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Amadeo’s Pizza And Subs – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Amadeo's Pizza & Subs

Amadeo's Pizza & Subs

One of the most exciting times in America’s history was during its Westward expansion when young, unattached men of the time followed the advice of newspaper magnate Horace Greeley and went West in search of opportunity and adventure.

Able-bodied young men forged a path through the wilderness to conquer the untamed West and build another pillar in the manifest destiny inspired foundation upon which America now stands.

We felt that sense of adventure when we trekked Westward in search of Amadeo’s Pizza And Subs, a pizzeria heretofore unbeknown to us until we read the comments of “a voice crying out of the wilderness” on the now defunct Albuquerque Tribune’s Food City

Responding to a call to all pizza hounds, that voice respectfully dissented from popularly preferred pizzerias and cast his lot behind Amadeo’s, a restaurant almost as far West as you can go in Albuquerque and not at all easy to find.

Nestled within the confines of a nondescript shopping center, Amadeo’s is named for its founder Amadeo Garcia (a fellow Air Force retiree) and is run by his affable son Carl and vivacious daughter Cathy Vall (I really should have photographed her, too). It’s been around since 1987, but many of us residents north of I-40 who rarely venture south of that interstate divide have never heard of it–our loss.

Carl Garcia and his vivacious sister Cathy run the 98th Street Restaurant.  A 20" pizza is destined for the table of a lucky diner.

Carl Garcia and his vivacious sister Cathy run the 98th Street Restaurant. A 20" pizza is destined for the table of a lucky diner.

Note: A second Amadeo’s restaurant is located at 3109 South Coors, S.W. and is managed by Amadeo’s other scions Mark and Annette. Carl confided that a third restaurant–in the Taylor Ranch area–is a possibility in the future.

Amadeo’s Pizza and Subs absolutely blew us away during our inaugural visit, reminding me in some ways of the wonderful pizzas of my transitional period between youth and adultery (a malapropism my comedian friends use; I know it’s adulthood) in Massachusetts. A second and soon to be subsequent visits proved our first impression was spot on. Amadeo’s serves some of the very best pizza in New Mexico!

Amadeo’s isn’t much for esthetics and on the day of our inaugural visit, it certainly wasn’t the unmistakable aroma of great pizza that ensnared us because sewage back-up problems relegated the restaurant to an odoriferous state. During our subsequent visit, we were treated to the intoxicating aroma of garlic and the olfactory-memory triggering bouquet of baking dough.

A green (maybe even Boston Celtic green) and white checkerboard tiled floor and green booths seemed so contrary to the stereotypical green and red of many self-proclaimed New York style pizzerias (which Amadeo’s is not). A noisy gaming arcade with shoot-em-up sounds emanating from tinny speakers competed with music piped in overhead from equally tinny sounding speakers.

Two slices of garlic and green chile pizza

Two slices of garlic and green chile pizza

Framed posters of works by Van Gogh and Monet didn’t upscale the ambience, but it’s obvious from the plaques and trophies on the wall that Amadeo’s is an altruistic enterprise which supports the city’s youth.

Amadeo’s menu includes pizzas, submarines, strombolis, salads and spaghetti. Several specialty pizzas (veggie, fire-eater, Hawaii and meaty) are also available in sizes that extend to “The Stomper,” a 20-inch monster cut into 16 slices and the “Mega Stomper,” even bigger at 26-inches. The usual assortment of toppings is also available.

The designer pizza of our inaugural visit was a circular masterpiece comprised of Canadian bacon, green chile, garlic and black olives on a crusty canvas slathered by a lively and tangy tomato sauce.

The thin, buttery crust is perfect for folding ala New York style. The ingredients are top-notch, especially the roasted garlic cloves and slightly caramelized red onions which gave the pizza a memorable taste (and aftertaste).

Tuna sub

Tuna sub

Rarely have we ranted as much about the garlic on any pizza. The green chile isn’t particularly piquant, but it, too, lends a nice, complementary flavor to an outstanding pie. It’s a neon green color and is spread generously on each slice. By the way, if you judge pizza crust by the char around its edges, this one has the right amount to appease any pizza afficionado.

Amadeo’s makes its dough fresh from scratch daily and prepares each pizza by hand, a painstaking process that results in a better product. They use only 100% mozzarella cheese and make their sauce from scratch in the store. Quality shows!

The true test of an outstanding pizza is whether or not it retains its great tastes after sitting in the refrigerator for a few hours. Amadeo’s pizza does! It’s as great cold as it is just out of the oven.

Amadeo’s submarines are good enough for you to stray from the pizza on occasion. The tuna sub, in particular, packs fresh tuna, red onions, lettuce, dill pickle chunks and surprise, surprise…a bit of egg salad, too. It is a fresh and moist sub and the egg salad complement is a real treat.

Like the young men of Greeley’s time, we’ll gladly brave the unknown in search of our fortune–in this case being a memorable pizza from an otherwise forgettable pizzeria.

Amadeo’s Pizza And Subs
809 89th Street
Albuquerque, NM

LATEST VISIT: 28 July 2007
COST: $$
BEST BET: The Stomper with garlic, onions, Canadian bacon, green chile and black olives

Amadeo's Pizza & Subs on Urbanspoon

Mariscos Culiacan – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Mariscos Culiacan

Mariscos Culiacan

As a precocious product (some might say victim) of the American public school system, I learned more about the geography of old Mexico from one song than from twelve years of the best education our tax dollars can buy.

Legendary Mexican crooner Jose Alfredo Jimenez immortalized the city of Culiacan in his hauntingly stirring ballad El Caballo Blanco which recounts a bareback rider’s journey from Guadalajara to Tijuana astride a noble white horse.

In that journey, rider and horse traversed through Escuinapa, Culiacan, Los Mochis, Sonora, El Valle Del Yaqui, Hermosillo, Caborca, Mexicali and Rumorosa. How lyrically poetic and cool are those names?

The name Culiacan, I found out, has been translated by some sources as “place of snakes,” as intriguing a city sobriquet as you can have. Culiacan is the largest city in the Mexican state of Sinaloa with a population of more than 600,000.

Tostados with salsa

Tostados with salsa

Situated in northwest Mexico, Culiacan is approximately forty miles inland which is what makes even more intriguing the name of yet another mariscos restaurant in Albuquerque.

Mariscos Culiacan sprung up in seemingly no time at the Sequoia Square plaza in mid-summer 2007, occupying the suite in which once stood a failed Peruvian restaurant. Its business card promises “Autentico Sabor Sinaloense” or authentic flavor of Sinaloa.

In terms of authenticity, no mariscos restaurant in town feels more like Mexico to me than Mariscos Culiacan.

That means music turned up loud on tinny speakers competing with the sound of a television blaring. There’s variety in that competition. While the radio plays Norteno music, characterized by a polka beat created by the accordion and bajo sexto (a unique 12-string guitar), the television is tuned to a program featuring hip hop Mexican videos. It makes for a unique, albeit noisy, ambience.

A Campechana cocktail

A Campechana cocktail

There is no air conditioning at Mariscos Culiacan. Instead, large floor fans and an ineffective swamp cooler do their best to keep things cool (and thankfully drown out some of the din.

The west wall includes several framed photographs of Culiacan while another wall features framed photographs of several menu items. There are no actual paper or plastic table menus, by the way. A listing of all featured fare is posted above the order counter and it pays to know Spanish because there are no English subtitles. Unlike at other mariscos restaurants in the Duke City, there are also no meat based items on the menu. The marquee reads mariscos and that’s what you’re going to get.

There are three squeeze bottles at each table–mayonesa, ketchup and a bottle labeled “Peligro Salsa Siete Chiles” which means Danger, Seven Chile Salsa. Unlike some Santa Fe restaurants which warn tourists of their hot chile then deliver chile with the potency of tomato sauce, this label means it. This salsa has the kick of an angry mule. Instead of chips, you’re served five or six tostada shells which most diners break into pieces.

Ceviche Mixto

Ceviche Mixto

Beverages are primarily Jarritos and Coke products bottled in Mexico which means real sugar and really acidic. Soft drink options include a non-diet version of Fresca, a grapefruit flavored soda which was very popular in the early 70s as well as a refreshing manzana (apple) soda. Aguas frescas, not including horchata, are also available.

Tostadas de Ceviche are available in three varieties–pescado (fish), camaron (shrimp) or mixto (a combination of fish and shrimp). Atop a crispy shell are piled fish and shrimp marinated in citrus juice along with red onion, tomato and cilantro. Mexican tostadas are not nearly as brittle as their American counterparts so the entire concoction doesn’t come crumbling down on your lap when you bite into it.

At any mariscos restaurant just about anywhere, at least one diner at each table seems to be partaking of the unique Mexican seafood cocktail called the Campechana. That’s the case as well at Mariscos Culiacan.

Served in a large stemmed glass, a Campechana cocktail includes shrimp, whitefish (or abalone), scallops, oysters, mussels, baby squid and octopus mixed with diced tomatoes, onions, lime juice, avocado, Clamato and cilantro.

Camaron Costa Azul

Camaron Costa Azul

Campecana is as murky as some of the water in which the seafood ingredients were caught, but don’t let appearances fool you. This is a fresh and delicious entree, especially if you douse it liberally with some of that Peligro salsa. It’s sweet, piquant, tart and briny all at once.

If raw, yucky looking seafood isn’t your thing, Mariscos Culiacan can accommodate your preference for all things fried.

The camarones Costa Azul (Blue Coast Shrimp) is a very good option. Six giant shrimp (my favorite oxymoron) are stuffed with queso Mexicana then enrobed in Mexican bacon for a taste you’ll risk shark-infested waters to obtain. The bacon is neither too crispy or too flaccid so it wraps around the shrimp perfectly. The shrimp is sweet and succulent with just a bit of snap to each bite.

This entree is served with French fries (out of the bag) and Mexican fried rice with those crunchy little carrot bits.

Mariscos Culiacan
3250 Coors Blvd, N.W.
Albuquerque, NM

LATEST VISIT: 25 July 2007
COST: $$
BEST BET: Camarones Costa Azul, Tostada de Ceviche Mixto, Cocotele Campechano

Stop And Eat Drive In – Española, New Mexico

Stop and Eat in Espanola, New Mexico

The world-famous Stop and Eat in Espanola, New Mexico: On the New Mexico Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail

Stop And Eat–Although it seems this 50s style drive-in has always been at its Paseo De Oñate location, it hadn’t yet opened in 1598 when don Juan de Oñate led his expedition of Spanish colonists to the east bank of the Rio Grande near its confluence with the Chama River. That’s where they founded San Gabriel, New Mexico’s first capital at a site close to present day Española, home of the Stop And Eat restaurant.

While Stop And Eat might sound like a mandate, it’s really more of a strong suggestion that will visit your brain every time you drive by this restaurant. All it takes is one visit and you’ll be hooked.

This 50’s style drive-in not only has an inviting name, it’s got an inviting location on a busy intersection. It’s also got an inviting menu replete with delicious fast food New Mexico style. It’s one of a dying breed, a drive-in under whose canopy you can park your car, walk to an order window to place your order and wait to be called over a loudspeaker.

Stop And Eat features the type of Americana roadfood atmosphere Michael and Jane Stern like so it’s no surprise that this relatively obscure restaurant has been featured on their Roadfood Web site. The Sterns observed that despite its drive-in facade, this restaurant has no carhop service or picnic tables on which to dine. All it’s got is excellent roadside cuisine…scratch that, it’s roadside food. Stop And Eat makes no pretence about serving “cuisine.”

Alas, with its Anglicized spelling of “chili,” Stop And Eat may lend credence to the infamous Española jokes, New Mexico’s equivalent of Polish jokes. The menu, posted on a painted slab of plywood, spells it “chili” in several places. That’s the only faux pas this restaurant makes…and its chile is a fire-breather’s special as in muy piquante, as in the hottest green chile cheeseburger in New Mexico piquant!

The burgers are liberally endowed with fresh ingredients, among which green chile is a must. Ask for a jumbo twin, two saucer sized meat patties if you’re famished or even if you’re not and just want to maximize the sensory delights of eating a very good burger. I took two photos of the green chile cheeseburger but neither turned out clearly. Attribute that to the hiccups caused by the piquant heat generated by this excellent burger.

At Stop And Eat, the tacos are terrific, especially the rolled tacos (and nowhere in the world can you find rolled tacos as good as in Espanola) which are hand-rolled and definitely not the cigar shaped mass produced messes you find at warehouse stores throughout New Mexico. These beauties are stuffed with a bean, meat and chile (my spellchecker wouldn’t allow another misspelled version) blend.

Contrary to what you might find at other restaurants, the Frito pie contains no beans or cheese, but it does possess some of the best capsaicin laden red chile, well seasoned ground beef and at least one chip in every spoonful. It’s among the best Frito pies in the north.

The shakes are delicious–a bit thin, but always cold which really helps on a hot summer day.

Stop And Eat Drive In
110 E Paseo De Onate
Española, NM

LATEST VISIT: 21 July 2007
BEST BET: Rolled tacos, Shakes, Burgers, Frito Pie

Stop & Eat Drive-In on Urbanspoon