stuffed flounder, I was glad I hadn't ordered it! BTW- those reviews about large portions- not true. Carrabba's portions are about 1&1/2 times the size of theirs. In spite of them not charging us for my dinner, our bill was still $43, plus tip! We could have eaten at Carraba's for about the same, minus my beverages, but with my meal included. I've learned an expensive lesson- unfortunately, Mom & Pop restaurants aren't always better than chain restaurants!

ScreenBear
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RE: Mom and Pop Italian Rest vs Chain Ones - Thu, 08/24/06 11:41 PM
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Indeed, they are not always. Usually, but not always.
The Bear

Twinwillow
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RE: Mom and Pop Italian Rest vs Chain Ones - Thu, 08/24/06 11:54 PM
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Ok, here's my two cents. First of all, why would you want to order such "upscale"
food items like you and your wife ordered at a "mom & pop" Italian restaurant?
Mom & pop restaurants are for, lasagna, manicotti, spaghetti and meat balls,
eggplant parmigian, pizza and so on and so on. Where all the sauces, meatballs, etc. are usually home made. or, at least they should be.
In Dallas, we love Carrabbas because we don't have the "typical Mop & pop" Italian restaurants like that found in the east.

saps
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RE: Mom and Pop Italian Rest vs Chain Ones - Fri, 08/25/06 12:09 AM
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Generally when I see a review lauding the huge portions, I tend to run the other way.

bbqjimbob
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RE: Mom and Pop Italian Rest vs Chain Ones - Fri, 08/25/06 12:15 AM
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quote:
Originally posted by twinwillow

Ok, here's my two cents. First of all, why would you want to order such "upscale"
food items like you and your wife ordered at a "mom & pop" Italian restaurant?
Mom & pop restaurants are for, lasagna, manicotti, spaghetti and meat balls,
eggplant parmigian, pizza and so on and so on. Where all the sauces, meatballs, etc. are usually home made. or, at least they should be.
In Dallas, we love Carrabbas because we don't have the "typical Mop & pop" Italian restaurants like that found in the east.


Point taken- and a good point, at that! However- even the spaghetti w/ "homemade" tomato sauce that was served on the side was not very good. Both Carrabba's and my homemade pasta and tomato sauce are much better! Also- I asked our server what he recommended, and he said that the lambchops was his favorite meal from their dinner entrees.

Pwingsx
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RE: Mom and Pop Italian Rest vs Chain Ones - Fri, 08/25/06 12:20 AM
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I'm not sure the fact that you had a bad experience once with a Mom and Pop would negate the seemingly popular and accurate opinion that they are generally better than chains. I also think Carrabbas is not an 'ordinary' chain -- certainly more than a cut above some dump like Applebee's and Chile's.

I happen to love Carrabbas myself, and make no apologies for it.

Twinwillow
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RE: Mom and Pop Italian Rest vs Chain Ones - Fri, 08/25/06 1:10 AM
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quote:
Originally posted by bbqjimbob

quote:
Originally posted by twinwillow

Ok, here's my two cents. First of all, why would you want to order such "upscale"
food items like you and your wife ordered at a "mom & pop" Italian restaurant?
Mom & pop restaurants are for, lasagna, manicotti, spaghetti and meat balls,
eggplant parmigian, pizza and so on and so on. Where all the sauces, meatballs, etc. are usually home made. or, at least they should be.
In Dallas, we love Carrabbas because we don't have the "typical Mop & pop" Italian restaurants like that found in the east.


Point taken- and a good point, at that! However- even the spaghetti w/ "homemade" tomato sauce that was served on the side was not very good. Both Carrabba's and my homemade pasta and tomato sauce are much better! Also- I asked our server what he recommended, and he said that the lambchops was his favorite meal from their dinner entrees.


He probably recommended the lamb chops because, I would imagine, they were the most expensive item on the menu,

Twinwillow
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RE: Mom and Pop Italian Rest vs Chain Ones - Fri, 08/25/06 1:14 AM
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quote:
Originally posted by Pwingsx

I'm not sure the fact that you had a bad experience once with a Mom and Pop would negate the seemingly popular and accurate opinion that they are generally better than chains. I also think Carrabbas is not an 'ordinary' chain -- certainly more than a cut above some dump like Applebee's and Chile's.

I happen to love Carrabbas myself, and make no apologies for it.


Yes! I love Carrabba's as well. They are indeed a cut above all the otheres.

bbqjimbob
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RE: Mom and Pop Italian Rest vs Chain Ones - Fri, 08/25/06 2:53 AM
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> He probably recommended the lamb chops because, I would imagine, they were the most expensive item on the menu

I thought of that as I was typing that post. I must have "sucker" written across my forehead!

Jimeats
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RE: Mom and Pop Italian Rest vs Chain Ones - Fri, 08/25/06 6:04 AM
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I'm very fortunate, in my area we are rich with small independent Italaian ristorantes. We do have a Carraba's that dose a fairly good business and it's not bad I've been there twice, but it's not my first choice. I would like to be able to find one Long Island ice tea for ten dollars though, you got two for that price. Just go there and drink. Chow Jim

Oneiron339
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RE: Mom and Pop Italian Rest vs Chain Ones - Fri, 08/25/06 7:29 AM
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You pays your money,
You takes your chances.

I've found that there are few legitimate "food" writers in local newspapers. Most of them go to new places and give the place a glowing review, whether they deserve it or not. In ATL, we recently had a glowing review on Gunter Seeger's (the famous German chef) rstaurant in the Atlanta Magazine. A month later it was closing.

Mom and Pop's are usually better, but I wouldn't just rely on a review. I'd have to hear more about it. As Ronald Reagan once said, "Trust, but verify."

RubyRose
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RE: Mom and Pop Italian Rest vs Chain Ones - Fri, 08/25/06 9:07 AM
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We have many M&P Italian restaurants in our area. Some are wonderful and some are awful but there's no way I could lump them in a group to compare to Carrabba's. Chains have a certain degree of consistency; that's one reason why some people prefer them. Independently owned restaurants are just that; one-of-a-kinds so you have to explore them individually to decide whether you like them or not.

I have only been to Carrabba's a couple of times for work-related meals and the food and/or service was better than some locally-owned Italian restaurants and not as good as some of the better ones.

One of the ones with the best food has such a surly headwaiter (family member) that they are always short on waitstaff. If you ate there, the poor service would overshadow the delicious food. So we always call in and order our meals "to go" but you wouldn't know that if you walked in off the street.

I'd agree with twinwillow about the menu choices. Ordering lamb chops and stuffed flounder in a M & P Italian restaurant is akin to ordering a steak in a seafood restaurant. And your drinks tipped off the waiter right away. Would you order a glass of chianti at a martini bar?

But I applaud you for trying a new place. If people didn't have a sense of adventure, there wouldn't be a website like Roadfood, filled with so many great food experiences. Hopefully, your next try will be one of them.

HollyDolly
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RE: Mom and Pop Italian Rest vs Chain Ones - Fri, 08/25/06 9:36 AM
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Mom and Pop places can be great or bad,just like chain places can be a wow,or a bowow.
We don't have Carraba's here that I know of,but we have Johnny Carino's which I haven't tried.
Try next time some of these mom and pop places or other joints for lunch it's usually cheaper
and you get to sample how the food is. Things like stuffed flounder or lamb chops I might order at Lidia's restraunt in New York(she has written several cookbooks and has a couple of restraunts in NYC)
but not at a mom and pop place.Also,ask your friends about some places you'd like to try,and if they have eaten there and what they thought of it.
At least you like new places and things,a friend of mine doesn't like seafood or chinese food,so we never go to new places like that.Usually we wind up in the same old restraunts to eat.Boring.She needs to expand her palate,but guess it's too late.

mbrookes
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RE: Mom and Pop Italian Rest vs Chain Ones - Fri, 08/25/06 1:23 PM
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Several people have commented on ordering lamb chops and flounder. If they aren't able to prepare it well, why would they put it on the menu?
I had rather see a limited menu and know it's all good than an extensive menu that contains really bad choices.

V960
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RE: Mom and Pop Italian Rest vs Chain Ones - Fri, 08/25/06 2:35 PM
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I think you just got a bad meal in a bad restaurant. Critic was wrong...it happens. Just don't go back and make sure too tell all your friends about the meal.

Jimeats
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RE: Mom and Pop Italian Rest vs Chain Ones - Sun, 08/27/06 7:54 AM
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Italians are highly noted for their seafood and I've had some great braised lamb shanks in many mom and pop style places as well. You might have caught them on an off night, we all have them. My sugestion is go earlier in the evening and cut back on the long island ice teas and you might have a different outlook on the place. Chow Jim

Rick F.
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RE: Mom and Pop Italian Rest vs Chain Ones - Sun, 08/27/06 10:43 AM
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Interesting posts: the only two chains mentioned are the only ones I've tried, and I didn't know they were chains until or even after I visited. Johnny Carino's (Alexandria, LA) was okay, and I'd go there again if I were in town. Nothing to write home about, but certainly inoffensive. Limited menu, but mostly done well. Carabba's (Shreveport, LA) is another story entirely. Excellent food, outstanding service, great menu, and I will most certainly return at the earliest opportunity. I wanted to review it for RF, but Stephen or some other kindly soul told me it was a chain and therefore, by definition, not true road food. He was right, of course, but it sure was good!

I live halfway between the two cities and there are two ± homegrown Italian restaurants.

One, Antoon's On The Lake is consistently awful: it runs out of food and bar stock regularly, service is so-so, and it's pretentious. It's not even really Italian any more, as the menu has been diluted with a lot of mainstream American dishes. My son, who works at another local restaurant, says there is a camaraderie among local owners, and the owner of this place is the only one who won't be part of it—which is why he runs out of things. The other restaurateurs help each other out.

The other, Beaudion's, (pronounced BODE-win's) is an interesting anomaly. The owners are a married couple, he Creole, she a Chicago Italian. He really would prefer, I think, to run a neighborhood bar and grill, while she would like a white-tablecloth joint. They've compromised, and the result is somewhat awkward. The food is pretty good for the most part. They use canned sauce, though, and what they call "fresh garlic" is the minced stuff out of a bottle. Nevertheless, pizzas are done very well indeed, as are salads; I've pretty much restricted my intake to those items, but I hear good things about their other offerings, especially the Italian sandwiches. (I'm blocking on the name: stromboli, maybe? sort of a pizza turned into a pocket, anyway.)

Adjudicator
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RE: Mom and Pop Italian Rest vs Chain Ones - Sun, 08/27/06 11:04 AM
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quote:
Originally posted by mbrookes

Several people have commented on ordering lamb chops and flounder. If they aren't able to prepare it well, why would they put it on the menu?
I had rather see a limited menu and know it's all good than an extensive menu that contains really bad choices.


I tend to agree, here.

Tedbear
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RE: Mom and Pop Italian Rest vs Chain Ones - Sun, 08/27/06 11:11 AM
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I can identify with the OP's experience. While I do prefer a "real" restaurant of the Mom & Pop variety, I can recall one meal at American by Day, Italian by Night in North Brunswick, NJ, that was indescribably bad. The appetizer had been cooked in oil that was not hot enough, had not been filtered, and that should have been discarded long ago. The result was that the appetizer was soggy, tasted of old burned food particles, and was essentially inedible. The pasta was overcooked. The sauce was no better than the awful stuff that comes in a Ragu jar. The salad was white iceberg lettuce with brown spots, and the dressing on the salad was of the Kraft Italian type. Whatever my entree was, I can't recall, so it was not memorably good or bad, I suppose. There was really nothing about that meal that would make me want to return to that eating establishment.

By contrast, everything that I have eaten at Carabba's (3 visits over a two year period, if I recall correctly) was very good tasting, and clearly of good quality. Hell, even the food at Johnny Carino's is better than what I was served at American by Day, Italian by Night!

Some people just shouldn't be in the restaurant business, and unfortunately, the OP and I both ran into examples of them. However, I will continue to seek out Mom & Pop restaurants whenever possible.

Twinwillow
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RE: Mom and Pop Italian Rest vs Chain Ones - Sun, 08/27/06 12:21 PM
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When I think of an "Italian mom & pop", I think of, "Louie's" in the Bronx. You know, that place that Michael Corleone killed those two guys after coming out of the men's room. Now, minus the "mob hit", I'll bet that place has just what I'm talking about.
Great veal dishes, lasagna, manicotti, sausage and peppers, etc, etc. Just keep your eye out for who's eating with you. (lol)

Tedbear
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RE: Mom and Pop Italian Rest vs Chain Ones - Sun, 08/27/06 1:12 PM
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quote:
Originally posted by twinwillow

When I think of an "Italian mom & pop", I think of, "Louie's" in the Bronx. You know, that place that Michael Corleone killed those two guys after coming out of the men's room. Now, minus the "mob hit", I'll bet that place has just what I'm talking about.
Great veal dishes, lasagna, manicotti, sausage and peppers, etc, etc. Just keep your eye out for who's eating with you. (lol)



And, always sit in a position that allows you to see who is coming into the restaurant! That is an old Mafia caution that I like to follow.

bbqjimbob
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RE: Mom and Pop Italian Rest vs Chain Ones - Sun, 08/27/06 3:23 PM
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quote:
Originally posted by Jimeats

Italians are highly noted for their seafood and I've had some great braised lamb shanks in many mom and pop style places as well. You might have caught them on an off night, we all have them. My sugestion is go earlier in the evening and cut back on the long island ice teas and you might have a different outlook on the place. Chow Jim


Believe me, it'd take alot more long island ice teas than 2 to cloud my outlook! Now if that had been my wife- she would have thought a McDonalds cheeseburger was a filet mignon, and probably would have had no idea who I was!

Ciaoman
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RE: Mom and Pop Italian Rest vs Chain Ones - Sun, 08/27/06 5:12 PM
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First visits to a restaurant are always dicey. What to order? What kind of service to expect? What's fresh? A waiter suggests something...why? Because it truly is a specialty and is prepared well, or because the chef ordered/prepared too much amd tells waitstaff to "push it?" Might it have a higher profit margin?

A suggestion in such circumstances would be to order simply...if a M & P Italian (or any other nationality) place can't do a good job on the simple dishes, what are the chances of getting a great result with something more complex? Ordering seafood in such a place, unless it's located within easy distance of a large body of water, may not be a good idea. As to the lamb, did you specify "medium rare" or "rare?" Not everyone likes it that way so chefs may assume, in the absence of instructions, that you'd like it cooked a bit more.

I've gotten in the habit at Italian places to tell the waitstaff when ordering that I will not eat mushy pasta...it must be al dente (firm). That would be an example of a simple thing that can reasonably be expected from any restaurant that calls itself Italian. In Italy, you don't need to tell them, but here you do. IMO, if they can't do that they don't deserve my patronage.

The food biz is tough, both for owners and customers--hard to please everyone.

bbqjimbob
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RE: Mom and Pop Italian Rest vs Chain Ones - Sun, 08/27/06 10:45 PM
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quote:
Originally posted by Ciaoman

First visits to a restaurant are always dicey. What to order? What kind of service to expect? What's fresh? A waiter suggests something...why? Because it truly is a specialty and is prepared well, or because the chef ordered/prepared too much amd tells waitstaff to "push it?" Might it have a higher profit margin?

A suggestion in such circumstances would be to order simply...if a M & P Italian (or any other nationality) place can't do a good job on the simple dishes, what are the chances of getting a great result with something more complex? Ordering seafood in such a place, unless it's located within easy distance of a large body of water, may not be a good idea. As to the lamb, did you specify "medium rare" or "rare?" Not everyone likes it that way so chefs may assume, in the absence of instructions, that you'd like it cooked a bit more.

I've gotten in the habit at Italian places to tell the waitstaff when ordering that I will not eat mushy pasta...it must be al dente (firm). That would be an example of a simple thing that can reasonably be expected from any restaurant that calls itself Italian. In Italy, you don't need to tell them, but here you do. IMO, if they can't do that they don't deserve my patronage.

The food biz is tough, both for owners and customers--hard to please everyone.


You make many very good points here! The pasta seemed to be cooked fairly well, but it was the sauce that was mediocre. No matter how well the pasta is cooked, a bad sauce will ruin it every time! As far as how I ordered the lamb chops- the server said that they were prepared medium-rare. I asked for them to be prepared medium-rare+, just slightly past medium-rare, but still less than medium. I made it very clear. In spite of my explanation as to how I wanted them, they came to the table cooked medium-well to well- actually, more on the well side!

TwoJays
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RE: Mom and Pop Italian Rest vs Chain Ones - Mon, 08/28/06 8:46 AM
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quote:
Originally posted by Ciaoman

First visits to a restaurant are always dicey. What to order? What kind of service to expect? What's fresh? A waiter suggests something...why? Because it truly is a specialty and is prepared well, or because the chef ordered/prepared too much amd tells waitstaff to "push it?" Might it have a higher profit margin?

A suggestion in such circumstances would be to order simply...if a M & P Italian (or any other nationality) place can't do a good job on the simple dishes, what are the chances of getting a great result with something more complex? Ordering seafood in such a place, unless it's located within easy distance of a large body of water, may not be a good idea. As to the lamb, did you specify "medium rare" or "rare?" Not everyone likes it that way so chefs may assume, in the absence of instructions, that you'd like it cooked a bit more.

I've gotten in the habit at Italian places to tell the waitstaff when ordering that I will not eat mushy pasta...it must be al dente (firm). That would be an example of a simple thing that can reasonably be expected from any restaurant that calls itself Italian. In Italy, you don't need to tell them, but here you do. IMO, if they can't do that they don't deserve my patronage.

The food biz is tough, both for owners and customers--hard to please everyone.

Excellent points on the "first visit" to a restaurant. Whenever I go to a new Italian restaurant, I order the chicken parmigiana. If they can't that staple of basic red-sauce Mom & Pop Italian dinner fare perfected, then I probably won't bother going there again.

John

Twinwillow
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RE: Mom and Pop Italian Rest vs Chain Ones - Mon, 08/28/06 1:06 PM
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quote:
Originally posted by TwoJays

quote:
Originally posted by Ciaoman

First visits to a restaurant are always dicey. What to order? What kind of service to expect? What's fresh? A waiter suggests something...why? Because it truly is a specialty and is prepared well, or because the chef ordered/prepared too much amd tells waitstaff to "push it?" Might it have a higher profit margin?

A suggestion in such circumstances would be to order simply...if a M & P Italian (or any other nationality) place can't do a good job on the simple dishes, what are the chances of getting a great result with something more complex? Ordering seafood in such a place, unless it's located within easy distance of a large body of water, may not be a good idea. As to the lamb, did you specify "medium rare" or "rare?" Not everyone likes it that way so chefs may assume, in the absence of instructions, that you'd like it cooked a bit more.

I've gotten in the habit at Italian places to tell the waitstaff when ordering that I will not eat mushy pasta...it must be al dente (firm). That would be an example of a simple thing that can reasonably be expected from any restaurant that calls itself Italian. In Italy, you don't need to tell them, but here you do. IMO, if they can't do that they don't deserve my patronage.

The food biz is tough, both for owners and customers--hard to please everyone.

Excellent points on the "first visit" to a restaurant. Whenever I go to a new Italian restaurant, I order the chicken parmigiana. If they can't that staple of basic red-sauce Mom & Pop Italian dinner fare perfected, then I probably won't bother going there again.

John

That's what I do too!. Except, I do it with veal parmigiana. It's my "test".

Mosca
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RE: Mom and Pop Italian Rest vs Chain Ones - Mon, 08/28/06 3:58 PM
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In my area, NE PA, you can't drive a mile without passing a mom & pop Italian restaurant.That means two things... there are lots of good ones, and lots of bad ones.

What kills me to no end is that people in this area still line up for a one hour wait at Olive Garden. Now, our Olive Garden isn't half bad; it's well run, service is good and people are friendly. But why would you want to WAIT at Olive Garden when you could SIT RIGHT DOWN at Pasquale's, Perugino's, Marianacci's, Arcaro & Gennell, Revello's, etc etc etc?

I guess people just think it's classier or something; maybe it's "big city" instead of "auntie nonna". I had a stuffed red pepper dish at Arcaro & Gennell that I only wish I could make as good at home.


Tom

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RE: Mom and Pop Italian Rest vs Chain Ones - Mon, 08/28/06 4:04 PM
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quote:
Originally posted by Mosca

In my area, NE PA, you can't drive a mile without passing a mom & pop Italian restaurant.That means two things... there are lots of good ones, and lots of bad ones.

What kills me to no end is that people in this area still line up for a one hour wait at Olive Garden. Now, our Olive Garden isn't half bad; it's well run, service is good and people are friendly. But why would you want to WAIT at Olive Garden when you could SIT RIGHT DOWN at Pasquale's, Perugino's, Marianacci's, Arcaro & Gennell, Revello's, etc etc etc?

I guess people just think it's classier or something; maybe it's "big city" instead of "auntie nonna". I had a stuffed red pepper dish at Arcaro & Gennell that I only wish I could make as good at home.


Tom

I know it is frowned upon to "bad mouth" a restaurant here so, I will just say,
I'll take "Auntie Nonna" anytime.

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RE: Mom and Pop Italian Rest vs Chain Ones - Mon, 08/28/06 4:28 PM
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I have never been so in the minority as I have been of my opinion of Carabba's. I just don't think it's very good. It's kind of pricy and the portions are skimpy, so I'm usually hungry even after chowing down on the bread with olive oil. But, even my own wife disagrees with me.

On the flip side, I love me some Johnny Carino's - a big batch of skilletini is all I need to be a happy boy. I seem to be among the few that have a strong preference for Carino's over Carabba's. Just goes to show how subjective food tastes can be!

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RE: Mom and Pop Italian Rest vs Chain Ones - Mon, 08/28/06 4:36 PM
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Twinwillow, anyone can frown on a restaurant here or be critical of one anytime that they wish. That is what these forums are all about.

I think the problem with this particular poster is he is comparing a "mom and pop" place with a chain..........that is fine too, but when people go into a Mom and Pop restaurant for the first time and order something that is not really what the restaurant specializes in, they might be unhappy and and it is really unfair to judge a restaurant on that.

If I am going to an Italian restaurantfor the first time, I will order an Italian meal. If I am going to a seafood restaurant, I will order seafood and not veal parmesan. If one does, they may be making an unfair judgement call.

Twinwillow
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RE: Mom and Pop Italian Rest vs Chain Ones - Mon, 08/28/06 5:39 PM
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quote:
Originally posted by Greymo

Twinwillow, anyone can frown on a restaurant here or be critical of one anytime that they wish. That are what these forums are all about.

I think the problem with this particular poster is he is comparing a "mom and pop" place with a chain..........that is fine too, but when people go into a Mom and Pop restaurant for the first time and order something that is not really what the restaurant specializes in, they might be unhappy and and it is really unfair to judge a restaurant on that.

If I am going to an Italian restaurantfor the first time, I will order an Italian meal. If I am going to a seafood restaurant, I will order seafood and not veal parmesan. If one does, they may be making an unfair judgement call.


Thank you. And, I do the same when ordering at a "first visit" restaurant.

mr chips
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RE: Mom and Pop Italian Rest vs Chain Ones - Thu, 08/31/06 12:02 AM
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There are few mom and pop Italian places in Portland. But there is a lot of upscale Italian. None of the chains you mention have made it here.

Jimeats
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RE: Mom and Pop Italian Rest vs Chain Ones - Thu, 08/31/06 7:11 AM
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Wich Portland? The first one or the 2nd one? Chow Jim

ann peeples
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RE: Mom and Pop Italian Rest vs Chain Ones - Thu, 08/31/06 9:03 AM
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I guess I have been lucky with the Mom and Pop italian restaurants in and around the Milwaukee area.While some are indeed mediocre, I have never had a bad meal at one.Pitchs restaurant on the east side has spaghetti to die for, Zaffiros has the best thin crust pizza i have ever had,and Mama Mias has lasagna and garlic bread that is wonderful.There are many others that are good, as well.When dining out, I tend to order what the restaurant is "known"for, unless there is absolutely nothing on the menu I want to try.Just my way of doing things.

mayor al
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RE: Mom and Pop Italian Rest vs Chain Ones - Thu, 08/31/06 6:51 PM
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Mr Chips resides in the Western Version of the Portland Brand Urban area (The one inOreeGone)
There are,indeed, more than the two that we usually argue over here. A major sub-set in the Louisville urban neighborhood is "Portland"!

Peachpie9
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RE: Mom and Pop Italian Rest vs Chain Ones - Thu, 08/31/06 9:49 PM
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One hazard with finding a great mom and pop Italian place (or any place) is that they don't necessarily enjoy longevity. There was a really good place in a city near here that offered skillfully prepared and plated rustic Italian food. The chicken saltimboca was amazing--pocket cut in the breast and stuffed with prosciutto et al. Served atop a heap of perfect mashed potatoes and surrounded by colorful, freshly steamed baby vegetables in a delicious light sauce.

They had an appetizer that consisted of a circle of thin foccacia cut into triangles on a hot metal plate. With it they brought a wedge of Cambozola (which was actually originally developed in Germany from French and Italian cheeses) and heads of roasted garlic. You sliced some cheese and placed it on a triangle of hot foccacia, then spread the quickly melting cheese with the roasted garlic. So good.

Last time we went there it was closed. When we asked, we were told that the elderly Italian immigrants who'd owned it had retired.

In the same city, I scanned the local paper in my hotel room while I waited for a friend to finish a meeting. I read where the newspaper food critic had sung the praises of a local mom and pop Italian place. Later, when we were driving around deciding where to eat and what to do for the evening, I spotted the featured place. We went in and should have left when the "ice water," served in tiny juice glasses, had no ice. But we stayed to pay for, but not eat, greasy tasteless lasagne and warm, limp Caesar salad. I wonder what motivates food critics to give the nod to subpar places.

The Italian food chains we have in our area, mostly local or regional chains, are mediocre at best and we don't patronize them. I think any place can make good food, chain or not. The best bet for unique and soul satisfying is of course NOT.

I use this site and others to get ideas for places to eat when I visit an area, but only peripherally. It's too much fun being flexible and acting on impulse to plan where to eat on a trip. I like to search a little on my own and try things for which I have no recommendation. It's a bell curve: in ten episodes of discovery, I usually score maybe one that surprises and delights, lots of good to mediocre places, and one or two real dogs. The fun is in the hunt.

It's hard to make a generalization on mom and pop Italian places versus chains since some chains do a great job and some mom and pops don't even ring the bell. If I lived near one of the chain restaurants mentioned by several posters on this thread (Carrabba's?), I would without a doubt try it. The trick is to find what makes you happy and then keep looking!


mr chips
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RE: Mom and Pop Italian Rest vs Chain Ones - Thu, 08/31/06 9:52 PM
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quote:
Originally posted by Al-The Mayor-Bowen

Mr Chips resides in the Western Version of the Portland Brand Urban area (The one in OreeGone)
There are,indeed, more than the two that we usually argue over here. A major sub-set in the Louisville urban neighborhood is "Portland"!
There is a Portland, Indiana whose most famous celebrity was fashion designer Bill Blass. I apologize again for forgetting to mention I reside in the left coast Portland.

Poverty Pete
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RE: Mom and Pop Italian Rest vs Chain Ones - Thu, 08/31/06 11:43 PM
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If anybody is in the Myrtle Beach-Pawleys Island area, I would appreciate an evaluation of a place called "Old Italian" restaurant.

billyboy
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RE: Mom and Pop Italian Rest vs Chain Ones - Mon, 09/4/06 1:42 AM
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I think on the whole "Mom and Pops" are better than the cahins, although every rule has its exceptions. Most chains crank out the product for quantity and they push the "value" of their meals ala Olive Garden and the all you can eat deals. Most places that have great food don't need to engage in conspicuous advertising. Word of mouth brings people by. I ;ive in NYC and have had some bad meals at independently owned Italian places in Little Italy. I've also lived in Boston and had many good meals at Vinny Testa's and Maggiano's Little Italy (chainish type reasturants). A few of my favorites in NYC are Frankie's 457 Spuntino in Brooklyn, Quartino at Peck Slip in Manhattan , and Carmine's on Beekman by the old Fulton Fish Market. Carmines has been around since 1903, no website and they don't advertise, but I would give anything for their red sauce recipe! They do a great lasagna and on my mission to find the perfect Chicken Parm, they are in my top 5.

MandalayVA
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RE: Mom and Pop Italian Rest vs Chain Ones - Mon, 09/4/06 11:15 PM
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Since I grew up eating really good Italian food (prepared by my Irish-German mother no less) and preparing it myself, it's rare that I go to an Italian restaurant and get anything other than pizza. The few times I've gotten a pasta dish, whether it was a chain or a mom-and-pop, it's always been overcooked. We're currently on vacation in Calgary and last night we came back from Banff starving. We wanted to go to Buchanan's, a steak house famous for its burgers, but they're closed on Sunday so we ended up at the Old Spaghetti Factory. I'd heard mixed reviews of the place, but to my surprise they turned out a perfectly al dente plate of spaghetti with a good spicy meat sauce and the price was right.

Twinwillow
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RE: Mom and Pop Italian Rest vs Chain Ones - Tue, 09/5/06 12:01 AM
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Back in the mid to late 60's we used to go to a little mom & pop Italian restaurant
in Brooklyn on Lorimer Street. It was called Crecie's. I may be spelling it wrong.
They had the most fantastic food I have ever eaten in an Italian restaurant.
Can anyone out there tell me if they know this place or had ever eaten there?
To this day, I can remember their veal chop pizziale. I know I spelled THAT wrong!

TheHotPepper.com
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RE: Mom and Pop Italian Rest vs Chain Ones - Tue, 09/5/06 12:46 AM
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Depends on what you mean by chain. A chain can be a Mom and Pop place that has expanded, but they still use the same local vendors and purveyors, and make sure you get a good meal at all locations. A national chain is different. They order from food supply companies and get shipments of frozen foods, so you will be getting Olive Garden type fare at best.