Road Trip Hit: Mezzaluna Italiano (Crescent City, CA)
Posted by Caveman Cooking on July 8, 2010
When I’m on the road, there’s nothing better than stumbling into an unfamiliar town (preferably small enough to throw a Frisbee across) and finding a hidden gastronomic gem. I feel as if I’ve miraculously discovered some pirate’s buried treasure … without a map! The only difference is, I can’t wait to share this find with everyone I know. 😉
Hence, the start of a fun new series here on C3: Road Trip Hits. Taking a page from Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, this ongoing series will feature some of those little known paragons of road-trip rations.
Before we get to this delicious local Italian bistro in this quaint Northern California coastal town, let me brag a bit about our hotel room and, in doing so, give you one of my favorite Road Trip Tips. You see the beautiful shot, on the right here, of the sunset on the beach, taken by the lovely and talented Cavewoman? That was taken from the balcony of our hotel room. Yeah, baby … we were beachfront! And, it was only $136 for the four of us, including a hot breakfast the next morning!!
“How is it so, Caveman?!?”, you may be asking. A very simple road trip trick I picked up years ago. First, you need to be able to fly by the seat of your pants a bit. If you are one of those people that just has to have your plans pretty much set in stone well in advance, this isn’t going to work for you. So, go ahead and skip down to the restaurant review. Though, if you are a bit more laissez faire in your travels, follow along: Call an hour or two ahead on the day of your arrival and see how much availability the hotel/motel has and what their best rate is. When they tell you, thank them and tell them you’ll let them know shortly. If they have a good amount of rooms available, drive directly to the hotel and ask the same question in person (don’t tell them you called ahead, unless they offer you a rate higher than you were quoted on the phone). Usually they will offer you the same room at an even better rate. We did this here and the best rate (with a AAA discount) that the Hampton Inn & Suites gave us on the phone was $189 for a non-view room. When we arrived an hour forty five later the rate had miraculously dropped $53, which put it within our budget (barely) and more than payed for our lip-smackin’-good dinner. Plus, it had magically improved to an ocean-view room! SCORE!!
When we walked in there were only two other patrons in the cozy 12 table trattoria-decorated restaurant. Not usually a good sign, but we felt committed at that point since we hadn’t planned on an “Option B”. But, when the fresh homemade Rustic Herbed Bread arrived, with Olive Oil & Balsamic Vinegar for dipping, our hopes were quickly raised. Much as a Mexican restaurant can often be quickly appraised by it’s chips and salsa, one in the Italian genre can be discerned by it’s bread, oil and vinegar.
Our house salads were very good, and their Blue Cheese Dressing is very unique and definitely worth a try. Cavewoman decided to try their Deep Fried Ravioli stuffed with cheese and topped with their Creamy Marinara sauce. I went with their Garlic Herb Chicken served over Linguini noodles, also covered with their Creamy Marinara Sauce, and topped with melted parmesan and mozzarella. Both entrees were served with Ratatouille. Yes, that is traditionally a French dish. But, Mezzaluna Italiano gives it a flare fitting of the cuisine by adding Italian spices and topping it with melted Mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses.
The Deep Fried Raviolis were unbelievable! I was expecting it to taste like something you’d get in the frozen section from Chef Boyardee. Instead it was a flavorful crunchy encasing for a delectably creamy complex filling. It certainly held the my wife speechless for a good 30 minutes – other than for exclamations of “Oh my God! This is SO good!!”
My Garlic Herb Chicken was equally astounding. In fact, I still can’t decide which dish was better. The chunks of chicken were moist, tender and full of flavor, surrounded by sauteed mushrooms and caramelized onions, piled onto perfectly cooked pasta, and bathed in a sauce that made the dish so enjoyable that I ended up sharing it with both the Cavekids. The Caveboy was especially taken with it, calling the dish one of the best things he’s ever tasted in his six and eleven-twelfths years! He quickly added, “Besides the stuff that you make, Dad!” I guess he knows who butters his bread, eh?!? 😆
Unfortunately, the portions were so large, and good, we didn’t leave room for any dessert. But, is that really a problem when the food is too tempting to stop piling into your pie-hole?!? 😉 Next time you find yourself in the most northern coastal Cali town (just 20 miles from the Oregon border) try to get a “cheap” room at the Hampton Inn, say “Hi” to Ben at the desk, and ask him for directions (about 4 or 5 blocks away) to Mezzaluna Italiano.
©2010 Caution: Caveman Cooking/UHearMe, Inc. All rights reserved. This originally appeared on the Caution: Caveman Cooking blog at http://cavemancooking.net authored by Caveman. This may be shared and reprinted as long as this entire copyright message accompanies it.