On the weekends, her kitchen was closed. There were usually leftovers to pick at, tuna fish salad always made up and kept in a recycled Cool Whip container and eating out at least one big meal. But "kitchen closed" was a hard and fast rule, because, as I only realized years later, she had put in five days of hard work and a good part of that was in the kitchen.
I cannot remember the names of all the restaurants we ate at. Some were one-shot deals, a place my father had heard of during the week and was determined to try. The others, though, were the backbone of our family's social life. At the top of that list was Lundy's. Most people remember where they had their first kiss; I remember where I had my first taste of lobster. Then there was Cooky's, a local chain, Linck's Log Cabin, Al Steiner's on Chestnut Street in Cedarhurst, the Famous, a Ratner's knock-off on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, and any number of Italian restaurants. Thinking back, Italian food was probably my father's favorite food, but he would happily drive all over Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island to enjoy Greek food in Astoria, a Swedish smorgasbord in Riverhead, and the ethereal popovers at Patricia Murphy's Candlelight Restaurant.
Over the years it became more difficult to find restaurants that serve "real" Italian food, where red sauce rules and meatballs are the size of your head. That sort of southern Italian cooking got a bad rap as northern Italian chefs made their mark with dishes favoring lighter ingredients. If someone wanted old-fashioned lasagna, or eggplant parmesan, or sweet Italian sausages and peppers, or an awesome baked ziti, they were going to have to whip it up at home. Which is what I do, and I have a couple of recipes to share with you that are so good, you may find yourself humming "That's Amore!" as you sop up the last of the red sauce with real garlic bread.
More recently there has been a resurgence of southern Italian themed restaurant chains where everything is served family-style and the tablecloth is inevitably stained with red sauce. Two that immediately come to mind are Buca di Beppo and Maggiano's Little Italy. Neither one compares with Tarantino's in its heyday at the Oak Street location, but they are both pretty good, with Maggiano's edging out Buca's on food and service.
It was to Maggiano's Little Italy at Pointe Orlando that my husband, son and I headed to for a birthday celebration. We were able to make a 6:00 PM reservation on a Sunday evening. It's in a touristy area, but parking is available for a small fee.
And now, my version of a restaurant review:
Large portions. Very good service.
Lobster carbonara over pasta – loved it.
Shrimp parmesan – 8 nice big shrimp, but would have liked more sauce and more cheese. Served with side of orzo pasta with baby spinach. Tasty, but I would have liked it better with angel hair pasta and more of the tomato sauce. Come to think of it, that is how Tarantino's does it.
Maggiano's is known for it's family style service, but there needs to be four diners minimum for that, and we are a family of three. My husband suggested getting Woody dressed in his taekwando uniform so he could be our fourth, but Cory and Woody had had a spat during the day, so the suggestion was vetoed.
Maggiano's Little Italy, Pointe Orlando, 9101 International Drive, Orlando, Florida.