Pizza may trace its culinary roots to Naples in Italy, but since this delicious immigrant-food treat exploded out of its ethnic enclaves in the Northeast to become a national phenomenon back when the first Baby Boomers were growing up, it’s become as all-American as, well, chow mein or frankfurters.
Over the generations in Louisville, a handful of Italian family names have become household words inextricably associated with the noble pie: Calandrino’s in Louisville, and more recently, Tony Boombozz; in Lexington, Joe Bologna’s. Some of the city’s big-name Italian eateries, including the off-again, on-again Lentini’s and the late, still-lamented Casa Grisanti, can trace their heritage, at least in part, to the humble pizza.
But one familiar Louisville pizza family name may carry more weight than all the rest, and we’re not just talking about its massive pies: For a full generation, one pizza maker remained the place to go for a filling ration: Impellizzeri’s.
Sadly, Impellizzeri’s crowded landmark pizzeria on Bardstown Road closed two years ago, prompting more cries of woe than almost any other restaurant closing since the departure of Mayan Gypsy. (For more about that, by the way, see below.)
As it happens, though, it’s hard to miss Impellizzeri’s when it hasn’t gone away. Son Tony Impellizzeri has been building the familiar family pie in discreet shopping-center quarters just off Shelbyville Road and Hurstbourne Lane for a dozen years. While it’s a long trek out to the ’burbs for urbanites accustomed to having an Impellizzeri’s nearby, it’s well worth the trip when you crave one of their trademark five-pound pies with crisp, crackery crust and toppings piled a full inch high.
There’s a $6 lunch buffet on weekdays, but I find it awfully hard to pass up the main course, one of those gigantic pizzas that range from $12.99 for a 12-inch plain cheese pie to $31.95 for a 16-inch sampler with everything. (“Serves five to six,” they say, and they really mean it.)
We dropped in the other day, sampled from the buffet while waiting for a 14-inch sausage, green pepper and onion pie, and took enough leftovers home to cover lunch for the next three days. Still highly recommended.
108 Vieux Carre Drive
Our mon gets down
with Taste of Jamaica
Taste of Jamaica has been open for more than a year in the Clifton area, and Eat ’N’ Blog correspondent Kevin Gibson, who’s dined there enough to develop a real taste for Jamaican fare, reports that the Jamaican eatery changed management in October and will introduce a made-over menu this month. Here’s his report:
New owner Ibuka Roach says he is focusing on food quality, particularly by importing spices directly from Jamaica. They’re “not from Kroger,” he said in a friendly Jamaican accent. They are fresh and more authentic. Look for “Jamaica night” on Fridays, featuring fried fish, special soups and dominoes tournaments, a Jamaican tradition.
My girlfriend Jen and I dined there recently and found both the flavors and the portions satisfying. Jen had the callaloo and saltfish dinner ($10.95), a combination of Jamaican callaloo (amarynth or taro leaf, similar to collards) and salt cod, with a distinctive flavor that one has to experience to appreciate. I opted for the traditional jerk chicken dinner ($8.95).
Portions were enormous, and both meals came with huge helpings of rice and peas (actually red beans), lightly seasoned veggies, fried plantain and a fried dumpling, enough to provide us lunch the next day. The jerk chicken is half of a chicken marinated in Jamaican jerk seasoning and slow-roasted until tender and juicy. Absolutely delicious, it was actually better than the jerk chicken I had in Jamaica itself a few years back.
Roach said he doesn’t plan to take many of the current items off the new menu, but he’ll expand the offerings to add such dishes as curry shrimp (curry chicken is already a staple) and a “jerk patty” dinner, featuring a Jamaican-style chicken wrap.
I went back a couple of weeks later with my friend Jerry, and this time tried the jerk chicken wings ($3.50). With all due respect to the jerk wings at Cumberland Brews (excellent) and Buffalo Wild Wings (pretty darn good for a chain), Taste of Jamaica’s rendition is not only fall-off-the-bone tender — just like the dinner — but they pack more of a flavorful punch thanks to the spice-to-meat ratio. If you go, they’re a must-try.
Taste of Jamaica has taught me to love fried plantains, even though I grew up hating bananas, which look similar. But fry a plantain, and its gentle sweetness works so well with the light fried crispness that I could eat them all day. You can get three for $1.99 at the restaurant, where no appetizer is more than $3.50.
Since I moved to the Clifton neighborhood, I can see myself stopping at Taste of Jamaica a lot. Next time, I’ll try the oxtails. Or maybe the brown stew chicken. I might even go back to the curry goat, which is quite tasty once you get past the fact that you’re eating, well, goat. The lunch menu features most of the dinner entrees with slightly smaller portions — and they’re extra easy on the wallet. Ibuka, save me a table.
Taste of Jamaica
2017 Brownsboro Road
New spot is yours and Mayan
Chef Bruce Ucán, who closed the popular Mayan Gypsy last year, is coming back soon, and fans of his innovative Mayan (Yucatan and Guatemalan) cuisine from the tropical climates where southern Mexico meets Central America are mighty happy to know it.
Old-timers will recall that Ucán first came to local fame as the driver and chef of a big blue van called The Mayan Gypsy that would roll around to construction sites vending lunch for Mexican roofing workers. It didn’t take long for savvy Anglos to notice that this truck carried something special, and the blue van soon acquired a trail of sedans and SUVs, eagerly following it to its next stop. Before long the Gypsy came to rest at a small spot on East Market, later moving to larger quarters in a more gentrified block slightly closer to downtown. Now Ucán returns to his first landlocked location, filling the space left by the recent retirement of the owners of Kim’s Asian Grill.
Dubbed Mayan Café, the new eatery will open Jan. 18, at 813 E. Market St. Billing its fare as “Mayan/Mexican Cuisine,” it will feature such familiar Mayan specialties as Yucatec Pork Pibil; Escabéche chicken breast in pickled lime sauce; slow-cooked turkey mole with spicy chocolate; and roast leg of lamb in sweet-sour tamarind sauce. Main dinner dishes will range in price from $13 to $15. Lunch hour will bring more Mayan goodies including sandwiches, quesadillas, salbutes (Mayan tapas) and main dishes, attractively priced at mostly $10 and under.
813 E. Market St.
‘Passion for Fusion’ at Asiatique
Chef Peng Looi plans a five-course “Passion for Fusion” dinner on Wednesday, Jan. 17, at Asiatique, 1767 Bardstown Road. The bill of fare features Looi’s Asian fusion dishes matched with wines from Australia and New Zealand. Dinner is $75 a person, and reservations are required. Call 451-2749.
Gettin’ nekkid at RAW
RAW Sushi Lounge will be celebrating the art of Nyatamori in a private event on Jan. 18. The term Nyatamori translates to “adorned body of a woman”; and the common practice in Japan is to display sushi on the body as a style of performance art. So along with a little Nyatamori, RAW plans to showcase “regular” art from local artists, and DJ Alex will be spinning the night away. The time is 7 p.m., and tickets are $40 a person, $70 a couple.
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