Monday, November 19, 2012

Gus's Original Stone Oven Eats, 3123 Leonard - 11/15/12

The son of the original proprietor of Red Hot Inn, Matt Koukios, honored his father by naming the restaurant after him, and opened the restaurant on property already owned, adjacent to Red Hot Inn. (We dislike the additional “s” after the apostrophe but it falls within appropriate grammar rules :)

We walked in, disappointed when we discovered it was counter service. And this restaurant is a little more confusing than most. Enter through a long hall, with a hard-to-read menu taped on the wall and an arrow pointing you to the order counter.
We gave up on reading the hall menu and headed for the order counter, where we were met by an unfriendly, impatient employee. Sorry - we need a minute to read the over-hanging menu and no one is waiting behind us, so chill.

Our order placed, we attempted to pay but were shushed down the way to another station, attendant needing to be called by the aforementioned employee to take our money. Pick up your silverware, fill your beverage, find a seat, and wait for your order delivery. 
So that’s the negative stuff. Here’s the good stuff. It’s a cool space, complete with a fireplace seating area, and the food is good. The restaurants touts its pizzas but we cannot attest to them. We started with Stuffed Peppadews (sweet piquante peppers stuffed with cranberry goat cheese & prosciutto ham served with fresh mozzarella & balsamic glaze). Beautiful to behold and exquisite to taste.
We never both order the same dish but today we did, picking the Wealthy Street BBQ sandwich from the small menu: seasoned pulled pork mixed with BBQ sauce and topped with homemade coleslaw on a french style hoagie. They came with homemade potato chips and a pickle spear. This was one fine sandwich with delicious bread that is preservative and corn-syrup free.
And we loved the boxed water!
Some additional information about the restaurant: they serve both Coke & Pepsi, there’s an early morning coffee bar and an ice cream bar, their stone oven bakes 10 pizzas at a time, outdoor seating wraps around 2 sides of the building, and they do not have a liquor license. So if you want a beer with your pizza, this is not your spot.

The vintage Grand Rapids photos placed above the 20 or so tables are lovely and interesting, and there are 3 large screen TVs in the restaurant. Their website is cluttered and does not provide their address (just a google map) so check them out on facebook instead.
It’s a curious place, so much better than its Red Hot Inn neighbor, but not as comfortable or welcoming as the nearby Licari’s. We’ll wait to hear what pizza-lovers think about the pizza.

Gus's Original on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Wine, Beer & Food Festival 2012

Please hop over to All Things Grand Rapids (link below) for photos and information on this fantastic event.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Licari’s Sicilian Pizza Kitchen, 2896 Knapp St - 10/25/12

Licari’s was recommended by a friend (thanks, Kendra) and it was a great find. You can’t see it from the road and there is no signage on Knapp. So look for the Crushed Grape and turn in. The restaurant is attached to the backside of Crushed Grape and is near the Celebration Cinema complex for you movie goers.
The narrow space is small with high tops and booths along the windows, and a few tables and the bar fill in the rest of the area. The outdoor patio looks like a pleasant place to be in nice weather.
The menu is also small but interesting.  Five antipasti selections, 5 insalate, 8 pannettis, 6 pasta, and pizza. Opened since April 2012, the restaurant is gathering a well-deserved following.

It has a cool vibe to it and the service was great. Our server took our order on her iPhone and we started with her recommendation, Arancini - crispy rice balls filled with meat sauce and mozzarella. We found them beautifully presented but overly deep fried.  
From the very appetizing selections, we chose the Pasta a la Chef: some family secrets tossed with Gemelli pasta and tomato cream sauce, peas, carrots, and ham. Although we hate secrets, it was a very finely prepared al dente pasta dish.
Linguini con salsiccia e ricotta was our second dish, which consisted of fresh house made sausage, creamy ricotta, and fresh tomato sauce over linguini. Again, the pasta was exquisitely prepared and the combination was delicious.
In order to get garlic bread with your dish, you need to pony up $2.00 more for four slices, but it is worth it. Forget the butter/garlic drenched slices of bread you receive elsewhere. This bread will arrive with a much lighter touch of garlic and butter and accompanied by their house-made tomato sauce.
Left-over boxes are earth-friendly, there is just one large screen TV playing, and the pop-soundtrack music playing was not overly obtrusive. They should lose the Bobby Flay picture and Food Network references, however; we don’t care about Bobby Flay. 

Licari’s is not a fine dining experience like you will receive at Amore Trattoria Italiana but it can stand on its own based on the food and the casual atmosphere. Read the restaurant background on their website where you can also view the menu. We’ll definitely be back.

Licari's Sicilian Pizza Kitchen on Urbanspoon