GIGI ITALIAN BISTRO – Albuquerque, New Mexico

“If you can go through with what Gordon Ramsey puts you through there’s nothing much more you can do. I mean the berating from that guy is unbelievable, but the reward is even greater.” ~ Chef Robert Hesse Chef Robert Hesse isn’t the man he used to be. In fact, he’s literally and figuratively a shadow of his former self. Once tipping the scales at over 600 pounds and espousing the attitude that you should “never trust a skinny chef,”…

Farina Pizzeria – Albuquerque, New Mexico

On May 14, 2011, I had the great honor, pleasure and privilege of being the first guest on Break the Chain, the weekly radio show (sadly no longer on the air) dedicated to showcasing the great independent mom-and-pop restaurants in and around Albuquerque.  When the show’s charismatic host, my friend Ryan Scott asked me to name the five best pizza restaurants in the Albuquerque area, I omitted Ryan’s very favorite — and he yelled at me (good-naturedly (I think)).  I…

Davido’s Pizza & More – Rio Rancho, New Mexico

Some might call the American Realty and Petroleum Company (AMREP for short) a pioneering visionary for its early 1960s purchase of over 50,000 acres on the dusty Sandoval County plains that are now Rio Rancho. Others use different–and not necessarily as complimentary–adjectives to describe the land speculator whose clever marketing attracted hundreds of New Yorkers (among others) to the then untamed western fringes overlooking the Rio Grande. They came because Rio Rancho was a “lucrative investment” with half acre lots…

M’Tucci’s Moderno – Rio Rancho, New Mexico

“If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere It’s up to you, New York, New York.” ~Frank Sinatra Jeff Spiegel, managing partner of the insanely popular M’Tucci’s family of restaurants has described flagship restaurant M’Tucci’s Italian Restaurant (previously M’Tucci’s Kitchina) as “as good as anything we did in New York City.” That is really saying something considering over the course of 23 years, Jeff and his wife, life and business partner Katie Gardner owned and operated eleven restaurants…

Urban 360 Pizza, Grill and Tap House – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Babu: Our specials are tacos, moussaka and franks and beans. Jerry: Well, what do you recommend my good fellow? Babu:Oh, the turkey. ~”The Cafe, Seinfeld, Season 3, Episode 7 While perusing the menu at Urban 360 Pizza, Grill and Tap House, my ever-witty friend Ryan “Break the Chain” Scott commented that the menu reminded him of The Dream, the very eclectic restaurant owned and operated by Pakistan emigrant Babu Bhatt in an uproariously funny episode of Seinfeld. As Jerry Seinfeld…

Turtle Mountain Brewing Company – Rio Rancho, New Mexico

The Tewa name “Oku Pin” which translates in English to “Turtle Mountain” has three meanings of significance to the people of Okay Owingeh, one of New Mexico’s great Tewa speaking Northern New Mexico Pueblos. “Oku Pin” was the the Indian name given to Dr. Alfonso Ortiz who obtained worldwide prominence as an anthropologist and ethnologist until his death in 1998. Ortiz was born and raised in San Juan Pueblo which in 2006 officially changed its name to Okay Owingeh. “Oku…

Groundstone – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Kids say the darnedest things. That was the premise of popular radio and television shows hosted by Art Linkletter from the mid 1940s through 1969. Linkletter would engage children (usually aged three to eight) in casual conversation. Humor–often laced with double entendre–would often ensue out of the children’s naive and silly responses. Once, for example, he asked a little girl to spell Art, his name. She proceeded to spell the host’s name R-A-T. Most parents can relate to the unpredictable…

PK’s Restaurant & Bar – Albuquerque, New Mexico

When the Air Force notified me I was being reassigned to Royal Air Force (RAF) Fairford, friends who had been stationed in England warned me, “you can forget all about your favorite sports for three years. Instead of football, basketball and baseball, the only “sports” televised in England are snooker, darts and soccer.” “Snooker?,” I asked. “Isn’t that a mushy term of endearment similar to darling?” “No,” one responded, “that’s snookums. Snooker is a type of billiards game, but not…

Sauce Pizza & Wine – Albuquerque, New Mexico

To celebrate the 100 year anniversary of pizza in America, James Beard Award-winning food writer Ed Levine ate nothing but pizza for an entire twelve month period, taking a representative pulse of the best from among thousands of pizza purveyors. His terrific tome, Pizza A Slice of Heaven, published in 2010, provides a definitive guide to a beloved staple that in its elemental form is simplicity itself–bread, cheese and whatever toppings a pizzaioli artisan might care to add. To the…

Village Pizza – Corrales, New Mexico

Research has proven that taste buds are dulled by high altitude and cabin pressure, so as an aircraft climbs, our sense of taste diminishes by as much as 30 percent. That explains why many passengers praise airline food on flights in which meals are actually served. It’s probably not that the food is good; it’s more likely that their sense of taste is diminished. Alas, it’s not solely high altitude and cabin pressure which can diminish the sense of taste.…

Farina Alto – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Much thought, deliberation and market research usually goes into the naming of a business, but every once in a while, one linguistic aspect or another isn’t fully explored to the nth degree. Take for example Chevrolet’s problems marketing the Nova in Latin America where the term “no va” means “it won’t go” in Spanish. Even though the Nova sold quite well, the car’s name wasn’t without irony and humor. (Yes, I know the Nova story is an urban myth, but…

Irrational Pie – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Jethro Bodine, the country bumpkin with diverse career aspirations (brain surgeon, street car conductor, ‘double-naught’ spy, Hollywood producer, soda jerk, and bookkeeper) on the Beverly Hillbillies television comedy graduated highest in his class by a whole foot or more. You couldn’t get much past the sixth grade educated “six-foot stomach.” When a math teacher posited the theory of π r2 (pi r squared), Jethro wasn’t fooled: “Uncle Jed, them teachers is tryin’ to tell us that pie are square. Shoot,…

ECLECTIC URBAN PIZZERIA AND TAP HOUSE – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Looking around our table, my friend Ryan “Break the Chain” Scott astutely pointed out the relative scarcity of pizza at our table. Considering the Eclectic Urban Pizzeria and Tap Room may have been the most eagerly awaited pizzeria to open in Albuquerque in years, you’d think a phalanx of foodies would be devouring our weight in pizza…and while three pulchritudinous pies did grace our table, so did such eclectic fare as pho, chicken wings, roasted chicken and Chimichurri skirt steak…

Forghedaboudit – Deming, New Mexico

Several years ago, former New York Times food editor Sam Sifton posited the “Pizza Cognition Theory” which declared “the first slice of pizza a child sees and tastes (and somehow appreciates on something more than a childlike level) becomes, for him, pizza. He will defend this interpretation to the end of his life.” Because Sifton grew up in Brooklyn Heights, New York and was exposed to great pizza at a very early age, the Pizza Cognition Theory makes sense It…

Pizzeria Luca – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Can there truly be too many pizzerias? Perhaps only among pizzeria owners who don’t want much competition might you hear that ridiculous notion about one of America’s essential food groups. Take for example one monopoly-minded pizzeria owner in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania who had a resolute belief that there was too much competition in the area and determined to do something about it. It apparently didn’t dawn on him that by serving a better pizza or lowering prices, his business might…