Saturday, January 30, 2016

Coal-Fired Pizza and Delicious Pastas at Newly Opened Lucca

Lucca has now opened on East Grace. While a few decor changes have yet to be realized, the coal-fired pizza oven has been installed and ready to serve.


Coal-Fired Pizza Oven

We arrived the day the sign was installed and chose to enjoy everything at the marble bar. The Luccan cocktail featured rye, amaro, orange bitters, and a brandied cherry. Very pleasing while we studied the menu.

It was great to see a Sardinian wine on the list, and we readily ordered it for our meal.

Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva

We started with a Carrot Salad with a tart vinaigrette and feta and hazelnuts.

Carrot Salad

For entrees hubby and I took different paths. The Cavatelli with roast suckling pig, kale, and plums caught his eye. Heavenly and richly flavored.

Cavatelli with Suckling Pig and Kale

I hankered after a pizza. The pizzas at Lucca come in one size - extremely large and feature four options. I enjoyed the Scarmoza with pancetta, scallions, oregano, and scarmoza mozzarella. The crust was firm and crunchy. A mighty tasty pie and large enough to bring a bunch of slices home.

Scarmoza Pizza with Pancetta and Scallions

Dessert looked tempting, but the fullness of our tummies prevented the indulgence. Maybe next time. And there will definitely be a next time. Perhaps we will sit by the octopus wrestling mural...

Wrestling with an Octopus

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Some Spiciness at Cheng Du Restaurant

I stopped in at Cheng Du on a pre-Jonas snow day for Shredded Pork in Garlic Sauce. Only one chili pepper, but spicy enough for me!

Pork with Garlic Sauce

And enough for an enjoyable lunch the next day as well.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

A Delicious Bite at Family Meal

Back when Family Meal first opened we went and experienced a definite lack of kitchen coordination. This time we arrived for an early lunch and all ran smoothly. The fried chicken is still good and breakfast is available all of the time.

We were happy with an item that apparently had just popped back on the menu: Gougeres.


Little hot bite-sized cheesy pastry puffs were oh-so-yummy on a cold January day.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

We Are Still Craving The Shrimp From Mas Tapas

After hearing about Mas Tapas in Charlottesville for years, we finally went. Muy deliciosa!

Mas Tapas
Mas Tapas
We arrived on a dreary late afternoon right before they opened and a line had already started to form. About 30 minutes later most of the seats were taken and an hour later folks were standing around waiting. Due to the weather they all stood around at the crowded bar. While the bar is long and would have been a great spot to watch the kitchen in action, the onslaught of the incoming hungry (and thirsty) masses made us grateful that we were at a table.

Bar Seat
Th bar before the storm of people
Our waitress was lovely and brought us some marinated olives to savor while we looked at the menu. A sheet of paper listing all of the options lay before us and we were to mark which dishes we wanted similar to a sushi menu. The list was long, and lots of items caught our collective eye. Our waitress was patient and went on to explain that usually tapas meant small plates, but the owners were from the deep south and portions were usually a bit more generous.

We continued to peruse and ordered a cherry muddled old fashioned to tide us over. Usually, I avoid old fashioneds because I don't want sugar added to my bourbon. In this case, the cherries added just a hint of sweetness, no additional sugar added. Best old fashioned ever, for me.

Okay, we now had our thoughts together to order. Here were a few of the dishes that posed somewhat good enough for the camera.

Carne Asada
Grilled steak with a smokey tomato sauce. Only served medium rare. Nice char on the outside. A thick piece of flatbread arrived with the dish. I'm not sure why. We both took one bite and thought it was bland and mealy. The beef was much better.
Bocadillo Jamon
Iberico ham and Manchego cheese with crusty bread. Simple, but satisfying. I had to deconstruct my sandwich so I could dip the bread in the olive oil that graced our table.
Gambas al' parilla
Grilled jumbo shrimp with garlic sauce. The star of the show. These guys were gigantic, meaty, and sweet. A bit messy because they did not want to give up their shells easily. Definitely worth the effort. When we go back this will be at the top of our list to order.

What a yummy night. While the place was busy we experienced great service. The menu holds even more tasty gems, and we plan on returning to try more (and to devour the shrimp again).

Saturday, January 16, 2016

We Decide to Have a Delicious Lunch at Peter Chang China Cafe Despite Short Pump Traffic

We were headed for Charlottesville for the afternoon on a gloomy Saturday and decided to have lunch at Peter Chang China Cafe. You know the place. It's tucked up in a Walmart shopping strip in the middle of Short Pump, and it's an absolute horror to get to the place from the city (or anywhere else). We strategized the best route that would cause the least stress and, whew!, we made it.
Peter Chang at Short Pump
Peter Chang China Cafe Dining Room in Short Pump
At least we were rewarded with some good eats. Hubby had Golden Mountain Chicken. A mountain of fried shredded chicken, indeed, with a light sweet and sour sauce. We both thought this would be the perfect Asian dish to enjoy while watching football playoffs.
Golden Mountain Chicken
Golden Mountain Chicken
I chose the darker side of the poultry spectrum with Shredded Duck with Scallion and Onion. Sublime ducky tenderness! And more than enough to enjoy for lunch the next day.
Shredded Duck with Scallion and Onion on Hot Iron Plate
Shredded Duck with Scallion and Onion
While I always enjoy going to Peter Chang, the traffic can be daunting, and I end up eating nearer to my home. Can't wait to have a Peter Chang establishment in RVA proper!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Breakfast Porn from WPA

What is better than roaming around Church Hill on a cloudy morning taking photos and winding up at WPA Bakery for an enormous egg biscuit and coffee?

Egg Biscuit at WPA

Was it good for you, too?

Monday, January 11, 2016

A Tasty Bite from Waypoint Grill

Fried Shrimp from Waypoint Grill in Williamsburg is always delicious.

Fried Shrimp

They also have other yummy options and a nice wine list. If you want to get away from the tourist traps, head over to Waypoint and experience a relaxing meal with good service.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Welcome to a Permanent Home Pizza Tonight

Pizza Tonight now provides your favorite pizza along with other delectable offerings in a non-mobile location. The old Aziza's received a much-needed makeover. The exterior is painted a smart black with red accents. The big brick wall that had divided the dining room from the kitchen is gone, making way for more dining space, a longer bar, and a pizza oven up front. The restrooms have doubled and look fabulous.

Pizza Tonight
Pizza Tonight Entrance
We arrived early on a Friday evening with two nephews in tow: one who likes to try different things and one who is so picky we weren't sure if he would order anything. Reservations are only taken for large parties, so early dining was optimal since after 7 PM there were no seats left.

Pizza Oven
Wood-fired Oven
While cocktails beckoned to us (barrel aged negronis, spritzes, etc.) we gravitated to wine (or water for my nephews). Pizza Tonight has an all-Italian list with many offered by the glass. The Morellino di Scansano worked well with our meal.

The Pizza Tonight menu held an abundance of deliciousness. The wood-fired oven in the front is reserved for pizzas, but the oven in the back is for other dishes, like Charred Octopus with White Beans and Sugartoads with Bagna Cauda. We stuck to more of the basics for starters: Lamb and Pork Meatballs and Burrata with Caponata and Arugula. Neither nephew had tasted lamb before and, surprisingly, both tried the meatballs and wolfed them down. Big and meaty with a delicately spicy tomato sauce. The cheese dish had one nephew raving and the other one avoiding the dish at all costs. For myself, this was my favoprite dish. Of course, the creamy fresh ball of cheese is always delicious. The arugula added a slight pungency. The roasted red pepper caponata was the star. Dressed in just enough vinegar and tossed with capers - a perfected sweet-sour balance. One recommendation - offer an order of wood-fired or grilled rustic bread as an optional accompaniment.

But we were really here for the pizza and, yes, the pizza was delicious. We ordered a variety of pies - Margherita; Sausage, Tomato, Rapini, and Ricotta;  Caprese, Fennel, and Tomato; and Potato, Rosemary, Chiles, and Grano Padano.

No matter how the pizzas are topped, the crust is all important. The Pizza Tonight crust arrived thin with just the right crunch on the bottom to stand up to the toppings and just the right chew when devouring. The wood-fired blisters added a final taste touch. The crust also reminded me of my time in Florence, Italy and scarfing up wood-fired pizzas in that historic city.

Margherita Pizza
Margherita Pizza
The Margherita was as expected and will always be the go-to pizza. The Sausage competed with the richness of the ricotta globs and was the one slice that we took home. The Caprese sausage had a pronounced spicy kick which paired nicely with the tomato sauce giving it a sweeter essence than normal. Once I had the Caprese, I could not taste the chiles in the Potato pizza. Instead I used the Potato pizza as a tongue detingling device. I really liked the pop of rosemary and garlic.

All in all a wonderful meal and an introduction of what pizza is capable of being to my nephews. I also want to give a shout out to Kay, who provided wonderful service and was patient with all of my questions.

Welcome home Pizza Tonight!