Another East Memphis installment from Team Chockley.
For our own sanity, we determined this past weekend to get ourselves and the kids out of the house more often. For some reason, kid-friendly dinner destinations seem to be corporate more often than not. There are exceptions, of course, but chains are just more likely to have a kids’ menu and crayons than the mom-and-pop Italian place down the street.
While we certainly prefer independently-owned restaurants as a rule, Amerigo is one of those chain restaurants (along with P.F. Chang’s) that is consistently decent.
Chloe (1) and Connor (almost 4) seemed a bit overwhelmed by the size of the restaurant as we walked in. The hostess led us to a table which was nestled in between two other "adult-occupied" tables, both of which shared a banquet seat with our table on one side. Uh-oh. The proximity of these adults to our monkeys was alarmingly close. On the bright side, the hostess did provide each monkey with crayons with which to scribble on the butcher-papered table.
The server was pleasant, and quick with the drinks and bread. Not her first time dealing with monkey tables.
Fresh from a multiple-small-portioned-courses-like-real-Italians-do-it meal at Bari a few weeks back, we decided to approximate that experience in this middle-America chain restaurant. We ordered a smorgasbord of non-main courses: Cheese Fritters in marinara and honey dijon, Calamari with creamy caper pesto and marinara sauces, Caesar Salad with grilled salmon, a side of Creamy Parmesan Polenta with tarragon butter, a side of angel hair pasta with garlic butter, and something off the kid’s menu– chicken strips and fries. More chances for us--most importantly Chloe and Connor--to find something to like.
I should mention that the kid’s menu was nice– 4 choices, each four bucks: the aforementioned chicken strips and fries, spaghetti, pizza, and fettuccine alfredo. Not bad. The one we got was a nice portion too.
Ok, so this was nothing like eating at Bari– a place where the monkeys would be most unwelcome– but it was still good.
Steph ordered a glass of Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc, and I went with the Kenwood Sauvignon Blanc. (SB being the best all-purpose everyday wine, of course.) Steph made a pretty serious mistake in ordering a Sprite for Connor. See, he’s been raised on milk, water, and medium-glycemic-index apple juice, almost exclusively. I found out a few nights ago what happens when we give the boy Sprite– his blood sugar shoots through the roof, his head spins around on his neck, and he moves at hyper speed. Oh, and the volume of his voice increases exponentially, and that loud voice is usually spouting sentences that involve the word "booty." This happens almost immediately. But, he had been "promised" Sprite– a.k.a. "spicy joooz" before we got there, so that’s what he got.
Let’s see, how was the food? The calamari was not bad– I’m a connoisseur when it comes to tentacled things, and this was decent. A tad over-battered, perhaps. I prefer lighter, less-greasy versions, but I’ve definitely had worse. The creamy caper pesto dipping sauce was delicious. The cheese fritters are interesting: blended cheeses, mixed with a bit of bread dough, fried, and served on a plate with marinara and honey dijon. Steph craves those things. I’m not quite as up on them– very heavy. The grilled salmon Caesar was pretty unremarkable– too much dressing, not the freshest lettuce. But, the two hunks of grilled salmon were very generous.
The kids got bits of everything to try. Connor, true to form, touched none of it except for his chicken strips and fries. Chloe, also true to form, devoured anything we put in front of her. You ask Chloe what the star of the meal was, and she’d say, for certain:
Well, she’d give that as a response to the meaning of life, but it invariably indicates happiness and/or enthusiasm. That sound was made most vigorously, with pointing and grabbing gestures, when she had the Creamy Parmesan Polenta with tarragon butter. Now THAT was something to write home (or blog) about. If you go to Amerigo, don’t miss it. The angel hair pasta with garlic butter (and maybe lemon?) was also much admired by the smallest of our clan.
At one point, while playing with the toy car we allowed him to take in, Connor lost control of his vehicle. Not entirely his fault, of course, because he was DUI of "spicy joooz." I was too harried to notice before Connor bolted off the banquet and under the table next to us, where there were four older adult diners. Gasp! He was actually mistaken about the car’s location– it was right under his feet, but for some reason he thought it was underneath our neighboring table. Connor grabbed one lady’s foot thinking it was his car. She let out a loud, "oh!"
We were mortified.
The folks at that table spoke to us when they left, saying good-bye to our "precious kids." Steph said (thankfully not to the woman’s face) "Look lady—don't try that sarcastic crap with me. I invented the fake-compliment-just-to-make-you-feel-worse move!"
Chloe, meanwhile, caused the necessity for much more than the usual butcher-paper-replacement by smearing large quantities of butter and angel hair into the paper. We’re talking a full-on change-the-tablecloth-underneath-situation, folks.
The server was sensitive to getting us in and out quickly. We were all ridiculously full and still had some to box up. During bath time that night, Connor broke into hysterics when he saw his sister’s full tummy: "Bwahahaha! She’s got a basketball on her stomach! Lookit at that HUUUGE belly! Hahahah!" That big belly is indicative of the Chockley verdict– thumbs up.