Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Identity Crisis

I was decidedly in an ethnic cuisine sort of mood today for lunch. As odd as it seems, right in the middle of downtown Massillon, OH is a restaurant that serves both Japanese food and Korean food. Having gone there on and off for lunch over the last year, I'm always surprised that they are still in business as I am often the only one eating there during lunch.

Apparently about 3 1/2 weeks ago, the space being occupied by Lee's Korean BBQ is now being shared with Colucci's Ristorante. Lee's is now open only for dinner, while Colucci's is open for lunch and dinner. They share the space in the evening. So now you can get Japanese, Korean, and Italian all at the same location.

Upon arriving at the restaurant, my first clue that something was up was this sign leaning against the building on the ground:

My server explained how the new arrangement will work. She didn't really go into any reasons why Colucci's agreed to this arrangement, but I have to assume it is beneficial to both businesses.

The lunch menu was pretty straightforward: pastas, salads, sandwiches, and soups. They also have a daily special, today's was Swiss Steak. I asked my server if the restaurant has any specialties. She pointed out that the chef makes his own meat sauce. Lucky for me there just happened to be a spaghetti with meat sauce for $4.99. I also ordered the optional side house salad.

The house salad came with home made Italian dressing on the side:

The salad itself was nothing really special, it's Italian heritage denoted by two slices of pepperoni on top. The dressing was, sadly, too oily and seasoned quite blandly. I will give a slight pass to this though because vinaigrettes are notoriously hard to keep emulsified and as such, the taste I got with my fork before dispensing on my salad may have been tainted by the (small) layer of oil floating on top.

The server also brought out a bread basket:

Italian style bread which was a bit dried out. Fortunately the accompanying pats of butter were softened enough to be easily spreadable.

Finally, the main event:

Now, I have to say that just looking at the plate there are already two strikes against it. Problem one, and this is all too common, is that the pasta is WAY oversauced. Problem two, which isn't so immediately obvious from the photo is the puddle of water underneath the pasta. I know Americans want the sauce on top, but honestly, if done the correct way, the whole oversaucing and additional water drainage issue would just go away.

To its credit, the pasta wasn't mushy and better yet, the sauce was quite good. It actually took the concept of a meat sauce and elevated it by incorporating shredded pork as well. It's probably closer to an Americanized meat sauce with shredded pork than a true Ragu alla Bolognese (too much tomato product), but it was decidedly good nonetheless. The pork gave it an extra layer of texture and flavor and the sauce wasn't overly sweet.

And to be honest, I didn't mind the extra sauce this time around as it gave me a chance to keep tasting the sauce by itself. The meat sauce was definitely the star of the show.

It would be awesome if the chef offered a truer Italian style version of the dish where the pasta was tossed in the condiment before plating, but I guess we can't get everything we want in life.

The server also mentioned they have a garlic and oil sauce that is very good as well. Guess that means I'll have to go back and give it another go.

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