Sunday, March 30, 2008

Palio's Pizza Cafe, Pizza, Italian, Keller-TX, Colleyville-TX

This was one of the very first posts on the RJG. Palio's has since expanded to 20 locations, including Keller. In addition to the below, I plan on meeting a co-worker soon at the Coppell location (which is halfway for us) and I want to try their pasta. At the Keller location, I tried the pizza, and my experience was similar to the review below (right down to the crispness of the crust, or lack thereof). All the same, it will most likely be a regular stop in the future.

Last visit: October 2011 (Keller)

Since there isn't one central website for the chain, it's hard to obtain exact information. The below totals are based on information gathered from Urbanspoon.

NE Tarrant locations: Colleyville, Keller, Grapevine
Other Tarrant County locations: Ft. Worth (Hulen) , Mansfield
Other DFW locations: McKinney (2), Fairview, Highland Village, Frisco, Coppell, The Colony, Prosper, Little Elm, Crossroads, Rockwall, Rowlett, Lewisville, Carrollton, Denton

It was a lazy Sunday afternoon and me and the Misses were in the mood for a little pizza, mainly of the individual variety. I first stumbled onto Palio's at their Coppell location, but we didn't eat there always promising to come back someday. Palio's is a mini DFW local chain, primarily based in the far northern Dallas suburbs.

We discussed Colleyville and Hwy 26 in the Bellisimo thread, and Palio's is just down the road in one of the more fancy buildings, designed in the faux-old style that's so prevalent in these parts. In fact, these guys have the FAUX idea down, as they managed to cram as many 1920s to 1950s era European paintings as could fit. All of these no doubt purchased from the local furniture wholesaler. In other words, it's a nice gathering place.

We went with the "small" which are slightly larger than typical "individual" pizzas, but the smallest they have. No complaints from either of us. Mrs. RJG went for the Hawaiian (too fruity for me) as I went for a traditional sausage, later regretting that I had the option for "Italian sausage". OF COURSE I want Italian sausage. Oh well, next time. If I had a complaint, it's I would prefer a little more crispness in the crust. But a minor detail, and that may change from visit to visit.

The chain has various websites depending on the franchisor.

Palio's Pizza Cafe on Urbanspoon

Palio's on Urbanspoon

Recently Closed: Gianni's, Clear Creek Seafood

It always saddens me when I see good quality independent restaurants go belly up. Especially when they drew crowds, sometimes causing a wait. How can it be they close then? There are many reasons of course, mostly on the business side, and so speculation is a fools chase. From time to time, I'll call out some closings, if for no other reason than to reminisce a bit.

Gianni's was an "Italian pizza" type place in Watauga at US 377 and Mid Cities. The pizza is not the more known New York style, but the kind you would get in Europe. Generally coal fired, and served individually. You don't pick the slices up, but rather eat them with a knife and fork. A very thin crust, with gooey cheese and your choice of toppings define the type. The owner of Gianni's learned his craft in South America (I think Argentina if I remember right). It was a quick service restaurant, where you order at the front and they'd bring it to you. They even had live folk singers most nights. A fun place that was quite good. A place to take guests. It's now occupied by OC Burger, which I've been to as well, and will discuss at another time. There are a few other "Italian Pizza" style places that have cropped up in the last couple of years, so maybe the competition was too fierce for a relative niche market. Hard to say.

I was even more surprised to see Clear Creek Seafood already gone. Clear Creek was located in Keller, south of Keller Blvd on US 377. There was always a crowd, and it was easy to understand why. Quite simply, this was the best Cajun influenced seafood you could find in the NE Tarrant area. Way better than corporations like Pappadeaux's or Copelands, Clear Creek always had fresh fish, great seasonings, very tasty dirty rice and ice cold beer. And for me, being a music nut, my fondest memory of the restaurant was the Saturday afternoon me and Mrs. Jose were there eating to the sounds of John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme". It was a sublime moment. Ruined, of course, by the trailer trash that came in afterwards and demanded they turn off that "awful music" so we could listen to them yak incessantly instead. Now that I think of it, bad karma is what closed this place down. You do not --- ever --- turn off the mighty Coltrane. The building remains empty, the ghost of Coltrane apparently well entrenched. Perhaps waiting for an Italian themed jazz bistro?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Bellisimo, Italian, Colleyville-TX

Last visit: July 2014

Rating: Buy

March 2013 update: It's interesting to note that Bellisimo was the RJG's first restaurant post. It was never a favorite, nor a place we frequented all that much. But timing is everything, and we visited here right after starting the blog. To underscore my point, according to my database, we hadn't been here since January of 2011 - over 2 years ago! Bellisimo remains a solid Italian option for NE Tarrant, though nothing spectacular, and is somewhat typical of the Italian restaurants you find in these parts.

Original review

On Friday night, me and my favorite dining companion Mrs. RJG, wandered over to Bellisimo in Colleyville, right off Highway 26.

Colleyville is definitely one of the more interesting burbs in NE Tarrant County. They're the "old rich" of the area, providing a stark contrast to the nouveau silliness of Southlake or the filthy rich of Westlake. And, as is typical of old money type areas, there's always a run down area or two to go slumming. Texas State Highway 26 provides this thrill. Amongst the aluminum siding plant sheds and farmers markets, there are shut down old Taco Bell's and sports bars. And, naturally enough, there are new yuppy town centers and strip malls with a Market Street Grocery store.

In the middle of all this is a neat brick building that houses Bellisimo. Like most Italian restaurants in the Ft. Worth area, Bellisimo is not run by Italians but rather from parts of the former Yugoslavia and Albania. The good news is that most of these restaurants are of a high quality, and they know their Italian cooking. The downside is many of the restaurants have similar flavors. For example, the "house dressing" tends to be a tomato based vinaigrette. It's quite good, but there's little variation with other restaurants in the area. The red sauces are very tomatoey, a thinnish texture, but tasty all the same.

One of the true benefits of dining in this area, is the advent of BYOB. Just bring your own hooch, and save a bundle. And there are no outrageous California style corkage fees.

Bellisimo does all the basics right, like chicken parm, baked dishes, meatballs (homemade), sausage, etc... They even carry that Dallas Italian restaurant dessert staple: Cappuccino Pie, which is rare in this area of town.

Decoration isn't their strong suit, and the place could use an uplift in atmosphere. I hear you thinking "But isn't this the Regular Joe's Guide?". Absolutely, and I love a dive. But Bellisimo is no dive, and it's so bare bones, that it feels I'm eating in an empty warehouse. Major plus points goes to the owners for cordoning off a special room for families with kids. This allows peace and quiet for couples/friends looking to spend an evening talking and not holding their ears while the kids crawl on the restaurant furniture.

We've been going to Bellisimo on and off for some 5 years now, and it never disappoints. They also opened up a second location in Keller on US 377, which we also ventured to a couple of times (it was even less decorated than the Colleyville store). Unfortunately it's already closed up, no doubt due to the constant construction (expansion) on the highway. That's too bad, as it appears they spent a fortune renovating the outside. Bosses Pizza now occupies the location.

Bellissimo on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 28, 2008

Editorial: Some Basics and Introductions

First off, I'm no food critic. That will become painfully obvious for many of you within the first few posts. Coming up with new adjectives to describe a sauce, a texture, a taste, etc... is not what I'm setting out to do. "How delightful it was when I first bit into the thick and wedgy rabbit, slathered in the tangy lime sauce, with a burst of subtle flavors that only a pinenut juice can bring. And the coconut mango pie is to die for! And don't forget to ask for the green leaf tonic".

What I AM attempting to do is to try and keep alive the independent mom and pop restaurant. That perfect place you recommend to friends when they're in town. The place where you'll feel comfortable by yourself or with a group, and have one of the best meals in your life.

I live in Northeast Tarrant county, Texas, and that is the focal point of the blog. We are located northeast of Ft. Worth, TX, close to the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport. It's suburban hell. Where the fake blond Mom's take their 2 1/2 kids to elementary school in a Hummer, while talking on the cell phone to their "best friend" with the dogs barking incessantly out the window. Dad's cut the grass on Friday night, because the subprime mortgage they took out is upside down, and they'd rather listen to the lawnmower than their screaming wife complaining they can't meet with the Wilsons at The Cheesecake Factory. These people aren't happy unless they're standing in line with an ashtray coaster with flying saucer lights and a buzzer.

I grew up in Dallas, so you can expect quite a bit of coverage of that area as well. And we did about a 10 year spell in Colorado, before relocating back to the DFW area.

I've been married for many years, and eating out is a favorite activity for the wife as well. You can expect her thoughts will also grace these pages.

OK - I hope to keep this fun and, most importantly, that you the reader find a new favorite restaurant!