We are having fun discovering restaurants in Provo, and so far we have been to more Italian places than any other kind. We are too late for Ottavio's. I read the reviews about how good they were – even included it, though not by name, in one of my novels – but before we got here they closed to focus on catering, so maybe some time we'll still get to sample their food. Gloria's Little Italy was our kind of place - cloth napkins and music on the PA system that we recognized, not to mention the marvelous food. It's right on the corner of Center and University in downtown Provo, and there are three or four other Italian restaurants on the same block.
Last week we went to Carrabba's and were totally charmed. This is a rung above the Olive Garden experience. They start with a little dish of herbs the waiter sprinkles some olive oil on, and then you dip bread in the mixture. The bread was crusty and dense and wonderful with the herbs. At Tuscany, the fabulous Italian restaurant we like so much in Decatur, they combine parmesan cheese with oil for dipping breadsticks. When I told the waiter that, he said next time we should request the cheese. Anyway our waiter was delightful, especially when we told him this was our first trip to Carrabba's. He was very knowledgeable about the menu. I asked him what herbs were in the mix and he could list them all. I commented that although there were red pepper flakes in it, it wasn't overly hot. He said he liked that, too – "I'm a sad excuse for an Indian," he said. "I don't like hot food and I'm not in medical school." Later someone else came by and talked to us, who we assumed was probably the manager. Nice touch.
Today for lunch we went to the Pizza Pie Cafe, an Italian buffet. For a very reasonable price we had a salad bar, variety of pizza, pasta, and sweet pizza desserts. A good subtitle for this place would be Carb City. It was quite tasty, although the music was too loud and not to our liking. They had at least ten kinds of pizza, including cheese sticks to have with your pasta, and eight kinds of pasta, although whole wheat pasta wasn't included, and six kinds of sauces. I had spinach fettuccine with a very delicious carbonara sauce. Their dessert pizza flavors were raspberry, apple and peach cobbler, oreo crunch, cookie dough, and cinnamon strips. The crust was chewy and substantial, although some of the toppings were skimpy, i.e. one piece of chicken on a whole slice of pizza. All in all, kids would really like this place.
Our fall-back option is often plain old ordinary IHOP. I love their design-your-own omelet, which for me is usually bacon, fresh spinach and fresh tomatoes, and which is great any time of day. My guilty pleasure on the menu is chocolate chip pancakes. I often order them with a meal and then take them home for breakfast the next day. Their whole grain pancakes are also great. Instead of using syrup, I get the waiter to put a spoonful of strawberry topping on the pancakes instead. When I'm in a hot chocolate mood, I like IHOP.
Our exploration of local restaurants meanders on. There are a couple more Italian places to discover, and we haven't started in on the Mexican or Chinese food places yet, so we will continue to enjoy the serendipity.