Chow, Baby: Wednesday, June 08, 2005
Melting Pot

Arlington-based Nino’s Pizza and Pasta has just opened a Fort Worth outpost in Eastchase Market (1550 Eastchase Pkwy #700), and Chow, Baby was thrilled to find that pizza chef Oguz made the move west. Chow, Baby looooves Oguz. He’s from Turkey and kindly suffers Chow, Baby’s attempts to use the one Turkish phrase it sort of knows (“teh-SHEHK-mumble-mumble” = “thank you”) and to teach him that bouncy They Might Be Giants song (“Istanbul was Constantinople / Now it’s Istanbul, not Constantinople”).
The Nino’s mini-chain is owned by brothers Nino, Dino, and Cappuccino. Actually the kid brother is named Tony, and that’s Tony’s joke, and it cracks Chow, Baby up every time. The brothers are from Albania, a swim across the Adriatic from the heel of Italy, so Chow, Baby asked Tony its Burning Question: Why is it that so many casual Italian restaurants are owned by Albanians? Tony said, with a well-duh air, “There isn’t much of a market for Albanian restaurants.” Really? Chow, Baby would be there in a heartbeat. But with no qofte or conlek on the menu, Chow, Baby started with a nice Oguz-prepared pizza slice (cheese $1.65, toppings 40¢ extra); though not puddly-greasy to satisfy a New Yorker, it had a crisp, ultra-thin crust and marvelous herby flavor. From the wide menu of subs, pastas, and veal and chicken dishes, Chow, Baby chose and heartily enjoyed chicken Rossini ($8.99), baked with ham, tomatoes, and loads of cheese, and eggplant rollatini ($6.99), lightly breaded eggplant rolled around ricotta and mozzarella and topped with a rich tomato sauce. If the dishes hadn’t been delivered to the table so quickly, Chow, Baby would have thought they had all been made from scratch. Best of all, the leftover eggplant reheated very nicely that evening — as the song goes, “Now it’s Turkish delight on a moonlit night.” Er, Albanian. Italian. Whatever.

Monday, Monday
People often ask, “Chow, Baby, what’s your problem with chain restaurants? They’re consistent; you always know what you’re going to get. No surprises!” They wait for an answer, but Chow, Baby has already fallen asleep. On a recent Monday, however, a couple of planets aligned. First, IHOP announced its biggest menu change in 50 years. The press release begins, “IHOP’s core customer is the average American.” That’s Chow, Baby! Unless that’s an insult. Kinda sounds like an insult. Anyway, IHOP’s Average American is now “clamoring for bolder flavors.” That’s Chow, Baby!
Second, there’s just something about Acoustic Mondays at the Wreck Room, especially if it’s Woodeye frontman Carey Wolff performing à uno, that makes Chow, Baby fling off its morals and ethics and act on impious impulse. That’s why, post-show, Chow, Baby didn’t go to Ol’ South like an indie-lover should. No, it went to IHOP instead. Please don’t tell anybody.
The “bolder flavors” that we average people are clamoring for include brie, spinach, and smoked bacon in one or another of 13 new menu items. Also IHOP is seasoning its fries more. Chow, Baby dined on the new Cod Hollandaise ($9.49) (ouch!), two “lightly dusted in seasoned flour” filets that were, to use chain-lingo, grilled to perfection. They were topped with what might be generously described as a Hollandaise-type sauce. The plate included a couple of sides that were consistent and unsurprising. Chow, Baby fell asleep before it could finish the meal, and not because it was 3 a.m.
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