Monday, August 29, 2011


1108 Howard Street 
Omaha, NE 68102
(402) 342-2050
Open daily for lunch and dinner, weekdays 'til 11pm and Fridays and Saturdays 'til midnight, Sundays closed in between brunch and dinner

9" Pepperoni pizza with Banana Peppers and Buffalo Mozzarella
Chicken Piadini--
 Grilled flat bread wrap with figs, prosciutto, green onions, basil, arugula and Fontina cheese
Everyone's heard of Vivace in the Old Market--or Viv-ACE as we like to call it--but did you know they offer 9" Neapolitan-style pies for $11.95? Add a couple glasses of red and you've got the perfect snack for two, if you ask me. The banana peppers on the Pepperoni pizza reminded me of the Peperoni pies I'd get in Germany, and it was even most satisfying to my skeptical dining companion. ("I've had pizza in Naples, yo.") The chicken in the Chicken Piadini was a little over-roasted, but the fig/prosciutto flavor combo took over, and the whole thing was remarkably filling. I don't know of anywhere else around here doing the sweet potato/regular potato mix for the fries, but an aioli dipping sauce would have been good, not to mention fries that weren't served ice cold. Vivace's got some good ideas and some tried and true Italian flavors, and I think a little more attention paid to the details would make them even better. Not to mention the service is as disorganized as the driving in Italy. The wine came out five minutes after the food, we were presented the wrong check, and even candidly offered jobs by our eccentric server, for no particular reason.

Vivace's menu isn't exactly innovative, but it's fresh and high in value, and they're open pretty late. You should also stop in if you're looking for a job, apparently!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Amato's Cafe & Catering

6405 Center Street
Omaha, NE 68106
(402) 558-5010
Closed Mondays, open 'til 1:30pm on weekdays and 1:00pm on weekends

You have a choice. The choice is chips or salad with your sandwich.
We said salad. We got this. Iceberg with a ladle of bleu cheese.
Simple and yet elegant.
And for the lady, a side of house-made red wine vinaigrette.
I say screw the lettuce and give your bread a soak in the stuff.

Following the steps of that bleachy haired stallion from Diners, Drive-ins and Dives can be gut busting. Take the taquito-chos in San Diego, and the cheesegasm at Cali Taco, for example. At Amato's, the autographed poster from triple D hangs proudly at the entrance. And so we came hungry, but on this Man vs. Food-like excursion, Man lost. Although we didn't order the "Gut Buster" sandwich from the menu, our bellies still surrendered by waiving the white to-go box way before halftime. Maybe we filled up on too much iceberg 'n dressing salad. Can I go there and just order some bread soaked in red sauce? Those were easily the best parts, although the sauce did have an interesting cinnamon-esque flavor. The giant marinated olives on the Tutti Special and the sloppy mounds of mozzarella on the Italian Beef were a little much, even by FIO standards. Another case of "I don't really want to eat this for lunch but would shove it down my gullet late-night if given the chance." I mean, I totally had a sauce stain around my lips for the rest of the day. 

I hear they've got a bangin' breakfast; in fact, on weekends it's all they serve, and on weekdays they'll flip you some ricotta pancakes right up until their absurdly early 1:30pm close time. I can't wait to try the "Mail Man Special," which is just two eggs and a hamburger patty, no big deal. (Obviously this is what we're supposed to feed our mail men.) Just like my saucy sausage cookin' Italian-American grandmother, Amato's doesn't do vegetables. Deal with it. 

Tutti Special--
Lurking inside are two Italian hams, Genoa salami, provolone cheese, sweet roasted peppers and olive condite.

Italian Beef--
Thinly sliced with red sauce and mozzarella cheese leaking all over the place.
It reminded me of a cheesesteak and therefore I was happy.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Tommy Colina's Kitchen

3558 Farnam Street
Omaha, NE 68131(402) 502-9027
Mon 11-2, Tues-Fri 11-9, Sat 9-2 brunch, 3-9 dinner, Sun 9-2 brunch

Chicken Diablo Soup--
With its best friend, the cracker packet
Chicken Tortilla Soup--
Neglected under the shadow of Diablo

Standing in line at the gas station is more interesting, I found out, when you're behind a big dude in a sleeveless tee, waiting to pay for his pint of tequila and plugging his newly-opened lunch spot. It's been a few months since then, but I finally rolled out of bed in time to make the 2pm last call for burgers at Tommy Colina's today. I would recommend you do the same, since Monday is FREE soup day (with the purchase of an entree). The way the waitress rattled off the list of soups with utter disinterest reminded me of reciting a Hail Mary in middle school; like, I've said this a million times, let's just get this over with please. Still, I would probably go back just for the Chicken Diablo, a lumpy/creamy/spicy thing that is best scooped up with crackers, like a chip dip.

Then out came the baskets, each filled to the brim with house-made chips and mammoth sandwiches. The mozzarella on my Pesto Chicken slid off in one gooey glob to reveal a pile of ham and a chunk of chicken breast. Under that was supposed to be a sauce and a slaw, but those ingredients were unfortunately totally lost under the mounds of meat and cheese. By the end of it the deli paper was soaked and sticking to my food. (Do you eat out of a basket in your "kitchen?" Try a plate.) Thankfully, on the Cantina burger, the meat wasn't quite as drowned in toppings. The quasi-local beef is ground fresh daily, which is more than most places can say, making it one of the better burgers around. Go here with a stash of extra napkins and a major appetite. A nod to the vegetarians of the world by perhaps adding a veggie burger would be nice, since I don't think the solitary option of a cheese 'n tomato sandwich is really enough. Or at least get a liquor license, because if you've got a belly full of burger, you'd better have a belly full of beer too. 

Pesto Chicken--
Smoked tomato aioli, green pepper slaw, ham, fresh mozzarella, pesto drizzle;
the ham and cheese could have been its own sandwich, probably.
Cantina Burger--
Jalapeños, guacamole, and Monterey Jack cheese, plus Tommy C's tasty chips

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Phat in Philadelphia (and NYC)

I didn't do Steven Starr, or Bobby Flay, or Le Bec Fin, or hardly anything traditionally defined as "good food." I did, however, visit my teenage haunts and other old faves, and nearly OD'd on pizza. And the beer. My God, the beer. I danced, I explored, I ate, and I drank. I didn't snap a photo of every single thing 'cause there just wasn't time to stop.

Golden Castle Diner, North Wilmington, DE
Can't deny that late-night cravin' for something so greasy it slips out of your hands. And some chocolate pie from the pie case, cuz, why not? I mean, food always winds up yellow and brown anyway, right?
Monochromatic Meal #1: Classic Grilled Cheese
Yes, we got a side of fries, too.
Chocolate Cream Pie

Pinocchio's Pizza and Beer Garden To Go, Media, PA
I started eating here when I was about eight years old, with my family. Then, my high school cafeteria had their pizza, and I distinctly remember eating it on a daily basis the entire tenth grade year. All You Can Eat pizza and soda nights kept us suburban punk ass kids out of trouble. But, it seems Pinocchio's got a taste for beer a little later than I did, opening the "beer garden" addition just a couple of years ago. Skyrocketing to success, they just clinched the sought-after title for Best Beer Shop in all of Phillyland, according to Philadelphia Magazine's most recent issue, which is kind of a huge deal. An absolute must visit if you're anywhere near it. P.S. For all you "Philly" sandwich eaters out there in Omaha, this is what it's supposed to look like. (I'm partial to chicken, as opposed to the classic beef cheesesteak, a leftover from my years as a strict non-cow eater.)
Chicken Cheesesteak:
A hot mess of thinly chopped chicken, fried onions and hot peppers, with provolone, on a top-of-the-line toasted hoagie roll. Sa-weet!
Monochromatic Meal #2: Fried Sampler Platter--
There's rings, bites, nugs, sticks, blah blah blah.
De Proef/ Sly Fox Broederlijke Liefde ON TAP!
I also had a Brotherly Suds, which is the collaborative effort of five different Philly microbreweries.
He told me he'd knock it down to $300, but I still couldn't swing it.
Beers, and beer reflections. And some chick.
The lucky ones to come home with us.

And, speaking of 'zza, here's a shot of one of my daily slices from any NYC pizzeria. Note the triangle shape:
Square pizza is just plain wronG.

Coffee Shop, Union Square, NYC
In the ranks of overpriced Manhattan diners and other eateries, this place is kinda low on the list. It did, however, solve the problem of where to suck down a Mimosa. (Of the mango variety, which was actually more like a Bellini, not pictured here cause there was a hole in my glass. Hehe.)
Grilled Shrimp Chopped Salad with Romaine, Roasted Corn and Black Beans
Wild Mushroom Omelette

Dos Toros, Union Square, NYC
After a long day wandering up and down Fifth Ave for no particular reason, a pit stop was in order, this time to a Qdoba-like hole-in-the-wall bursting with NYU kids, who were clearly majoring in Personal Space Invasion. The girl behind me in line totally just took a course on Breathing Down a Stranger's Neck. Ah, anyway. My taco was huge and the extra hot salsa was obscenely spicy, but it did the trick.
Carnitas Taco--
With a downright rude hot salsa

Whole Foods Beer Room, Bowery, NYC
No trip to this area would be complete without a stop at the Whole Foods Bowery location. They've got a beer room where you can get growlers of beers you've never heard of. And everything you need for home brewing, if you're into that sort of thing, which it seems every dude and his mom is these days. Yes folks, this supermarket location truly has everything your average white person likes.
Beer Stuff 
More Beer Stuff

Loreley, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
There was a time when I felt if I never had a German beer again it would be too soon. I am now partially recovered from my couple of years stuck in the world of piss pilsners, and so it seemed appropriate to go to the newer Brooklyn version of one of my old LES hangouts. Currywurst, THEE Berlin street food, was never my personal favorite, but I felt obliged to try it. This version was a tad smushy, and the fries were soooo McDonald's, but they nailed the curry ketchup part. On a long wooden table under a wide umbrella, I nibbled and sipped leisurely and didn't even notice the sun had gone down.
Ein Kölsch und ein Grüner Veltliner--
Und die schöne Fingernägel meiner Cousine!
There's actually a museum for this in Berlin.

John's Village Market, Brookhaven, PA
The place to go for a quality sandwich, especially if you're a sweaty construction worker dude with one of them Philly accents.
Classic Italian Hoagie:
Pepper ham, capicola, Genoa salami, provolone
Chicken Pesto Panini, one half--
Wash it all down with some meat flavored chips.

Eulogy Belgian Tavern, Old City, Philadelphia
The bar stools are always full at this Old City classic, and I like to think of it as a good place to duck into to avoid the throngs of bros and hoes doing the mating call in this part of town every weekend night.
Twice Fried Belgian Frietjes--
With "Beneluxx" sauce, bourbon remoulade, and malt vinegar aioli.
A glob of mayo would have been fine too. 
Just a LaChouffe and a Kasteel Rouge on tap, no big deal here.  Two of my faves.
Piet-Agoras Belgian ale--
A nice, rare brew. A little fruity, caramel-y, sour-ish, with a hoppy finish. 

Beneluxx Tasting Room, Old City, Philadelphia
A block away from Eulogy, this basement bar with the same owners wasn't as bustling, but there were more interesting menu options. Next time I'm gonna do the fondue.
Chimay, meet Beemster. Tried and true delicious cheeses, with a nice bare-bones presentation.
Hey, at least the plate is rectangular. 
This here's a panini. That's all I really remember.
Sierra Nevada's Ovila Abbey Dubbel

There was also the dry white wine and olive tapenade and goat cheese crostini at Gemma in the Bowery Hotel, where I didn't see anyone too famous but was entertained by the surly waitstaff. And then the late-late-night falafel that I somehow got all over my shirt. Across the great divide known as the East River, I sipped on an absinthe cocktail, which didn't make me hallucinate, but did get me tipsy enough to happily slurp down my very first oyster, at Maison Premiere. Oh, and let's not forget the bowl of Cheerios on the first class flight home.

And now, to sleep. For a week. And maybe think about eating a vegetable of some sort.