Piccolino Italian Restaurant – Santa Fe, New Mexico

When I asked Gaby (our server Gabriela) what the Italian name “Piccolino” translates to, she didn’t have a clue.  She asked Olga Tarango-Jimenez, the restaurant’s co-owner who also seemed at a loss, but shared the restaurant’s very interesting history.  When my Kim Googled “Piccolino, she found it translates to “little one” and has such slang alternatives as “teeny weeny.”  Talk about a fitting name.  I joked with Gaby that if she ever called her diminutive in stature boss “teeny weeny” she’d probably find out her boss has a giant temper. Just how small is Piccolino?  Before its transmogrification into one of Santa Fe’s most popular Italian restaurants, its Liliputian digs housed a Church’s chicken and before that a gas station.…

Mario’s Pizza & Ristorante – Albuquerque, New Mexico

In the 1978 movie Same Time Next Year, Ellen Burstyn’s character lamented that her husband considered his years in the Army the best years of his life. When Alan Alda’s character, her partner in a 26-year adulterous affair, commiserated that many men felt that way about their time in the military, Burstyn retorted, “but he spent two years as a prisoner of war.” Only a husband who wants to sleep on the couch would admit to any source of happiness outside of marriage… and only an honest answer to the loaded question “does this dress make me look fat“ is more deleterious to any amorous prospects. When I speak fondly to my lovely bride about how much I cherished my…

Cibo – Phoenix, Arizona

Inasmuch as they’re both Romance languages, there are a lot of similarities between Spanish and Italian.  Because Spanish was my first language, if spoken slowly enough I can probably understand thirty-percent of what is spoken in Italian.  Alas, not all Spanish and Italian terms are lexical cognates.  That is, they don’t have the same etymology or derivation.  For example, the Italian term “mangia” means “eat up” (naturally, it’s one of my favorite Italian words) while perhaps its closest Spanish equivalent is “come.”  Another Italian culinary term every self-respecting gastronome recognizes is “cibo” which translates in English to “food.” In Italy, life revolves around the preparation and enjoyment of good food (cibo buono).   Hmm, maybe I should have been born…

Bottega Pizzeria Ristorante – Glendale, Arizona

In a Phoenix.org feature published in November, 2022, David Tynda declared that Phoenix is a top city for pizza. “I say to people that I believe Phoenix is the pizza capital of the U.S. and I wait for them to slap me across the face,” said Tyda, the co-manager of Phoenix Festivals.  The Matador Network agreed: “Phoenix is a slice of pizza heaven. Yes, that Phoenix, the one where it’s nearly hot enough in the summer to cook said pizza on the sidewalk. While Chicago and New York were dueling it out for pizza supremacy, Phoenix was quietly building an army of pizza joints that could dethrone Naples.” Not that very long ago, most of the nation’s crusty cognoscenti conceded…

Uptown Saggio’s Scratch Italian Kitchen – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Can you imagine the outcry if Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham tried to abolish New Mexico’s sacrosanct red and green chile because the Department of Cultural Affairs Secretary convinced her that chile doesn’t bring out the best in New Mexicans?  Such a treasonous and heretical act would probably provoke outrage, if not an outright revolution.  Thankfully our Governor is a tremendous advocate for our home state’s hallowed and official state vegetable.  Regardless of your political affiliation, you can’t help puffing up your chest with pride when she responds to a snarky tweet from Colorado’s governor claiming Colorado’s chile is superior. That dystopian scenario sounds too outlandish to ever happen.  It would be akin to Italy trying to abolish pasta.  Wait, that…

Sal’s Ristorante & Pizzeria – Albuquerque, New Mexico

“Everything you see, I owe to spaghetti.” ~Sophia Loren The ageless movie siren, perhaps the most voluptuous octogenarian in the world, is hardly a proponent of low carb diets, admitting to daily dosages of macaroni. She maintains her classic hourglass figure by limiting portions–never consuming too many calories in one meal–and by not overloading pasta with rich, thick cream or cheese sauces. Though La Dolce Sophia once told a Sunday morning CBS program that she cannot diet, she actually does adhere to a strict Mediterranean diet which advocates a lot of vegetables, olive oil, pasta and red wine. That Sophia Loren maintains a figure women half her age envy is a credit to her discipline.  For many of us, Italian…

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 in The Big Apple. Those eclectic eleven were highly regarded dining establishments, earning praise and acclaim from the dining public and media alike. One, The West End Bar & Grill, was a legendary Columbia University institution and veritable second home…

Nick & Jimmy’s Bar & Grill – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Legendary American chef, author and television personality Julia Child was often exasperated with what she perceived as American’s propensity for culinary laziness, once commenting that “the trend in the U.S.A. was toward speed and the elimination of work.” “Americans,” she noted, equated as “gourmet” such “horrible glop” as “TV dinners, frozen vegetables, canned mushrooms, fish sticks, Jell-O salads, marshmallows and spray-can whipped cream.“ Julia Child obviously didn’t know Dave Hurayt, a good friend and fellow gastronome who’s shared some wonderful recipes with me. While Dave may not have spent two years and nearly 300 pounds of flour attempting to bake the perfect loaf of French bread as Julia Child once did, he experiments painstakingly with the recipes he creates, laboring…