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Dominicks Pizza and Ristorante Review – West Dundee, IL

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Dominicks Pizza and Ristorante Review Dominicks Pizza and Restaurante in a 20+ year old dual-purpose establishment in the Chicago suburb of West Dundee, IL

I say “dual-purpose” as it has two adjacent storefronts in the strip mall on the east side of Illinois 31, just north of I-94. On the right side, you’ll find the entrance to the dine-in restaurant, a smallish eatery serving traditional Italian appetizers and entrees.

There are three rows of tables, maybe 15 in all. Maybe more.  The ambiance is nice. Subdued lighting, tablecloths, linen napkins, abundant cutlery.

A friend suggested it, offered to take me, it was a “special menu” night, but apparently, the regulars knew that they could order from the regular menu, as well, and some did.  I have no complaints about what I ate, but I might have made a different choice from the larger, regular menu. Just sayin’.

I don’t usually go out for pasta. Just not dazzling enough, and I’m at the age where I think everything is expensive, and restaurant pasta would surely fall on that list. I can think of three outstanding, memorable restaurant pasta. The Cafe DeNapoli in downtown Minneapolis, which was open for 65-70 years, now gone. A restaurant in Soho in London. And some no-name place in Bratislava.  Oh. One more. Hong Kong.  Oh, and the Italian Village downtown Chicago is “OK” but getting kinda tired.

But that’s it. I’ve been to Olive Garden once, over thirty years ago, wouldn’t think of going again, chain restaurants are just heating up the equivalent of TV dinners these days, made in some commissary a thousand miles away.

Anyway. Dinners at Dominick’s include soup or salad and fresh bread. Entrees run from $15 – $22 more or less. If you’re going for a tomato sauce, you can choose plain marinara or a red meat sauce.  Both are thick and on the sweet side.  (Tomato sweet, not sugar sweet).

I went with simple, spaghetti with meat sauce. I inquired about meatballs (I like to try them everywhere) and yes, they could add them. At the conclusion of the meal, I found they were $5 for two (in sauce), so I’m at $22 for (generously)  $3 worth of food ingredients.

I did like the meatballs (pix below).  They are large and very dense.  In the cross-section you’ll note some herbs, I’m going to guess these are beef and pork, not highly seasoned, but because of their density, I’m going to guess very little bread crumbs or egg for binders.

In all menu choices, the servings are large and most everybody I noticed took something home (me included, that’s why you have the pic of the meatball). I didn’t take pix in the restaurant, the tables are close, didn’t want to disturb anybody who might be trying to get laid, or telling their spouses they wanted a divorce or were going to jail or whatever couples talk about in quiet restaurants these days.

I didn’t try the pizza, and I’d like to. Prices for that looked competitive with other joints in the area, about $25 for a 16 incher. And I’d buy some ala carte meatballs if they offered them. The takeout menu is fairly large and includes many of the dinners from the dine-in side, but at a considerably lower price. They do not include salad, and perhaps the portions are smaller. Pretty sure everything there is made in-house.

And that’s what I know about Dominick’s. Dine-in menuTake-out menuOrder online for pick up or delivery (limited area, of course)

Dominicks Pizza and Ristorante Review

Meatball, as big as a tennis ball.

 

Dominicks Pizza and Ristorante Review

Meatball dissected

Dominick's Italian Ristorante Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Dominicks Pizza and Ristorante Review

Dominicks Pizza and Ristorante Review

 

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Papa Murphys 5 Meat Stuffed Pizza Review

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Papa Murphys 5 Meat Stuffed Pizza ReviewPapa Murphys is the result of the consolidation of two mini-chains in the early 1980s. Papa Aldos in suburban Portland, OR, and Murphy’s in Petaluma, CA.

The unique hook for the now global, 1500+ store chain is (as far as I know) the only national chain offering strictly “take and bake” pies.  They make them to your specification at the store, you tote ’em home and bake them.  There was some discussion of them starting to bake in-house, and delivery, too, but as far as I can see, neither has happened.

Sidebar: There was a take and bake operation in my hometown, independent, (don’t remember the name)  long before Papa Murphys started sprouting up everywhere. For some reason, my mom loved the place and the concept. Add to that, it was on top of a generic ‘take and bake’ (kidding) soda store, the “Pop Shoppe” which had a ton of flavors of soda, value priced, under their own name. Wonder what happened to them?  (OK, just found out, they were born, had explosive growth, died, now on the comeback trail)  (Backspace to the link, if you’re interested).

Anyway, Papa Murphys has a fairly large menu choice of toppings, types, and sizes.  I went with the five meat “stuffed”, which is crust, cheese, toppings, another crust, more toppings, more cheese.  This one packs Red Sauce, Canadian Bacon, Pepperoni, Italian Sausage, and Bacon topped with Ground Beef. They are big and they are heavy. There is a 14 and 16 inch size, and either one is priced at about half a comparable pie at local shops around me.

Takes awhile to bake, of course, but it’s satisfying and filling. No skimping on the toppings or cheese. Slightly sweet sauce. “Bread like” crust.  Overall appealing.  Easily feed your family.  Better (IMHO) than the big three, for sure.  They offer a couple sides, salads, and desserts.

Papa Murphys are everywhere. Check the website to find a store near you.  Menu below. Postscript. I went to the store in Woodstock IL (you’d recognize the town, where they filmed “Groundhog Day.”)   I had a coupon, and the owner said he couldn’t accept it, but he’d give me the same deal.  OK.  And he did.

 

Papa Murphys 5 Meat Stuffed Pizza Review

Right from the store

Papa Murphys 5 Meat Stuffed Pizza Review

Out of the oven at home

 

Papa Murphys 5 Meat Stuffed Pizza Review

Menu – click to enlarge

Papa Murphy's Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Papa Murphys 5 Meat Stuffed Pizza Review
Papa Murphys 5 Meat Stuffed Pizza Review

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Mama Cozzis Tavern Style Pizza Review – An Aldi Product

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Mama Cozzis Tavern Style Pizza Review“Mama Cozzi” is Aldi’s brand name for pizzas and related products. They come in a very wide variety of styles, both frozen and take and bake, and are value-priced like most all of Aldi’s products.  I’ve reviewed quite a few of them in the past, read some of them here.

I’m a pizza snob, but I find most of them a tick above “satisfactory.” They are certainly better than Dominos, Caesars, Pizza Hut and 755 of the frozen pizzas on the market.

They had a new one this week, “Tavern Inn” – in the frozen counter, and it appealed to me right away because the package bragged about “one half pound of real Wisconsin cheese,” and you could see the cheese was cut in thick shreds instead of the finely diced method most frozen pies use.  In my personal experience, I have found the former method of chees-ing on frozen pizzas makes for a better, and more even melt.

I thought this pie looked awfully familiar, and since Aldi employs a lot of brand name manufacturers to make their private label products, I would have been willing to bet this was made by Palermo’s in Milwaukee.  It resembles their “P’Mo’s” brand pizza.

But when I looked up the factory number, I found they are actually made by Minnesota pizza company Bernatellos, who labels include Bellatoria, Roma, Orv’s,  Real ‘Za, and “Brew Pub” and that’s the pie that Aldi’s Tavern Inn most closely resembles in appearance. Bernatellos plant is located in a distant northwestern exurb of Minneapolis, Maple Lake, pic below.

So popped this one in the oven, had picked out a combo sausage and pepperoni style, don’t know if there are others, didn’t look. It was done sooner than the package predicted for cook time, and I gotta say, I liked it.  Really.

It’s a cracker thin crust, in fact if you look at the bottom, there are bumps and docking marks that almost makes it look like a matzoh. About the same crunch as well. Ths sausage chunks are good-sized, important to me, and either the sausage or pepperoni had some nice heat to it, which I also like. The sauce leans a little sweet for my personal taste, but tolerable, and the “half pound of real Wisconsin mozzarella?”  Magnificent. Truly.

Aldi has been known to have some pizza styles that have come and gone, hope this isn’t one of them.

Mama Cozzis Tavern Style Pizza Review

Out of the box

Mama Cozzis Tavern Style Pizza Review

Out of the oven!

Mama Cozzis Tavern Style Pizza Review

Bernatellos Minnesota Factory

 

Mama Cozzis Tavern Style Pizza Review

Mama Cozzis Tavern Style Pizza Review

 

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Buona Beef Grocery Review

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Buona Beef Grocery ReviewI’ve written a lot about Chicago’s Italian Beef sandwich. The easiest way to explain it to those not familiar is to say it’s a highly seasoned French Dip, but the “Dip” part is not on the side but involves dunking the entire sandwich in au jus (only if desired).  You can read my explanation of the origin if you like.

There are myriad restaurants that sell these marvels, many supplied by Chicago’s Vienna Beef Company, some shops that make their own. Used to be another big supplier, Scala, but I don’t see their product anymore, so don’t know if they are around or not. Devanco is another one, each of these probably does private label as well, and there are undoubtedly a number I don’t know about.

Many of these companies package for retail sale, you can find them at Chicago area grocery stores. I’ve tried and written about a lot of them, including Vienna and Mike Ditka’s for instance.

Enter Buona Beef, a mini-chain of Chicagoland restaurants specializing in Chicago foods – Beef, hot dogs, burgers, pizza.  I visited one for the first time a few weeks ago, and it’s quality, good food, efficient (counter) service.  They are supplied by a commissary/factory that they own, and they are also in the private label business, but lately, I’m seeing product in the stores under their own label. Italian Beef, Meatballs, and a couple other things in their line.

The product comes frozen solid in different weights. It is priced competitively, (but I think they are all too high, actually, I’d buy more if it cost less). I can tell you from experience (and the instructions on the package)  THAW FIRST. On an analog basis!  (Meaning in the frig overnight or on the counter for a few hours – not in the microwave!).  Then eat on a very gentle basis in a saucepan, select your bun/rol (in Chicago, Turano’s seems to be the preference).

Tong the meat into the bun if you want it “dry,”  add some jus to the bun if you want it “wet” or dunk the entire bun in jus for “wet.” Chicagoans often have the sandwich dressed with “giardiniera” a mixture of finely diced pickled vegetables, which can be hot or mild.  Melted mozzarella on top? That’s called a “cheezy beef.”  Wanna feel like a real insider?  Ask for a “Combo” which is an Italian Beef sandwich with an Italian sausage nestled in the beef (pictured).

Buona’s grocery product is good, very flavorful, nice slices of pure muscle beef, not a chopped, pressed, formed product like some companies. The ingredients list (pictured below) is straightforward and free of additives.  Up to this point in my life, as far as grocery store Italian Beef goes, Ditka’s was my favorite.  But now it’s a tie. So I’ll buy by price from here on out.

Haven’t tried Buona’s meatballs, will get around to that soon, I hope.  Buona does ship product, if you have a craving.

Buona Beef Grocery Review

Buona Ingredient List

Buona Beef Grocery Review

Into the pan, prior to heating

Buona Beef Grocery Review

Italian Beef “Combo” “Dry”

 

 

Buona Beef Grocery Review

Buona Beef Grocery Review

 

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Odoms Tennessee Pride Hot Sausage Review

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Odoms Tennessee Pride Hot Sausage ReviewI usually “make my own” breakfast sausage, and by that I mean I purchase ground pork, season it to my liking and fry it up.

After eggs, ground pork is usually the second least expensive protein in the store.

But I keep trying commercial preparations, and have reviewed a host of them, found here, including Bob Evans, Dollar Tree, Usingers, Grandma Pearl’s, Farmer John’s, Parkview (Aldi) and others.

This week, Odoms Tennessee Pride brand “Hot” (they also make “mild”)  was on sale, so I grabbed a chub.  Odom’s makes fresh sausage, pre-cooked sausage, breakfast sandwiches and sausage gravy. I’ve tried the frozen sausage gravy in the past. The company was started in 1943 in Tennessee and today is part of food giant Conagra. Conagra has a ton of food brands which you probably use regularly.

This particular chub of sausage was manufactured for Conagra at Abbyland Pork Pack in Curtiss, WI.

As to this sausage. I was quite pleased with it. Not a terribly fine grind, which gives it some texture. Handsome, authentic pork flavor, and just the right amount of heat for me. I can be a  wimp about hot foods sometimes. Not a whole lot of residual fat in the skillet after cooking, so that’s good too, it’s lean.

I’d buy it again, especially if was on sale, but even on sale, it’s still 30-40% more than fresh ground pork.

Odoms Tennessee Pride Hot Sausage Review

Pan fried

 

Tennessee Pride Hot Sausage Review

Tennessee Pride Hot Sausage Review

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Lunch Mate Cooked Ham Review – An Aldi Branded Product

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Lunch Mate Cooked Ham ReviewI have reviewed quite a few products found at Aldi, a global grocery retailer that focuses on value-priced items.

They are able to achieve lower costs by largely staying away from big brand names, and instead, creating their own brands and contracting the manufacture and packaging of them to quality co-packers and producers.

This product is typically used for sandwiches and similar purposes and is thin-sliced in equally sized rectangles. It achieves this quality being sliced off a “loaf” of ham, which is created from mechanically separated pork parts, water and spices. An image of the ingredients appears below.

For this time, Aldi has turned to the ham manufacturing expertise of Plumrose, USA, a division of Europe’s largest pork processor, Denmark’s Danish Crown Company. In the U.S., both for it’s own label and other outlets, Plumrose produces bacon, ham, deli counter and canned meat items.

Last year, Plumrose USA was purchased by Brazilian food giant, JBS, the largest meat processor in the world, with 150 plants and 200,000 employees.  JBS owns several brands you are familiar with, including Swift & Company, which in turn has a couple dozen pork and beef brands,  and Pilgrim’s Pride Chickens. These hams are made at the Plumrose plant in Booneville, MS, 100 miles southeast of Memphis, TN.

Back to the subject.  This type of ham is created on a basis similar as to seen in this video:  trimmed pork is marinated, further chopped, pressed in to a shape for market, and then smoked.

The result is a flavorful ham product, and Aldi’s is as good as any lunch meat style ham, and of course, priced much less than big brands.  Structural integrity of texture is important to me, that it closely resembles the mastication experience of whole muscle meat, and this comes close enough.

 

Lunch Mate Cooked Ham Review

 

Lunch Mate Cooked Ham Review

 

Lunch Mate Cooked Ham Review

Plumrose Mississippi Plant

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Mama Cozzi’s French Bread Pizza Review – An Aldi Product

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Mama Cozzi's French Bread Pizza ReviewAnother Aldi product this week, actually did this one some time back, didn’t write it up. Mama Cozzi’s is the brand name the Aldi grocery chain has cooked up for their frozen and fresh (take and bake) pizzas.

I’ve tried a lot of them, including the one I wrote about directly below, and a “Mega Meat” thin crust previously. All of these are a terrific value, price wise and are mostly pretty good product.

Aldi contracts out all of their manufacturing, and this product is made by Better Baked Foods, out of North East, Pennsylvania, a burg parked between Cleveland and Buffalo.  They started in 1970 and have since built a large operation, which in addition to private label manufacturing, also has some of their own brands which was recently acquired by Minnesota pizza giant Schwans (Red Baron, Freschetta, Tonys). (Better Baked plant pictures below).

The French bread pizza comes in a two pack, different varieties, I chose pepperoni this time, and it’s not a microwave product. Given a choice with junk that gives you either option, I’m gonna pick a conventional oven every time, anyway.

The bread was crispy, the sauce benign, I liked the pepperoni, wished for more cheese, but overall, I was happy with it compared to “national brands.” It holds its own.

Like all Aldi products, it is value priced.  Aldi is currently on a tear in the US to have more fresh products in the store, remove product from cartons, and nicer lighting. The German chain currently has 10,000 stores worldwide.  There’s probably one or more near you.

Mama Cozzi's French Bread Pizza Review

Out of the box

Mama Cozzi's French Bread Pizza Review

Out of the oven

Mama Cozzi's French Bread Pizza Review

Pennsylvania Factory

 

 

Mama Cozzi’s French Bread Pizza Review

Mama Cozzi’s French Bread Pizza Review

 

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Appleton Farms Bone In Butt Ham Review – Aldi In-House Brand

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Appleton Farms Bone In Butt Ham Reviewoth Appleton Farms is Aldi’s in-house brand name for selected meat products.  I’ve reviewed quite a few of them, which you can read here, tho for some unfortunate reason, some of them are tagged “Applewood.” Oops.

I’ve even reviewed this particular product, bone-in butt ham, before, but it was made for Aldi by a different manufacturer and was injected with a brine solution, something that turns me off.

I’m delighted to report such is not the case with this one. This particular ham is made for Aldi by Fresh Mark, Inc., in Salem, Ohio. Pictures of the plant are below. They do contract manufacturing, private label and have some lines of their own like Sugardale and Superiors.

Now I’m a lazy cook, and there were long periods where I wouldn’t purchase anything “bone in” and it was pointed out to me on some occasion what I was missing, that food cooked with the “bone in” can be much more flavorful.  Hence you’re seeing a lot of bone-in steaks in high priced restaurants these days.

Second point, is that a real “ham” comes from the butt portion of the hog, tho you will find other products labeled as “ham,” that ain’t.  And under no circumstances should things like “turkey” ham be allowed to even exist.

I’ve been known to drive the back roads of places like Virginia, the Carolinas, Missouri, and Kentucky looking for small smokehouses – in search of ‘quality’ product, cured and smoked to perfection.

But for a value priced product, this is OK. It is VERY mildly seasoned and the smoke is barely detectable. It is fully cooked right out of the package.

On the occasion that I do pick these up, I spend a couple hours cutting them up into steaks, sandwich meat, fat and bone that I use in soups and bean concoctions.

Wanna try something different?  Throw one of these in a crock pot on low for 10 hours or so and have “pulled ham” sandwiches. Add barbecue sauce if you must.

But in the Carolinas, they have a special kind of “cue” they call “Gold” and instead of the meat being cooked or basted in a tomato based sauce, they use mustard, and that’s just fine.   Yes, slow-cooked butt with a mustard sauce.  Nice.

Aldi Tidbit.  Upgrading their stores.  More fresh produce. Products out of crates. Subdued lighting. Supposedly building a prototype down the street from me, I’ll keep you posted. Also adding stores lickety-split, in advance of a major competitor of theirs, LIDL, also from Germany, coming to the US. Presently both companies have about 10,000 stores (each) worldwide.

Appleton Farms Bone In Butt Ham Review

Out of wrapper

Appleton Farms Bone In Butt Ham Review

Ingredient List

Appleton Farms Bone In Butt Ham Review

Ohio Factory – Full Frontal

Appleton Farms Bone In Butt Ham Review

Ohio Factory With the Top Down

 

 

 

 

Appleton Farms Bone In Butt Ham Review

Appleton Farms Bone In Butt Ham Review

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Buena Vista Restaurant Review – Algonquin, IL

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Buena Vista Restaurant Review I rarely go out for Mexican food; exception would be if I’m deep in an area of a big city with a heavy Mexican population. Traveling the world, you get spoiled on “authentic” cuisine and disappointed about the Americanized version of same. At least I do.  Same after I lived in China.  Never been in a P.F. Changs, Chipotle, or Panda Express.

All that being said, I am a gracious sorta fella. so I will go out with a friend who is dead set on a certain location. In this instance, a tiny little restaurant on an out of the way street in Algonquin, IL, a NW suburb of Chicago. The Buena Vista (good view, I imagine because it faces the local river), has a rather lenghty menu (below) for a smallish place and nightly food or drink specials, some that are quite enticing (they advertise them in their store window. Or I suppose you could call).

So we went, ate very inexpensively, enjoyed it immensely. One of my personal criteria for Americanized Mexican restaurants is the refried beans. Cooked from scratch or from a can? These definitely pass the test. I could make a meal out of beans alone.

I had a two soft taco plate, with beef. The usual other taco and burriot innars are available, as are the more traditional ones you rarely see in the Americanized places (like tongue).

It’s good. And I appreciate how hard of work it is to own/run a small independent restaurant. So if you’re in the mood, check them out.  In the summer, get it to go and sit at the riverside benches across the street and ogle the beautiful people floating by.

Buena Vista Restaurant Review

Soft taco plate

Buena Vista Restaurant Review

Click to enlarge

 

Buena Vista Restaurant Review

Click to enlarge

 

Buena Vista Restaurant & Taqueria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Buena Vista Restaurant Review
Buena Vista Restaurant Review

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Dons Dock Seafood Review – Des Plaines, IL

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Dons Dock Seafood ReviewThe Johnson family has been fishing commercially on Lake Michigan since the 30’s.  They’ve been in the retail seafood business since 1951, and I’m sure happy about that.

Located on US Highway 14, in Des Plaines, IL (NW suburban Chicago), the combination market/cafe is open seven days from 9 AM.

There used to be a restaurant in my hometown whose slogan was “If it swims, we have it,” and while it may not have been precisely true about that place, it sure is apt here. Freshwater and saltwater fish, shellfish, mollusks, and accompaniments are all available, to take home and prepare yourself, or to have the little swimming things cooked in-house and served to you as an entree or snack.

I had a hankering for catfish and me mate was craving a genuine New England style lobster roll. We both scored, the cat came with fries and slaw, the toasted roll with chips. Both were excellent in terms of quality, preparation and value.

It’s a bit of a hike for me, or I’d go more often, and I’d certainly stop by on occasion to pick up some fish or shrimp to take home.

If you’re visiting in the area, Don’s is easy to get to by auto, or on the UP-NW Metra train from downtown Chicago, it’s less than 30 minutes and then a four-minute walk from the Des Plaines station.

I’ve enclosed their current menu, and a real old-timey menu, below.  Photos are mine, except top left hand of page is from their website.

Dons Dock Seafood Review

Lobster Roll

Dons Dock Seafood Review

Catfish and fries

Dons Dock Seafood Review

Menu 1

Dons Dock Seafood Review

Menu 2

Dons Dock Seafood Review

Back in the day menu

Don's Dock Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Dons Dock Seafood Review

Dons Dock Seafood Review

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