Chow, Baby: Wednesday, October 10, 2002
Amore e Denaro

Resolved: Love is better than money. Hence: Things created in the name of love are better than things created for profit. Exhibits: A 6-year-old’s refrigerator art versus a sofa painting bought at the airport Hyatt. The rustmobile you restored yourself versus a Daddy-donated M3. Weekly newspapers versus dailies, naturally. Mike “Throw in some more butter” Salerno’s versus Olive “Make ’em order wine — the mark-up’s higher” Garden.

On the love-profit continuum, Zio snuggles closer to Olive than to Mike. Zio’s Italian Kitchen is a Tulsa-based regional chain of 17 restaurants, including one in Traffic Hell North at Fossil Bluff and I-35. The poor man’s Macaroni Grill, Zio’s occupies a cavernous space made claustrophobic with faux-rustic decor and a menu so large it needs an index. Some items are marked “house favorites,” though it’s not clear whether that reflects most popular, most lucrative, or most easy way to keep the indecisive from bugging the wait staff for suggestions.

The brick-oven pizzas (8´´, $4.99-5.79) have the usual topping options, plus scary ones like seafood Alfredo and refried beans. “Chef’s creations” dishes are also inventively weird. Chow, Baby picked at the chicken and tomatoes in its artichoke spinach pasta ($8.49) and snubbed the overcooked penne choking in appetizer dip. But a companion’s chicken-fried chicken Alfredo ($7.99) was surprisingly good. The strips were breaded Italian-style, not Texan-, and fried to a tender crunch; they nicely complemented the rich sauce and perfectly al dente fettuccine. So Chow, Baby filled up on that. After cookie-cutter tiramisu, Chow, Baby was satiated, but missed that warm afterglow and bone-deep satisfaction that comes from deeds done for devotion, not dollars. Then headed back to the office to pick up its check for writing this column.

Reader’s Digestion

For fear of inducing Disturbing Mental Video, Chow, Baby won’t say precisely where it was sitting while perusing this year’s Best of the West-o-Plex issue (Sept. 19). The site was, if truth be told, a preventative measure: After yet another year of lecturing on the evils of corporate restaurants, Chow, Baby was intestinally distressed by some of your choices. McDonald’s? IHOP? Pappadeaux??? Hellooooo out there! Anybody listening?

Some are. Chow, Baby was parentally proud to see personal-fave Fred’s win readers’ choice for Greasy Spoon. King Tut, Sardine’s, La Familia, all quite worthy. And in a town known for its home-cooking, a relatively unknown winner: Trellis Rose, out in Handley. Chow, Baby, who hadn’t been back to the homespun diner since an opening-month visit in summer of 2001, zipped up and zipped over East Lancaster. First, a quick (two-hour) stop at Rare Find Books on Handley Drive, which has a room dedicated to novelists adored by critics and by the half-dozen readers who have stumbled across them: Sarah Bird, Tim Sandlin, William T. Vollman, Robertson Davies, and many more. (No extra charge for the literary counsel.) Chow, Baby then moseyed around the corner and dove into Trellis Rose’s juicy meatloaf, butter-rich mashed potatoes, and the best damn fried okra in three states. Wonderful peach cobbler, too. Thanks, Dear Readers, for the reminder.

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