Friday, January 25, 2013

A wonderful Italian dinner!

Recently I had the pleasure of discovering a wonderful Italian eatery not very far from my home, of course I knew it was there, but I had no idea how good the food was!  The little gem is called Flo's Pizzaria Ristorante and Sports Bar, and I think it's the last part that threw me off.  Now to be fair, I had known about this place but had never been in, until I found out that one of my students from last semester's Finance Ethics class that I teach at Grand Valley State University was an owner of this place.  So, given I didn't want to have a conflict of interest, I told him I'd come out for dinner after the semester is over (you know how easy it is to bribe ethics professors with food right?) and recently I had the pleasure of dining in Belmont.

Now to be fair, we enjoyed a few items that were not regularly on the menu, but quite a few are there everyday, so for any local folks that would like a nice, tasty Italian dinner you can enjoy anytime, this is a great place.  We started with an eggplant parmigiana appetizer that was simply delicious, perfectly cooked (i.e. no bitterness in the eggplant) with lovely breading that offered great texture contrasts.  Then we had the main course, which was really four courses in one, sort of an Italian sampler that included Spitini alla Siciliana that was basically a beef tenderloin, sliced super thin, tenderized, then coated with a layer of breadcrumbs, ham and cheese (a secret family recipe) and rolled up and grilled.  I expected it to be very dry, but it was moist, and the flavors of the wood grill on the beef were outstanding.  Next was the classic Italian sausage and peppers (on the menu every night!) that they make themselves, and the seasoning was just perfect.  Trust me, having lived in New York with many close Italian friends, this is the real deal!

Oh yes, then there was the wine.  Davide Ucello, my student and the proprietor honored me with two bottles of wine that was produced by his uncle in the town where he was born, Partinico in Sicily.  The first was the 2006 Honoris Causa, a blend of Nero D'Avola (75%) and Syrah (25%).  This wine had wonderful aromas of black currant, ripe plum and leather, with just the faintest hint of anise. The taste was marvelously fruit forward, with ripe berries and a jammy like fruit, which gave way to a wonderful spiciness midpalate.  The finish was quite dry and long, with well structured tannins that supported the velvety finish.  Overall that would be an 8.5 in my book, even though I have no idea where I could get more!

Now back to dinner, on that platter of deliciousness, we also had some wonderful baked manicotti, stuffed with spinach and beef, it was all at once rich and fresh as the spinach was a nice counterbalance to the richness of the beef and sauces.  This one was Davide's mother's recipe and it was fabulous!  Finally, we had some fettuccine with Italian Gorgonzola sauce (this one is also on the menu everyday) which was simply delicious but deceiving, since it looks like plain boring fettuccine Alfredo, but once you taste it, the Gorgonzola blows you away!

Then of course there was the second bottle of wine, which I honestly can't tell you much about from the label.  The 2008 V90 Vinovantarossosicilia, which from what I've been able to find is a blend of Nero D'Avola (85%) and Merlot (15%).  This one is similar to the Honoris Causa, but the addition of the Merlot to the blend adds something quite different.  This one appears to be a somewhat lighter body, and the nose presents some lovely red fruit and floral notes, and a good bit of sweetness.  The taste is very fruity, with a lot of ripe blackberry and plum that transitions to a somewhat woodsy blend of earthy flavors midpalate.  The finish is quite nice, very rounded, almost voluptuous, with nicely balanced tannins to support the bright fruit.  Overall, I would rate this one a solid 8, as I just liked the first bottle a bit more.  The crazy thing is that these wines are quite good in their own right, but they aren't on the menu at Flo's!  We will have to do something about that.

So if you are in the Grand Rapids area and are looking for a nice Italian dinner, or just someplace to grab a pizza and watch the game, I can't recommend Flo's Pizzaria Ristorante and Sports Bar in Belmont more!  In fact, for you locals, I mentioned to Davide that I planned to try my best to make it up for dinner at least once a month, so on the third Saturday of every month I plan to be there.  Let's make it an event!

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