M’TUCCI’S MARKET & PIZZERIA – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Greek mythology recounts the story of Tantalus, progeny of a divine parent (Zeus himself) and a mortal one. Uniquely favored among mortals by being invited to share the food of the gods, Tantalus abused that privilege by slaying his own son and feeding him to the gods as a test of their omniscience. The gods immediately figured out what Tantalus had done and in their rage condemned him to the deepest portion of the underworld where he would be forever…

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…

JOE’S PASTA HOUSE – Rio Rancho, New Mexico

Once a year, despite my protestations and whining, I agree to take my Kim to the Olive Garden. It’s a deal we have, albeit one that makes me feel like Faust in the Christopher Marlowe play. Faust, for the non-English majors among you was a scholar who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasures. In my case, the deal is a visit to Olive Garden once a year in exchange for all the…

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…

Torinos’ @ Home – Albuquerque, New Mexico

I love Italian food but that’s too generic a term for what’s available now: you have to narrow it down to Tuscan, Sicilian, and so on.” ~ Lee Child, Author “You don’t want to be the guy who follows a legend; you want to be the guy who follows the guy who follows the legend.” That tried and proven sports adage applies in every walk-of-life. Indeed, if you’re the person who has to succeed a beloved living legend, you’ll invariably…

Il Bosco – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

The customer in the Italian restaurant was so pleased that he asked to speak to the chef. The owner proudly led him into the kitchen and introduced him to the chef. “Your veal parmigiana was superb,” the customer said. “I just spent a month in Italy, and yours is better than any I ever had over there.” “Naturally,” the chef said. “Over there, they use domestic cheese. Ours is imported.” While we were perusing the menu at Il Bosco, my…

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…

Zullo’s Bistro – Albuquerque, New Mexico

“When I am an old woman I shall wear purple With a red hat that doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me, And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.” ~Jenny Joseph “Only you,” my Kim chided me “would approach an Italian bistro and associate it with a poem considered an ode to nonconformity.” It couldn’t be helped. My mind just works that way. Besides, purple is prominent…

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.…