Chow, Baby: Wednesday, June 25, 2003
Natural-Born Keller

Officially born of Fort Worth Weekly in 1998,Chow, Baby missed the spectacular northern-Tarrant boom that turned the once-sleepy hamlets of Grapevine, Southlake, and Colleyville into SUV-stuffed traffic jams. (Hey, you know what they call the new Hummer? An FUV.) But now there’s the fun of watching it happen to Keller.

According to city stats, Keller has grown nearly 20 percent since the 2000 census, octopling its 1980 population of about 4,000. One of the newest newbies, and a welcome one, is Mezza Luna Italian Restaurant, in a (what else?) brand-new strip mall on Keller Pkwy at Keller-Smithfield Rd. Chef-owner Lee Mena also founded the yummy Café Panache in Hurst, so Chow, Baby was happy to brave the wilds of The Woodlands at Hidden Lakes and The Meadows at Bear Creek to snack on his escargots in port wine sauce ($6.95). The restaurant is fancy inside, lovingly decorated in soothing Mediterranean-olive tones. The background opera music is of the sort that swells up in gangster movies when somebody gets machine-gunned in slo-mo. The napkins are thick, the silverware hefty.

The menu showcases regional Italian pasta, chicken, and veal dishes. Chow, Baby’s favorite of the lighter lunch offerings is the tender veal Rossini ($8.95), sautéed in a garlic-wine sauce and topped with tomato and buffalo mozzarella. At dinner, the pappardelle Basciola ($10.95) was a perfectly balanced mélange of prosciutto, shiitake mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, and seemingly fresh-picked basil atop wide noodles. Like revenge, the rack of baby American lamb (awwww) ($19.95) was a dish best eaten cold — a night in the fridge brought out the delicate thyme and rosemary seasonings in the leftovers. All was wonderful, and the best was last: Chow, Baby was crying over the crème brûlée ($4.95), it was that good. Cue “Vieni amor mio.”

Jus’d by Accident

Only Old Arlington, in multigenerational families, was represented during Chow, Baby and guest’s recent visit to Arlington Steak House, 1724 W. Division off N. Fielder. This was not a pleasant meal. Our waitress had the attitude of one who had just lost a fight with somebody in the kitchen but was trying hard not to take it out on us, if we would only stop asking stupid questions like what the soup of the day was. (Potato au gratin, it turned out — au Velveeta, it tasted like.)

As the proud possessor of a custom extremely-frequent-buyer discount card at Country Meat Market on Lancaster, Chow, Baby now rarely orders same-quality, higher-priced steaks in restaurants and went for the prime rib (12 oz, $11.95). This turned out to be a good choice: not medium rare, as requested, but still tender, flavorful, and juicy. The juice and flavor, though, came from the little bowl of too-salty jus that spilled all over the plate when Chow, Baby’s guest rocked the table struggling to cut his top sirloin (10 oz, $9.85). Arlington Steak House was founded in 1931; maybe Chow, Baby will visit again before its centennial. Maybe.

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