Monday, July 26, 2010

Nona Rosa's

If I had an Italian grandmother who liked to stuff me full of comfort food, I imagine it would be a close approximation of what is served at Nona Rosa's. Nona Rosa's is listed under the fine dining section on urbanspoon. The restaurant website describes their restaurant as a delicatessen-inspired Sicilian restaurant. The website description is more accurate. It is a casual restaurant with fair prices and great food. They strive to make many of the items that they serve in house, including the pasta, sauces and even some of the cheese.

Their Caesar salad was served on a small salad plate completely engulfed by an enormous mound of super crisp romaine lettuce cut into perfect one by two inch pieces. I stared at those lettuce leaves for a while trying to decide if it bothered me that they had been prepared so mechanically. Where is the love? The salad was lightly coated with a classic Caesar dressing and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and slightly disappointing croutons. The dressing was fairly mild for Caesar, there was no strong taste of anchovies or garlic but it was still lightly flavorful. They served it with a big juicy wedge of lemon that squeezed all over the salad managed to fix the mild dressing. The cheese on the salad was delicious while the croutons looked and kind of tasted like they had been purchased at a grocery store. They were small and hard and relatively flavorless. Despite the failed croutons, the salad still came together nicely.

For our mains we ordered their Carbonara and a nightly special ravioli dish. The portions are very, very generous at Nona Rosa's. Just like what I would expect if I was visiting my pretend grandmother. Even with the substantial appetite that my husband and I have, we could not finish either dish. The carbonara was a beautiful looking dish loaded with bright green peas and light pink pancetta. The spaghetti was perfectly cooked and after mixing it up to evenly distribute the sauce that had sank to the bottom of the dish, I dove in. The dish was pretty fantastic. I am no Carbonara expert but the sauce was rich without being heavy. The pancetta added just the right punch and the peas balanced it. The ravioli dish that my husband ordered was divine. It was a special unfortunately, so it is not available every night. The waitress said they always tell people it is not available all the time because people come back in asking why it isn't available and then get annoyed. The raviolis were stuffed with hamburger and spices. They were delicious and the pasta that encased them was on the thicker side and perfectly cooked. The raviolis were served drenched in a thick dark red tomato sauce which was the most amazing tomato sauce I have ever eaten. It was sweet and spicy at the same time. It tasted like it had a bunch of secret ingredients lurking in it but I could have eaten a bowl of it with nothing else, using a spoon. The carafe of house white wine (Stella, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo) that we ordered was exactly as it had been described, crisp and refreshing.

The service at Nona Rosa's was slightly irregular. We sat down and were treated to a great description of the specials and explanation of the menu. Then the waitress disappeared for kind of a while. A little too long, where you start to fidget and wonder if they forgot you were there. After she showed back up and took our order, the food came out at just the right pace. First the wine, then the salad (almost immediately after the wine was dropped off), followed by our main courses. Then the waitress came over and asked if we were done. We said we were so she took our plates (expected) and brought us our check (unexpected). I was surprised she didn't ask if we wanted dessert. I think she thought we were too full, which might have been right but when we decided to just pay the check and leave one of the other patrons walked up to us and told us we should stay longer, drink more wine and have dessert. If only our waitress had agreed.

This is really an excellent restaurant overall and one where I will ignore bad service in order to obtain the most excellent food. If it was in my immediate vicinity, they would come to know our family because we would frequent it. I also love it because it is family owned, supporting local farmers and it just has a nice feel to it. It's kid friendly (crayons on the table) but still somehow appropriate for an adult's only meal if that's what your doing.

Nona Rosa's Ristorante on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Airport Diner

The Airport Diner is between Belfair and Bremerton on the Kitsap Peninsula right off of Highway 3. The Diner is in the airport but is accessible to the general public. You can sit and eat, looking out at small airplanes taking off and landing. A good handful of them fly in just to eat. Then they fly away. The first time I ate at the diner was four years ago. When my mom and step-dad suggested it to my husband and I, we were skeptical. Why would you drive somewhere to eat at a place that had the word 'airport' and 'diner' in the title? It brings to mind those wonderful unidentifiable plates of food they used to serve on flights.

We were back over on the Peninsula to stay for a week on a lake, spending time in the canoe and staring at the trees. Twice during that week we trekked over to the Airport Diner. For our first visit I ordered a shrimp salad. I felt like that was pretty risky but the lettuce was crisp and fresh (and it wasn't iceberg though I like iceberg!). It was a great salad, not fancy but straightforward and fresh. My mom ordered fish tacos which were served on three corn tortillas with salsa fresca and french fries. The tacos were flavorful with a small spicy bite to them. The salsa was fresh and tasty. My husband, son and step-dad chose an order of halibut fish and chips to share. They were served with a generous pile of french fries and an order of coleslaw. The coleslaw showed up with  thinly sliced crunchy cabbage and small slivers of bright orange carrots mixed in. The dressing was tangy and sweet and did not overwhelm the slaw. The fish was flaky and moist surrounded by flavorful golden batter. The french fries were thick but not soggy. They were crisp and golden, which for large cut fries is difficult.

For our second visit the boys stuck with the fish and chips and it seemed consistent with the first batch. My mom ordered the gumbo and I picked a chicken avocado bacon sandwich. The gumbo was served in an odd way on a big open low bowl (almost a plate). Being a stew like substance this wasn't the best presentation. It was a sea of dull red. If they'd thrown it in a deeper bowl with a few sprigs of something fresh on top it would have made a world of difference (only in terms of presentation).  The gumbo was spicy and loaded with seafood served on top of a bed of rice. My mom seemed pretty happy with it. My chicken sandwich was okay. The chicken breast was grilled but still moist. It was served with fresh avocado on a classic sesame bun and it did the trick.

When you walk in the restaurant you are told to find a seat. They show up with laminated menus and if the food takes a little longer (i.e. more than 10 minutes) and you have kids, the waitress shows up with crayons and paper to color on. We ordered ice tea with lemon in it (they ask you if you want lemon) which was served in these giant plastic glasses. It was fresh and tasty and they ask you if you want a refill when your glass is 2/3rds empty. They also stop by to ask you if you are happy with your food after dropping it off. The service was pretty good both times we were there and the food wavered between good and pretty good, especially for a greasy spoon type restaurant.  The ambiance is diner ambiance, nothing fancy at all.

But did I mention you get to watch airplanes and helicopters take off and land while you eat? Not your typical restaurant view. If you are out in that area I would recommend you stop by.

Airport Diner on Urbanspoon