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What’s in a name?

A good portion of Food Dude’s mail comes from people trying to make dinner plans in a panic. I recently heard from a salesman who had just been told that his client had converted to a strict vegan diet. He feared his reservations at 801 Steak & Chop House wouldn’t work. That’s just an extreme example of what typical parents do every night trying to accommodate the ever-changing tastes of their children. I empathize now because this restaurant review was scrambled in such a panic.

I was planning to review Angelo’s and had eaten my way through much of their menu before noticing something that had somehow escaped my eye — something so astonishing it reduced everything else about the restaurant to insignificance. The place peddles a pizza called “Illinois Nazi” and not out of naiveté. It’s starred on their menu as a “signature item.” I then learned that a Jewish Press editor had informed the restaurant that the idea of an oven-baked food named for “Nazis” was painful and insulting. Angelo’s reply was that the holocaust happened long ago and it was time to move on.

When the Caribou Coffee chain was defamed because one of its executives endorsed the extermination of Israel, that company severed all ties with the man in hopes of appeasing customers. What Angelo’s is doing is unapologetic and somehow it’s been less publicized. In this information age, no one should be spending their money unaware that they are supporting hatred of people of any ethnicity or religion.

Duly informed, I had to start over with a new answer to a reader’s inquiry about feeding a soccer team and their more discriminating parents in the northwest part of town. I needed something quick and, just a few blocks from Angelo’s, I spied an omen called Presto. This store specializes in foods that are prepped for baking at home. I tested both their thin and original crust pizza, with both white and marinara sauces, plus some ready to bake chocolate chunk cookies and Buffalo wings. Personally, I don’t think my home oven can get hot enough to do justice to thin crusts, so I’d rate the regular crust higher. It delivered something close to the taste of homemade white bread. A youthful test audience liked it better, too, saying it compared well to both Papa John’s and Home Team pizza.

The chicken wings had been partially pre-cooked at temperatures too low to crisp the skin. That’s essential to good wings in my book, but my testers liked the soft texture, explaining that the chicken is just part of a delivery system for sauces. Presto offers those in five flavors and several levels of spiciness. As for the cookies, “who doesn’t like hot baked cookies?”

I wasn’t sure the adults would like the home-baked pizza as much as the kids would, so I visited another place that has been touted by enthusiastic readers. Red Rossa in Clive is just the second store anywhere of a hopeful chain from Sioux Falls. My first impression was to ask if they sell stock in the company — there’s that much to like. Red Rossa offers an attractive dining room, free wi-fi and homemade gelatos. Wondrous aromas came from oak burning in an open oven that was producing the best pizza in the western suburbs. It’s a worthy rival to downtown’s Centro, with San Marzano tomatoes, good cheeses and perfect, blistered crusts. My carryout order was removed from the oven exactly on time and the pizza cost significantly less than what I’m used to paying for lesser pies. Best of all, I would not yet have found this place had it not been for hate mongers.

Side dishes
Prairie Meadows will host “A Culinary Affair” educational fundraiser May 6, with top chefs from six of Iowa’s best restaurants combining skills on six courses. The $75 ticket includes wine. Call 276-1454. CV

By Jim Duncan
Past Food Dude Reviews
Amici Espresso (1-4-07) Bandana's (1-11-07)
Perry hotel (1-18-07) Beyond frozen (1-25-07)
Centro (2-1-07) KC BBQ (2-8-07)
Planet Sub (2-15-07) Trostel’s Greenbriar (2-22-07)
Acapulco (3-1-07) Aryana (3-8-07)
AJ's (3-15-07) Ban Thai (3-22-07)
Two Crop Palace(3-29-07) Mo Q x 2 (4-5-07)

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