Monday, May 18, 2009

Venice, Pitman

At various times in the past, EOIPwJ has covered places in distant lands that reminded us of the homeland. And the places that we were invariably reminded of were the red-sauce Italians, like Venice. Since time immemorial, four to six of these places have been slugging it out on the mean streets of Pitman (OK, the most long-lived of them is run by Greeks, but what the hey).

Venice appears to have emerged from the fray in recent years, differentiating through quality and also variety to attract a higher standard of customer. In a move that may have presaged the Two Rooms concept in Aoyama, they run a tablecloth-and-dinners room at the inside of the restaurant to complement the formica booths and simple standards of the entry room. All the expected things are here - massive pies under glass waiting for you to request a slice, garlic sticks, steaks and calzones - but the inner room goes for broke with salmon and spinach pasta in pink sauce, gnocchi, and other mid-market favorites.
While we've visited the inner sanctum before, yesterday was all about the booths. Guest reviewers Mom and Dad shared a vegetarian sub (similar in concept to the panini at The Ground House, but radically different in execution). This 'Beast from the East' was massive, and fairly packed with all manner of vegetal a healthy serving of oil from the fry pan, and plenty of cheese. How can you go wrong? Nothing wimpy here, this is real food for hungry people.

But the main event from my perspective was the calzone. I think I've seen these show up once in a while in Japan, but it's kinda rare and a definite special occasion food. In Pitman, it's just one of the options (albeit a very good one). I was unable to get a picture of mine being made, which is perhaps a good thing. Let me just run it down quick-like for you. Lightly stretch and flour a pizza dough, not to full size. Pile on an absolute mountain of riccotta and mozzarella. Add the desired fillings (sausage and peppers yesterday; can't get good Italian sausage in Tokyo either, can you?), then top with MORE cheese so that it appears you've created a cheese cannonball. Flip the dough over to create a vaguely semi-circular bread shell around Le Mont de Fromage. Crimp the edges and bake until everything melts together inside, while the outside becomes perfect pizza crust. Cut a piece, add sauce from the separate provided container, consume.

I want to state up front that my weakened Asian-style abilities allowed me to eat only half of this, which is a good thing. You don't really get a sense of the fearsome scale from the pictures, even though I tried to add scale with the hand. I have big hands, ne?
It also bears saying that Ron is a super-nice guy and wants to take care of his customers. We discoursed at length on quality, price, service, and the general state of business in downtown Pitman. I have to stump up with a big Recommended for Venice; it's an outstanding representative of the genre.

And now, my friends, it's Lobster Time.

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