Your authoress would like you to know that her book of poems HAIKU4U is now available on OhioEdit for purchase here, here, and here. Also as the spokesmodel for The Mystery GT would like you to know Eternity Without Limits has manifested.
TRIUMVIRATE: Pizza Fries, Nachos Italianos, Loaded Pasta Chips
The journey to ingesting 2nd and 3rd generation Americanized snack/street food hybrids begins with a single step. And maybe a bit of a dare to oneself. I amgoal-oriented gal and summit, I did: Base Camp I, Pizza Fries; Base Camp II, Nachos Italianos; Base Camp III, Loaded Pasta Chips. As to why the climb the mountain I wonder (when not reeling from its horrors) if I don’t just find civilization hilarious.
I would have thrown in a Pizza Donut, Spaghetti Fries, and Papa John’s* Fritos ™ Chili Pizza if they were in existence in Boston (I called, I wrote—no soap). Just as well. I will be digesting those Loaded Pasta Chips the rest of my life. Rumor has it Crab Rangoon nachos can be found in Boston. Go get ‘em. I have worshipped at the temple of nachos. I will worship again. But perhaps give it a week or two.
Pregaming: Created accountability by announcing the evening’s Pizza Fry intention whether persons indicated interest in the subject or not.
Discovered: walking by sub shop, saw photo, antenna began waving rapidly
Location: will remain undisclosed. Writing about a Mom/Pop place in a public forum for any other reason than to enthuse/rave seems dubious. The product was as promised, the place clean, proprietor polite and professional, so a ‘meh’ review for, jeez—*ckin’ pizza fries? —I mean how gastronomically disappointed am I allowed to be? —strikes me as unfair.
Description in menu: pizza fries
Presentation: emphasis on the pizza
Comprised of: French fries, pizza cheese, pepperoni, ketchup when requested
Cheese pull: yes
Second life (leftovers): not recommended
Would I eat them again: no
Did I hate them: no
Would I travel specifically to order them again: no
Would I order something else from this establishment: yes
At first, 8 dollars for Pizza Fries seemed a bit steep. I had not counted on the portion size, which would prove to be right for 3-5 people depending on levels of hunger, gastronomical fitness, weed smoked, hangover food needs, and/or general appreciation of product. BTW, this is not only demonstration of imagination by the establishment, as they also offer Steak and Cheese Onion Rings and Falafel Pizza. Another day, friends.
I ordered and positioned myself in front of the TV to wait, shivering in anticipation (read: watching lawsuit-fishing ads for those afflicted by faulty surgical hernia mesh). About 10 minutes later, I trotted up and retrieved my aluminum pan (they always look like dog bowl to me, but not unpleasantly), with a plastic knife and fork stabbed thoughtfully atop the mound. I slid into my booth and somehow being the only one person in the place heightened my senses. I took a moment to eyeball and smellball the full grease-glistening pile (see photo). It was very very real to me. And then I imagined if it was as big as 16” pizza—what a vista that might be.
I was surprised there was no tomato sauce. I would have put pizza sauce on Pizza Fries and risked the sogginess—but this was not my vision. I was offered ketchup. Fine, I love ketchup. I actually have used ketchup as spaghetti sauce in the bad old days. The fries were commendable, crispy and well-fried. The cheese and pepperoni had fully adhered to the fries and begun to brown up, proving this was not a cursory round in the oven but baked with commitment and purpose.
But as I progressed, I just could not get into the spirit thing. I would extricate fries from cheese, dunk them in ketchup. I’d peel off a coin of pepperoni and eat that, then saw out a wedge of fries clumped with cheese but then remove the cheese and eat that separately. It was not fastidious but unconscious. I could not eat it in harmony. Pizza Fries and I just weren’t a match. What I declare a total success was that my cherished uptight churchy white 70’s y coat which seemed doomed the moment I walked in, remained unblemished by ketchup or grease.
Postscript: I was inspired—and moved—after a colleague disclosed she occasionally dumps French fries directly atop a slice of pizza.
NACHOS ITALIANO (Pizza Nachos)
Pregaming: looking up ‘alternative’ nachos recipes online (cornbread, breakfast, tater tot, dessert, a trompe-l’œil cake). And undertook light snacking so I’d have plenty of real estate for pizza nachos to reside. Also, googlemapping/calculating best time to go considering loathsome(that’s too much) brunch crowds, shopping plans, etc.
Location: Ducali Pizzeria & Bar
Description in menu: “Pizza dough chips baked with mozzarella cheese, hot pepper and salami. Served with a spicy tomato sauce.”
Comprised of: as stated in menu, with bits of herbs and such
Cheese Pull: yes
Second life (leftovers): thumbs up
Would I eat them again: yes but not make such a big deal about it
Did I hate them: nay, I liked them
Would I travel specifically to order them again: probably not
Would I order something else from this establishment: absolutely
I called first to make sure Nachos Italianos were still on the menu. After a day of intensive thrifting and monster decision fatigue, I was in a mood to get exactly what I wanted. Not what I might want in a few months, wanted five years ago, wanted hypothetically for years but now confronted with it was not sure anymore, might want if I could be bothered to replace a zipper, or want because I think someone else would want it. FYI, we as a culture do not to make any more new clothes for the next 100 years
Happily, the Nachos Italianos game was still on, and, I learned, the most popular appetizer on the menu. About 45 minutes later, after a T ride, short wander through the North End, and interactions with a pleasant, friendly waitstaff, I sat mano-a-mano with my Nachos Italianos, which seemed to be waving at me. Hello, there, friends, I waved back (metaphorically). Unlike Pizza Fries who had a dutiful perhaps even slightly bewildered air, Nacho Italianos met you half-way. They were there.
You could call it deconstructed pizza but I’d rather not. I think we’ve all overdosed on that word —have we? Is there a Narcan for that? Anyway. They are comprised of large chip-sized “chips” of pizza dough baked with mozzarella (restaurant-y, care-about-cheese cheese) with at least two kinds of peppers and salami (vs. pepperoni). What was particularly nice about Nachos Italianos was the variegated texture that resulted from the baking. The ingredients were spread equally throughout both vertically and horizontally which PSA is much more important in nachos success than widely recognized. There was no sauce underneath the cheese, etc.—the sauce was in the center in a cup a la salsa. I was less jazzed about the sauce, but due to a higher-than-usual-consumption of Ragu/Market Basket of late I might have forgotten there were other textures. This marinara was a bid for parallel-universe salsa, not that it tasted like salsa, but it was spicy, a little thinner than jarred grocery store magic goo. Also it had more ambition to be actual tomato sauce.
These were legit good. I probably would have been happy though with all these things configured as pizza. But, despite signs to the contrary, I am a conventional soul.
Postscript: the glutted sensation here was pleasant which I think is often a testimony to higher-quality ingredients.
LOADED PASTA NACHOS
Pregaming: watching old Olive Garden ads from 90’s, googling to see if the Italian Anti-Defamation League had anything on record RE: OG and stereotyping
Discovered: hot tip
Location: Olive Garden
Description in menu: House-made pasta chips, lightly fried and layered with Italian cheeses and a hearty three-meat sauce. Topped with cherry peppers and an alfredo drizzle.** **Our meat sauces include pan-seared beef and Italian sausage.
Presentation: chaotic evil?
Comprised of: see above, but there were also chunks of chicken thrown in lagniappe fashion
Cheese Pull: no
Second life (leftovers): yes, I ate most of the rest the next day—cold, no less
Would I order them again: no
Did I hate them: no
Would I travel specifically to order them again: no
Would I order something else from the establishment’s menu: sure
Look, I don’t know how to tell you this, but: I did not find them terrible. To acknowledge this feels just a little like a failed character test. Loaded Pasta Nachos have the potential to be off-putting for any number of reasons to so many: anti-capitalists, nutritionists, vegans, vegetarians, clean-eaters, real-fooders, slow fooders, gourmands, anyone with a digestive ailment, and people who like Italian food. But when slid down in front of me by a very young waitstaff gamely trying to keep with the OG ‘treat-them-like-family’ party line while being busy as heck I did not feel…anything. Am I dead inside after all?
I’m not sure if I ate or…just cooperated. I wondered if some mindless sheep-like conditioning of the American Consumer was taking over as I munched my way through. I had thoughts like “okay, sure, kinda yum,” in the mildest way it’s possible to think such things to oneself. I just could not take umbrage at their existence.
However, the lack of excitement does not meant there was not some peril, namely gastronomical. Do not attempt if your digestive system is not currently in the tippiest-toppiest shape. I ate one too many and I knew it the second it hit my stomach. I would argue with the lightly fried description—I found them very, very fried. The alfredo sauce, in lieu of sour cream, I could have done without. But next day there I was munching away at the leftovers–cold no less– which you’d think that would just have to be terrible—but that was OK too. Banality of evil? Ah, who knows.
Perhaps I’d describe these a little like a shipboard romance—no regrets that it happened but…prolong it more than a night or two? No, not necessary.
For someone who can give a side-eye to the cross-pollinating going on in upscale restaurants—your lemon-grass-infused squid ink pasta with sage and lapsang souchong sausage—I do seem to be game to try to all kinds of intermingling of snack foods that is basically in the Superbowl bacchanalia ouvre. Such as whatever fevered daydream (or board room meeting) begot loaded deep-fried pasta (lasagna I believe) chips. And while, yes, that upscale stuff can seem like self-deluded gourmet bunchball to me, I’m also doing that defensive thing people revert to where they roll their eyes to hide the fact that don’t understand what’s going on. I am out of my depth with too much gourmand-ery. It’s also a lot more $$$ than for something you’re just taking a twirl around the block.
All this is to say, I would like to revisit what exactly is the nature of adventurousness, food or otherwise–how much economics have to do with it, nature, nurture, etc. I shall have to chew that one over.
I would also like to see a nachos installation (made out of giant pillows) you could crawl around in a vast room. How that experience would change any of my opinions I don’t know. But I think it might be fun.
Postscript: on the way to Olive Garden I watched a man, yes, jump off a bridge, and despite near heart attack, ran over to see he’d actually dropped down to a landing where a tent where a few other people were living in what seemed pretty difficult circumstances. The same man yelled (and I do mean yelled) at me as I passed over the bridge on the way home, like Billy Goat Gruff. What does this have to do with Loaded Pasta Nachos? Not sure. But: American dream, American nightmare, let’s call the whole thing off.
THE NACHOS SIGNIFIER ENIGMA
So through the infallible test of social media I asked social media friends if they consider nachos a sign of an unexamined life. What I really meant to ask was in movies, tv, various art forms, are nachos a food that are used to signify a character are leading an unexamined life. I am pro-nachos, whatever they do or do not mean. That was confusing. Anyway, some agreed, some answered the question I asked rather than one I meant to ask (how could they?), and some thought in either case–nay, nay. Those that agreed pointed out movies/tv as reference point and also the devil-may-care manner in which nachos are constructed vs., say a vol-au-vent (etc.). Then someone also pointed out nachos can be a signifier of letting go of an over-examined life embracing the joy, the spontaneity, etc.
I thought you’d want to know.