Monday, May 31, 2010

Ethnic Picnic – Italian

My friend Erin makes the most unique pasta sauce I’ve ever tasted. It’s smoky and rich and comes with giant meatballs and soft pieces of pulled pork (and every now and then, a hard-boiled egg thrown in for fun – a wonderful surprise for my hard-boiled egg loving husband!). She learned this secret family recipe from her very Italian mother-in-law just weeks before she got married. She only knows how to make it in big batches so she’s generous with giving it away to those less fortunate in the ‘secret family pasta sauce recipe’ arena. And when she texts me and says she has “sauce”, I’m there in a heartbeat to pick it up! I love being able to come home, boil a little pasta, heat up some sauce and have an amazing Italian dinner in a flash. It’s a revelation! (My new favorite phrase, especially in relation to food finds.)

If I’m going out for nice Italian food in Omaha, there are numerous options, some of which I haven’t even exhausted yet. I’m very much looking forward to the day I try Lo Sole Mio. We’ve heard so many good recommendations for that restaurant. And Vivace in the Old Market. But from the ones we have tried, here are my faves:

  1. Carrabba’s – Nothing we’ve had here has disappointed. We were first introduced to the Carrabba’s family in Cincinnati and we’ve been fans ever since. I especially love their Spiedino di Mare. These scallops and jumbo shrimp in a light lemon butter sauce are delicate and delicious. My husband almost always picks one of their marsala dishes; we’re always comparing different restaurant versions of Chicken Marsala, but Carrabba’s delights with so many options – Chicken, Sirloin, Veal and even Pork Chops Marsala on occasion.

  1. Grisanti’s – You’ve heard me declare more than once that I’m not a bread lover. So this next statement should take you by surprise: I LOVE the garlic bread at Grisanti’s! Now, there are a couple reasons why. Garlic bread, in general, does not grieve me the way regular bread does. Due to the added flavors and texture, it usually entices me quite well. But Grisanti’s garlic bread goes above and beyond! They douse this bread in butter, to the point that it is just dripping. But it isn’t soggy. The outside is still nice and crusty. And to finish it off, they serve it with a yummy marinara dipping sauce that I’d like to bottle and sell. A perfect pairing! The other menu item that tempts me every time is their tiramisu. I’ve become a bit of a tiramisu fanatic in the last few years. I’ve tried several versions. And Grisanti’s is perhaps at the top of my list. It’s creamy without being too rich or even soggy (sometimes the lady fingers / cake can become soggy rather than just moist). And the layer of chocolate sauce they place the cake on top of is a perfect addition to the coffee flavor of the dessert. I believe they even add a bit of chocolate sauce on top at times as well but they never overdo it.


  1. I once heard that one loaf of bread at Grisanti's has the same amount of calories as 7 Snickers bars. Even still, I would chose that bread over a candy bar any day. I love your choices here. And Lo Sole Mio's portions are so big that I think we could go there and split a plate and be in absolute heaven. Let's do that soon! (husbands optional :)