Sunday, February 19, 2012

Pasta Grill

Last night we joined friends for dinner at The Pasta Grill restaurant on Front Beach Road in Panama City Beach. I have had a desire for some Italian food and it has been a while since I have visited The Pasta Grill. Seven years ago when I moved back, I took my mother and wife to the Pasta Grill. One of my favorite Italian dishes is Shrimp Fradiavilo. Sauteed shrimp in a spicy tomato sauce made from crushed tomatoes and served over linguine.  Our first visit was fine.  The service was good and the food held it's own.  Unfortunately last night was a disaster.

The only good thing last night was they have 16oz. draught beer for $1.00.  Our waiter came to get our drink orders and flew through the specials so fast I couldn't understand him or remember what he said.  We started with two appetizers, the Bruschetta Gorgonzola and the Calamari Puttanesca.  The Bruschetta was toasted with melted Gorgonzola and strips of red peppers on top.  I love blue cheese and Gorgonzola is one of my favorites.  The bruschetta had no taste of the briny, sharp, strong flavor that blue cheese,  particularly Gorgonzola is noted for.  It could have been Provolone as far as the flavor it had.  The Calamari Puttanesca was surprisingly good.  Large rings of Calamari in a light tomato, caper, and olive stew.  I know that Puttanesca normally has anchovy in it but this didn't seem like it had any.  All in all the Calamari were tender which can be a problem when cooking them.

I ordered the Shrimp Fradiavalo and my wife ordered the grilled Grouper with mashed potatoes and asparagus.  Our friends ordered a pizza and a Greek salad.  Our entrees came with our choice of two salads, a Caesar or a house salad.  We both ordered the Caesar salad.  The Caesar salads were fresh but the dressing missed the salty, flavor of anchovy that traditional Caesar dressing has.  It was bland at best.  Our friends large Greek salad looked good and they both enjoyed it. 

The entrees didn't help our expectations either.  The Fradiovolo looked good at presentation, but after my first bite it went down hill.  Mind you I like spicy food.  30 years in New Orleans has taught me to appreciate the sutle spiciness and heat, the use of peppers can bring to a dish.  This was overwhelming.  My forehead was sweating.  The shrimp were small and they had the tails still on them.  This made eating the dish difficult.  I had to remove the tail shells before I could fill my fork with shrimp and pasta.  If the pepper had been toned done and the shell removed, this dish would have been acceptable.  My wife's grilled Grouper had no seasoning and was bland to the taste buds.  The fillet sat on top off mashed potatoes that looked boxed and had the flavor of boxed as well.  On top of the grouper was a sprinkling of something sliced in a small matchstick and was white which added no color to the white fish and white mashed potatoes.  It tasted like turnip roots or parsnips.  Again this added nothing to the dish.  Our friends pizza looking overly cheesy.  Pizza has to have a balance of ingredients and cheese.  After eating at Joe Mamas last weekend, I won't be trying the pizza.

For my money if you want Italian in Panama City, go to Ferruci's. It is much better.  When we arrived the front room was full of patrons, but being the off season, I knew they were Snowbirds and they are like Mikey.  The'll eat anything.

No stars here.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Joe Mamas Pizza

As many of you know I love pizza.  Really good pizza.  Recently the wood fired pizza restaurant in Panama City closed and I have been longing for that unique flavor wood fired gives pizza.  Well I have found the place.  Joe Mamas in downtown Port St. Joe really hits the spot.  Recently my wife and I took the one hour drive to Port St. Joe to try it out.  Saturdays are a hecktic day for me, so I look forward to some down time.  The drive to Port St. Joe gave me time to unwind, listen to some music, and spend time with the wife.  Joe Mamas is located on Ried Ave. which is downtown Port St. Joe.  When we arrived I noticed this place looked great, not the pizza dive some may believe.  This place is modern and upscale in decor.  The staff is friendly and attentive.

The menu offers six craft beers on tap and something called a Beer Flight allows you to choose four beers that are served in 4 oz. glasses so you can sample several at one time.  I chose four from light pale to dark, from citrusy to dark and roasted.  As for pizza we tried two.  The first was a pepperoni, Italian sausage, olive trio, and onion.  They offer onion raw or caramelized.  Nice twist.  The other pizza was an Artichoke, Cappicola ham, freash garlic, and basil.  All in all the pizza was great.  Crispy, thin crust with toasted edges, fresh ingredients, and artfully made with just the right amount of ingredients.  The thing for me with pizza is that every bite should be different.  Back in my college days the more ingrediants the better.  We used to order a kitchen sink, thant's right Da Kithchen Sink, loaded with everything.  I have out grown that desire.  My only complaint of Joe Mamas is the freash basil.  Those leaves were huge and almost covered the entire pizza.  It was hard to eat.  A shifinade of basil would have been better.

I highly recommend Joe Mamas.  I will return and soon.

I give Joe Mamas four stars.