Thursday, September 24, 2009


Restaurant: Grisanti's
Address: 10875 West Dodge Road
Genres: Italian
Check Constraints: 15% gratuity for parties of 8 or more
Chain: Regional.| More Omaha Locations: No.

  • Diet Coke ($2.19)
  • Oven-Baked Mushrooms ($6.79)
  • Chicken Fra Diavolo ($7.99)
  • Garlic Bread
  • Salad
One of the random reviews that showed up on the internet for Grisanti's while we were doing reconnaissance said, rather cryptically, "Good food, there are lots of appetizers that come out before the meal". I was rather confused by the statement. Was the writer shocked that his appetizers were delivered prior to the entree? Did the restaurant offer an antipasto platter? Was, perhaps, it just the meaningless ramblings of someone on the internet?

As it turns out, it's the closest to the second case. Grisanti's entrees come with, not unlike an Olive Garden, salad or soup, and unlimited garlic bread. Unlike Olive Garden's breadsticks, however, their garlic bread is eight slices of a butter-and-garlic-soaked loaf, served on a metal plate over a votive candle, so it remains warm as it sits on the table - not that it's going to sit there for long. The stuff is fantastic, and when the butter comes off on your fingers when you pick up a piece, you know there's some delicious times ahead. I opted for the salad with my entree, and wasn't disappointed, but wasn't really wowed. Unless you've got a serious yen for roughage I recommend going with the soups - there's enough dressing on the salad you'll probably net about the same calories.

ND ordered an appetizer sampler, which was good, but between the salad, the bread, that and the mushrooms I'm about to discuss, I was nearly full before I even saw my entree - next time we'll be more prepared for the onslaught of food. The mushrooms were, by the by, excellent - they were stuffed with a cheese sauce and a mixture of meats. It nearly overpowered the mushroom, but there was enough flavor there to make it more than just a carrier for the stuffing. It's a tad expensive, coming six to an order (so approximately $1.10 per), but they're pretty delicious. If they came on top of some fettuccine alfredo, I would probably have just eaten it as an entree.

Speaking of. I've had chicken fra diavolo before - chicken and penne in a garlic and bell pepper sauce - but Grisanti's was the first place to include lobster in the sauce, which gave the entire dish a new twist of flavor. It also had a mild (to me, at least) heat to it which was pleasant. I would probably have sopped up the sauce with the remaining bread, but for starters there was no remaining bread, and I was too full to do it anyhow.

The prices here seemed appropriate for the level of food, and everything I tried was delicious. I heavily recommend the place, but only if you don't have an important afternoon meeting in a warm room - otherwise I won't be responsible for the carb-induced coma you slip into at about 3:00. I should also mention that the web menu appears to not be complete when compared to the menu in-restaurant; there are far more appetizers than just soups.

  • Coke ($2.19)
  • Gusto Gusto! (appetizer sampler that doesn't involve shrooms) ($9.00?)
  • Chicken Parmesan ($7.99)
  • Garlic Bread
  • Tomato Tortellini Soup
  • Tiramisu (special)
That garlic bread cannot be exclaimed over enough, honestly. This is the first place I can recall that had endless bread, and it wasn't crappy, it was a large, round loaf, cut in half, with each half cut into four pieces, and the whole thing was slathered with enough garlic to to choke a vampire from across the room, to say nothing of the copious amounts of butter. There was even a delicious, slightly chunky marinara for dipping.

The main parts of the Gusto Gusto platter were the calimari, which was excellent, tender and well breaded, and the cheese and meat breaded ravioli, which were perfectly cooked, and may even be something approaching handmade. They certainly weren't the average Sysco breaded ravioli you get at most places.

It was around this time in the meal that one of the waitresses accidentally dropped a pitcher of ice water right next to me. I didn't get super wet, thanks mainly to my slightly water resistant fishing shirt I wear as a pocket-vest, but they still offered a free dessert by way of apology. Everybody else was way too full by the end of the meal to partake, though, so I got it to go. Sad to say, though it may have been the drive that did it, the tiramisu wasn't anything to be falling over yourself to get.

The best parts of the meal, aside from the garlic bread, were the soup and chicken parm. The chicken parm was a lovely concoction, though the portion seemed a bit on the small side. That may just be my Omaha prejudice talking, though. It was quite good, though not Spaghetti Works good, and the marinara and spaghetti on the side was also decent, but the real star was the simple bowl of tomato tortellini soup.

A bit of background for you. My favorite dish, since I was a young sprout, has been beef stroganoff. But not the beef stroganoff you know. My mom's beef stroganoff, a recipe that has been passed down in our family, which consists mainly of cheap beef boiled for a long time with a bunch of spices, plus tomato paste, water, and sour cream. It's a virulently orange sauce that tastes simply amazing. The tomato tortellini soup here reminded me a LOT of this stroganoff. It's clearly a tomato and cream soup, with a bit of basil and a few other spices, with perfectly done cheese tortellini in it for an extra touch of awesome, but really, I'd have eaten just the soup, with no pasta. For under five bucks, you can get a bottomless bowl of this tomato tortellini soup. In hindsight, it would be worth every freaking penny.

I approve of Grisanti's, of the alfredo I stole a taste of from Mecha, and especially of that tomato tortellini soup. This is by far the best italian we've been to in ages.

  • DietCoke ($2.19)
  • Eggplant Parmesan ($7.99)
  • Baked Onion Soup
Firstly, to echo everybody else's praises, the free bread was amazing. The bread was soft and had butter, garlic, and olive oil slathered into cuts into the top so it would sop and soak deeply. They also gave each of us a small cup of a respectable marinara for dipping. The butter and oil was a bit messy, but that's perfectly forgivable.

The Baked Onion Soup reminded me of a french onion soup. The toasted bread and cheese came melted on top. The beef broth had a rich beef flavor with a pleasantly noticeable taste of the sweet onions. The cheese went mostly unnoticed, however the crouton added a welcomed bit of extra texture. Overall, one of the better french onion soups that I've had.

The Eggplant Parmesan came with a side of spaghetti with marinara and steamed brocolli. The steamed brocolli was lightly buttered and perfectly crunchy. The spaghetti with marinara was spaghetti with marinara. The pasta was well cooked, but the marinara was nothing to get excited about. The eggplant parmesan itself was an immense vertical slice of eggplant lightly breaded then smothered in cheese and the same marinara. Unfortunately, they just sliced it too thin. There wasn't enough eggplant there to appreciate its texture or taste and what taste of eggplant there was was drowned out by the marinara and cheese.


  • Taste of Italy ($13.99)
  • Tomato Tortellini Soup
  • Garlic Bread
As the designated reheater, the bread is not just very good, it reheats well. We really are suckers for bread.

Since it's review time, I went with the Taste of Italy, which is to say, Chicken Parm, Fettucini Alfredo, and Lasagna. I'm not usually a huge fan of alfredo, but this was very good for me. I might even be able to eat it as a dish here. The Chicken Parm was fine, certainly, but it didn't really stand out. Which is a shame, because the lasagna, while not the massive crazy brick of Spaghetti Works, was also pretty good. And again, as designated reheater, the parm and the lasagna both reheated pretty well. Not that that's surprising, but it's good to know when you get hit with a whole bunch of appetizers and some really good bread that if you take it home, it'll work. (I did not leave any alfredo behind to check, but I figured that's for the best. Also, it was good.)

This place seems like it's reasonably costed and has a lot of good offerings. If they stepped up their game on a few things, it'd be amazing. As is, it's still a place I'd enjoy hitting again, maybe when the family's in town.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Bob Monkey's Noodle Zoo

Restaurant: Bob Monkey's Noodle Zoo
Address: 4950 Dodge St.
Genres: Deli, Cafe, Pasta
Check Constraints: Short Order
Chain: Regional. | More Omaha Locations: No.

  • New Orleans Muffaletta ($8.50)
    • Cup of Baked Potato Soup
  • Diet Dr. Pepper (can) ($1.00)
  • Lemon Bar ($2.00)
Bob Monkey's Noodle Zoo is tucked away on a side street just to the east of the Dundee Theater, so it can be a little hard to find. Since most of us are fans of noodles, we decided it was worth checking out. Unfortunately it turns out that the name "Noodle Zoo" is a bit of a misnomer - it would be rather like calling the Omaha Zoo "Gorilla Zoo" because there happen to be gorillas there. The predominate part of the menu was taken up by sandwiches. This is not a horrible thing, but I wanted to address the fact that we all felt this was false advertising of a sort.

The sandwich itself was delicious. Good cuts of meat on foccacia (not strictly the muffaletta bread required for the sandwich, but an acceptable alternative), with a delicious olive salad on the bottom. The foccacia, I might add, was garlic foccacia, which had been toasted with parmesan and garlic butter on it. That lent a fairly strong injection of flavor into an already strongly-flavored sandwich - if it had been anything more subtle it would have been completely overwhelmed, but as it was, it was well matched. The baked potato soup, on the other hand, was a one- or two-note concoction which was solid but not, perhaps, worth a bowl.

The lemon bar was not on the menu proper, but in a basket next to the cashier. I can only hope these are made in someone's kitchen and sold to Noodle Zoo for resale, but even if they're not, they were pretty good and were likely made on-site, or at least somewhere regional. It had a firm lemon flavor and a crumbly crust - the only thing that could have made it better was a slightly thicker dusting of powdered sugar.

The only downside to Noodle Zoo was the cost, which I felt was fairly high for the amount of food I got. Still, it's not out of the viable range for "bistro sandwiches", so if you're prepared to pay that sort of money you could spend it a lot worse places than here.

  • Noodles Alfredo ($7.50)
    • Cup of Baked Potato Soup
  • Buttered Noodles ($6.00)
  • Bottle of Darjeeling Tea ($3.50)
  • Bread Pudding ($3.50)
Moogle and I got lost on the way, which was annoying. The place is set back, and the sign doesn't stick out at ALL, so it's really hard to find if you don't know exactly where you're looking.

Okay, right up front, I was planning on going with the herbed chicken and white sauce, but when I got there and saw my two favorite forms of noodles on the chalk board, I switched. I was wrong to do so. The alfredo wasn't terrible, but it needed parmesan badly. Luckily, the buttered noodles came with a plastic shot glass of parmesan, half of which went towards making the alfredo decent. Not only were said buttered noodles not what I was hoping for (something like the lovely herb mixture that Noodles & Company uses), they were nothing but buttered, and there was nothing but salt, pepper, and parmesan to put on them. Certainly not worth the six dollars I paid for them, even if it was a "full" order. The order taker seemed confused that I wanted to order a side of noodles without the soup/salad on the side, and had to subtract them manually.

On the other hand... I would come here just to order the bread pudding. Cham had a bite and said that there must be like four sticks of butter in there. Then he had another bite. It's a pretty big lump of bread pudding, with raisins in, with hand-whipped sweet cream on the side, and it's really to die of. I'd go here again, I think, but I'd be much more careful of my noodle selections.

  • Thai Chicken Wrap ($8.50?)
    • Cup of soup
  • Bottle of Ginger Peach Tea ($3.50)
Okay, so. Everything I got is not actually on their menu, which makes it a little problematic since I'm doing this so late after the fact. And Cham and I drove past the place too, first shot, so really, it's just a little hard to find. Also, the picture on the website of the internals is the Omaha location (or all of them are the same!)

I liked the wrap a lot, but it wasn't particularly unique to the place in my recollection. It wasn't ice-cold like, say, Paradise keeps theirs, and it had a bit more spice to it. The smallness of it really surprised me, too, I was expecting something a little larger on my plate (they actually use really big plates, that might not help them.) I remember the soup being decent, but except for being meat-based and chunky, I can't remember the exact contents. The dangers of being distracted for long periods of time. The tea was bottled from the Republic of Tea, so you know pretty much what you're getting there if you're familiar with their tea.

I don't really remember anything to recommend this place significantly. I have the same rough price concerns as Cham too: I enjoy a sandwich from Gandolfo's about as much as I'd enjoy this one, and there's much more to it. It's not bad, just not anything amazing, and a bit expensive for it. I get a feeling of inconsistency comparing our results, so maybe you just have to search for what works.

  • Italian Beef Sandwich ($8.50?)
    • Salad
  • Bottle of Blackberry Sage Tea ($3.50)
The sandwich I had was named "Italian beef". I barely remember what was on it at this point, but it probably won't be what you expect from a typical Italian beef sandwich. It was beef and veggies on a fairly large wedge of focaccia. The sandwich was pretty good. It went well on the focaccia bread. I do think the large plates throw off perceptions slightly. What I had was fairly filling. It did feel a bit pricey, but it also felt like a bit fancier fare. The salad was interesting. I think it was their house salad. It was like a caesar salad, but more peppery and had a few noodles thrown in. The tea was fairly unremarkable, except for the types of flavors offered. This one wasn't very strong, but it had an interesting flavor.