Arthur Hebert Thursday, July 18, 2013 0

5c2361d61a77f987ffff8494ffffd523723 Ryan St., 337-491-1847

This venue occupies the space that has housed restaurants ranging from Asian to gourmet sandwich. It has a huge menu. If is seems a bit familiar, that’s because it comes from Southeast Texas, like Joe’s and Tuscany. There are enough different dishes on the menu here, though, to make it interesting. The bad thing for me is that the cooks here seem to over-sauce their pasta. I haven’t reached the stage of wanting al dente pasta, but I have reached the stage of not wanting my pasta over-sauced. These days, I prefer having my pasta lightly sauced, with no overrun. Since there is pasta with virtually every dish here, it’s not good for me. If I don’t mention the pasta, you can assume it is over-sauced. My other problem with this place is that the red sauce is way too acidic for my taste.

The meals here all start with a basket of garlic rolls, similar to the other Southeast Texas places. Since parking is at a premium, I usually just pass by to see if there’s a spot.  I was lucky one day and found a spot, and went in for lunch. I started off with a spinach and egg soup, also called stracciatella. It’s similar to egg drop soup, however, the cooked egg strands clings to the spinach. I found it delicious, especially with the nice chicken broth it was in. Next, I tried a lunch special called chicken aristocrat: sautéed white meat chicken medallions topped with fried eggplant slices in a pink sauce (50/50 marinara and alfredo). The chicken was moist and tender, and the eggplant added an earthiness to it. I ended my meal with a decent piece of tiramisu.

On my next visit, I was accompanied by my usual dining companion for dinner. With dinner items you not only get the rolls, but a nice green salad of leaf lettuces. I recommend the house dressing, which is basil tomato vinaigrette. We opted for a stuffed mushroom appetizer. We received crabmeat-stuffed medium mushrooms covered in pink sauce. They were good, although I prefer alfredo sauce.  She ordered chicken sorrentini, which is similar to the Aristocrat (which she loves), except for the addition of mozzarella on top of the chicken and eggplant. It was prepared in a sherry wine sauce. I tasted it, and it was as delightful as my lunch dish. Those who read my column know I love eggplant. I opted for an oven dish called eggplant rolatini: fried eggplant slices rolled up with a ricotta and spinach filling. They are placed in a baking dish and cooked in the marinara sauce topped with cheese — no pasta.  The sauce that had been absorbed into the eggplant was okay, but the sauce around the dish was too acidic for me. The creaminess of the ricotta, the green taste of the spinach and the earthiness of the eggplant made for a delicious dish.

On my next visit, I ordered the fried ravioli.  It was over-fried, leaving hard pasta and a dried interior. Then I ordered what I thought was a no-brainer, linguini ali olio. It should have come to the table barely coated in the olive oil, and thickened with a little pasta water.  Instead, I got a gloppy mess of pasta over-sauced with a thickened chicken broth and hunks of banana pepper. It was too disgusting to eat. A piece of Italian cream cake soothed me in the end.

On my last visit, I started with tortellini soup, which, traditionally, is filled pasta cooked in a broth. Instead, I got minestrone soup with the tortellini added in. The St. Peter’s tilapia was excellent. The fish was cooked to perfection (flaky and moist) in a white wine sauce with mushrooms and canned artichoke hearts. The rather bland fish absorbed the wonderful sauce of earthy mushroom and artichoke flavor. As a bonus, the pasta was not over-sauced. It was delicious.

It’s nice to know they have a few items I enjoy. You will have to make up your own mind whether this is a place for you. There is no wrong decision, just a matter of your taste. By the way, they do pizza also, but they start at a size that is meant for two or more.