Pre-Move Date Night at Norberto’s
I’ve disappeared for a bit, haven’t I? Somewhere in the middle of moving and hosting Thanksgiving and losing track of where I put anything, the blog was put aside, but I’m back and rarin’ to go with quite a few posts! Plus the catching up with you! The bit of post-Thanksgiving news I’ve seen from some has been great–I would have loved to dine with you all, and for those I haven’t caught up on, it’s me and Malbec and the blogosphere tonight. (smile)
My plan is to start from where I left off & get as close to back on track as possible (we’ll see how that goes). While I have several non-recipe restaurant recaps, I will throw in a recipe or two along the way. I may veer of course. You never know; I’m dicey like that….
Before the “big move” (and by “big” I mean we hired movers to move the furniture and any boxes we already had packed & taped, the rest we’re still tackling via the awesome loan of G’s coworker’s giant 80s station wagon), G & I decided it was time for a fun night–something we hadn’t had in a long long long time. What better way to have fun than to grab an old-timey Italian meal and watch a movie at the Grandin Theater? Norberto’s and Mary Martha May Marlene it was!
Ever since moving here to Roanoke, I’ve wanted to eat at Norberto’s. There’s just something about glancing in at the generally elderly crowd gnoshing on old school Italian dishes with lit candles and lamps and the belief that somewhere in a corner two dogs are nose to nose with a piece of spaghetti between their mouths…well, anyway, you get the drift. It’s quaint in the good way, in the, “I could fall in love with this place” way.
Upon ordering our wine–a half carafe of Chianti (and reasonably priced at approx. $16)–we were presented with a cold antipasto consisting of some carrots, celery, olives, some kind of cheese, and, G guessed, ranch dressing. It was a little depressing (the carrots & celery had seen better days, were a little old with white, dried out edges) and I actually didn’t try any (I know, I know…but ranch dressing and veggies just don’t do it for me), but it was plated on a little silver fish that was just darling. And G ate the entire thing sans lettuce, he was that hungry, so it must not have been inedible. And I’ll admit, this was how I expected the entire meal to go, but, thankfully, I was in for a treat, as the rest of the meal was less cute and more delicious.
Antipasto destroyed, G & I placed our orders which also came with a generous pre-meal hunk of garlic bread and a salad. Not much to report on the garlic bread–our basketful was a little over baked and dried out, but garlicky enough to be pleasant for a few nibbles. G, again, ate a ton as, for some reason, constant manual labor on the house makes him hungry. Crazy, no?
As for the salad, that avocado dressing is a must. They make it in-house and I can’t remember what all was in it, but it was light and tangy and creamy all at once, and one of the more surprising and fresh elements of the meal. (G, again, cleaned his plate and finished off what I didn’t of mine–a trend, a trend).
At this point I have to comment on the service–it was perfect, especially for the vibe, which was one of cozy intimacy. Our server seemed to know all the regulars and bantered back and forth with them, but at the same time was quick to address us at the right moments, and our food was always on time–never too slow or fast. No issues whatsoever and, actually, was one of the better service experiences I’ve had in Roanoke. So props for that!
And the main course–Linguini with White Clam Sauce. Such a classic and something I haven’t had in years. And, for what it was–linguini, white wine, clams, butter, it was just right. The sea mixed with butter and white wine is never a bad thing, and the surprising addition of several whole clams in the shell made it even better. While the interior clams were probably shucked from a can and not the shell, they all tasted fresh and the grit content was minimal (though I did have a few sandy bites which, of course, took away from the pleasure, but so be it, it happens to everyone). And the portion was more than adequate–I took home half to eat for dinner the next day–for the price which, I think was somewhere around the $13-15 range (including antipasto, salad, bread).
All in all, Norberto’s astounded me with its solidly tasty cuisine. I walked in expecting kitsch, but the restaurant leans more on its cooking than that. Could it use some fresh paint on the walls? Sure. But I think I’ll miss some of that comfortable neighborhood establishment feeling when that does happen (which is sooner than later, we were told). It’s no surprise, really, that it’s been open since 1985, and I’m looking forward to making it a regular in my rotation.
Oh, and the movie? Quite excellent! Maybe not the best of the year, but definitely a top-notch American film. Who knew the Olsen Twin’s sister was such a great actress? My camera skills in the dark, not so great, but, hey, our faces are in there somewhere.
Norberto’s Italian Ristorante
1908 Memorial Avenue
Roanoke, VA 24015