Archive for the 'Italian' Category

Chain Reaction: Red Lobster’s Endless Shrimp® & Olive Garden’s Never Ending Pasta Bowl®

Red Lobster’s Endless Shrimp®

My weekday lunchtime habits have changed as of late. Working at a restaurant group with nearly 2,000 locations, I’ve been thinking about and eating at more chain restaurants than I ever did before. Fueled by a desire to scope out the competition and by genuine curiosity, I’ve been exploring places that I used to pay little mind to.

So while I usually dedicate this space to touting the merits of under-appreciated mom and pop shops, I thought it’d be fun to change things up a bit and shed some light on two permanent fixtures in the American dining landscape: Red Lobster and Olive Garden. Humor me, yes? Thank you.

Red Lobster’s Endless Shrimp®

First up, Red Lobster‘s Endless Shrimp®! For $17.99, I had my fill of six different shrimp preparations: Sriracha Grilled Shrimp, Parmesan Shrimp Scampi, Hand-Breaded Shrimp, Garlic Shrimp Scampi, Shrimp Linguini Alfredo, and Coconut Shrimp Bites.

Red Lobster’s Endless Shrimp®

The offer also included a salad (not pictured and not eaten) and unlimited Cheddar Bay Biscuits®. Whereas the former was anemic and sad, the latter were tasty lil’ carbohydrate bombs. We asked for seconds, thirds, and fourths. No joke.

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Tosca Cafe – San Francisco

Tosca Cafe - San Francisco

On my second night in San Francisco, I tucked into Tosca Cafe for a solo dinner. Even though the bar area was packed with Thursday night revelers, I fortunately landed a table in the main dining room without a wait. The dining gods must’ve been looking after me after the insane wait at Flour + Water the night before. I was seriously grateful.

Tosca Cafe - San Francisco

I wasn’t familiar with Tosca Cafe prior to Chef April Bloomfield (New York’s Spotted Pig, John Dory Oyster Bar, and Breslin) and her business partner Ken Friedman’s gastronomic takeover late last year. But from what I gather from scouring the ‘net, Tosca was a 95-year-old dive bar with killer cocktails and quite the following in its heyday.

Tosca Cafe - San Francisco

Today, the kitchen is as essential as the bar.  Chef Bloomfield’s modern Italian-American menu has re-energized the place, bringing in a whole new foodie set but still resonating with regulars.

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Flour + Water – San Francisco

Flour + Water - San Francisco

Before the business portion of my San Francisco jaunt began, I was able to pencil in some family time with my Bay Area-dwelling cousins: Jessica, Andrew, and Michael. I’ve been desiring a dinner at pizza and pasta powerhouse Flour + Water for years now, and all three cousins were game for a whole lotta carbs.

Flour + Water - San Francisco

Without advance reservations, our party planned to meet when doors opened at 5:30 PM to avoid waiting for a table. Unfortunately, Cousin Andrew couldn’t escape the grind until past 6, so we were stuck waiting for 2.5 hours (even though we were originally quoted 1.5 hours). It was admittedly a little painful, but we persevered without getting overly peeved.

Flour + Water - San Francisco

Bread is available only by request; after our lengthy wait, it was highly necessary! The crusty loaf, with a noticeably doughy interior, was served with grassy olive oil.

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800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria – Pasadena

800 Degrees - Pasadena

It may have taken a few years for 800 Degrees to make its way to The Eastside after debuting back in 2012 in Westwood Village, but as of last Friday night, the “Chipotle of pizza” is officially slangin’ damn good Neapolitan-style pies in Old Pasadena! Hooray!

800 Degrees was created by Chef Anthony Carron, in partnership with Umami Restaurant Group (Umami Burger, Red Medicine, and Umamicatessen) and Allen Ravert.

800 Degrees - Pasadena

The restaurant is housed in an impressive two-story space designed in 1929 by John C. Austin, who was also responsible for Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles City Hall, and the Shrine Auditorium. 800 Degrees fires its pizzas (at 800 degrees, of course!) in a custom Mario Acunto wood-burning brick oven, promising guests “a 125 year-old classic in 60 seconds or less.”

All pizzas are made with Italian “00” flour, fresh mozzarella, imported Italian tomatoes, and extra virgin olive oil.

800 Degrees - Pasadena

In addition to pizza pies of all stripes, 800 degrees offers an array of small bites, including an entire section of the menu dedicated to locally made burrata. We thoroughly adored the Prosciutto, melon, and arugula preparation this evening.

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