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Friday, November 13, 2015


     Are you allowed to call yourself a "Chicago Pizzeria" if you don't serve the "typical deep dish pizza", as the server described it? I don't know. It's a free country so I guess you can call yourself whatever you want, but I was deflated when she said that. Pity, because Aurelio's is quite charming and evocative of old school pizza restaurants.The franchise takes pains to stay true to it's original style, a classic pizzeria from the late 1950s- red-checkered tabletops, chocolate-brown wood, black and white vintage photos of Chicago on the walls.
     We ordered the closest thing to deep dish we could find on the menu, the 'thick crust', with pepperoni, onions and mushrooms on John's side, and anchovies and onions on my side. It was excellent pizza, not excessively greasy, crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, well-balanced portions of our selected toppings.
     Besides thin crust pizza and stuffed pizza, the menu offers something called "Mamma Aurelio's Calabrese", which is their own special version of a calzone. After my initial disappointment, I was an inch away from ordering it after one look at the over-sized turnover.They also offer generous salads, pasta dishes and sandwiches.
     I have a strong suspicion that if one of these joints popped up in my neighborhood, I would do frequent business there in spite of the absence of deep dish pizza. I was momentarily discouraged, but they quickly regained my respect. Props for that.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Royal Scoop

     I was born too late. I should've been a child of the '40s. Then I could've been a teenager in the '50s and met up with my friends at the local ice cream parlor on Saturday nights. That's ok though, I got to do something like that during my weekend in Naples.
     It appears that Royal Scoop is the regular hangout for the 40-65 crowd on Saturday nights in Bonita Springs, Florida. I heard a man ask his wife, "Is anyone we know inside?" and minutes later a cluster of friends formed, all exchanging lively greetings and just happy to be there. I wanted to join in, I wanted to be their friend. How many years to retirement?
   Benches line the front of this ample shop, and every seat is taken as the gang enjoys the rich ice cream while telling jokes and simply enjoying the company. The selection of flavors is extensive, and I felt like, well, a kid in an ice cream shop. My eyes darted from one flavor to another, from the predictable to the playful. Here's the mess I made: Chocolate Tri-Scrumptious (chocolate ice cream, English walnuts, chocolate chunks and white chocolate chips) with Trick-or-Treat Bag (orange marshmallow ice cream, Kit Kat, Nestle Crunch, Twix, Heath Bar, fudge), on a waffle bowl dipped in chocolate and nuts. Yes folks, I went there, and I feel not one ounce of regret.
     John had a waffle cone with chocolate and vanilla mixed with Heath bar. Ice cream is one of the few edibles that seldom displeases my partner.
     Rich, sweet, creamy and a lot of it- everything good old American ice cream should be.

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Monday, November 9, 2015


     Timing is everything. It's stone crab season, Naples is having a festival to celebrate, and I happen to be here to crash this party. This seafood shack is the perfect place to crab-worship. It sits on the Gordon River and it's rustic and busy, and the air is thick with the chatter of hungry patrons. The server greets you while covering your table with butcher paper. When the kitchen lagged a little with our order, our waiter Jonboy (awesome name) brought us some crayons to entertain ourselves, and a spirited game of Hangman ensued. We didn't even feel the delay.
     The menu is varied, but the stone crabs get top billing. You can get the popular crustacean any way you can imagine, and some you probably never fathomed.
The scuttlebutt has it that the crab cheese dip and the crab clusters with the garlic butter and special spices are the favorites at Pinchers. Other items like the crab roll and the crab and corn chowder sounded intriguing, but I opted for the five-ounce crab cake with garlic green beans and coleslaw, and John ordered the crab Alfredo.
     My crab cake was meaty and lumpy, and it came with a tangy stone ground mustard that showcased the freshness of the crab. The coleslaw was satisfying, but the green beans lacked that punch of garlic I expected. Green beans without clever embellishment just occupy space on the plate, as far as I'm concerned. John's pasta was generous, especially the crab portion. He said the dish didn't surprise, but it didn't disappoint.

     In spite of the predictable meal, I got caught up in the crab fest frenzy. It's lovely being in the right place at the right time.
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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Doc's Beach House

     Every good beach has a joint where sand dwellers can walk up in their dusty bare feet, get a cold brew, a burger and fries and continue their ocean worship virtually uninterrupted. This is such a place. Rent a parasail or a jetski, walk up to get your grub, and return to the warm embrace of the Gulf of Mexico with a simple about-face.
     Doc's was the first stop on our anniversary weekend getaway to Naples in Florida's west coast, our favorite place to hangout these days.We had a sunset dinner cruise booked, so we wanted a no-frills lunch. I ordered the fried Mahi fingers basket with fries and coleslaw, and John ended up with a ham and cheese sandwich because the steak sandwich on their menu was not available. We throw little tantrums when something on the menu is not available.
     My fish fingers were actually quite satisfying, the fries were like hundreds of others I've had, and the coleslaw did not offend. That's the best I can do. John's sandwich, on the other hand, shocked me. It could've easily been a prank. Two slices of white bread, not toasted. The ham kept slipping out because there was no condiment to glue it to the bread. The cheese slices came fresh out of plastic wrappers.
     Listen, I know this is beach food, but if you're going to charge $9 for a ham and cheese sandwich, little details like toasting the bread, adding a little garlic mayo or better even, cheese that does not come individually wrapped is not too much to ask, right?
     I wasn't discouraged, though. I knew better adventures would follow on our mini vacation. This road stop would soon be forgotten.
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