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Food Dude

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By Jim Duncan

Redefining pizza

Italian cuisine existed before tomatoes, corn and most beans were discovered in Mexico, but it surely didn’t resemble contemporary Italian cooking. Likewise, Italian-American cuisine thrived in Des Moines for half a century before Noah Lacona served the town’s first pizza. Now our yellow pages list 104 pizza outlets. Some people might think that’s more than enough, but not Tony Lemmo or Todd Bordenaro. Both successful restaurateurs recently added to those pizza listings, yet somehow brought something new to the table.

Lemmo’s Frank’s Pizza in Dogtown serves four kinds of pie — salad, cannoli, wine and beer. That’s it. Slices are available only during lunch hours and there is no home delivery, a rarity in a college setting.

“Name one great pizza place anywhere that delivers,” Lemmo explained, in the Socratic manner.

His hand tossed, homemade pies came with considerable adornment for $9 or $16. All challenge diners a bit. Two for instance, add an unexpected acidity kick: Mona Lisa, crisper than others because of its olive oil, was covered with tomatoes marinated in balsamic vinegar, rosemary, fresh garlic, crimini mushrooms, kalamata olives, soft Ricotta and hard Romano; DiMaggio mixed sausage and pepperoni with pickled banana peppers, red sauce, mushrooms and mozzarella. House roasted chickens and pesto, two Lemmo signatures, dominated Frank’s Soprano.

Bordo’s Eatery and Sauce has taken over the old Garcia’s venue with a swagger. They preserved the Mexican themed décor and furniture, a testament to the durability of the Sticks brand, but something that only a self-confident Italian place would dare. Bordo’s has a pedigree that justifies confidence. Partners include a Bordenaro and a Renda. The first name has been synonymous with good pizza for 30 years. The second invokes Jenny Renda (of Aunt Jenny’s), the supreme nana of Italian culinary history in Des Moines. I began by trying everything that carried the Renda name: carmatelli, Carmen Renda’s baked cavatelli with sausage or meat balls, red gravy and two kinds of cheese: superb fried meatballs; and a meatball sandwich in a soft unbaked bun with rich red sauce and pellets of ricotta. Several weeks later, this sandwich had been upgraded, with mozzarella instead of ricotta, a toasted bun and two side dishes of peppers. It’s refreshing when dishes get better with time.

Bordo’s pizza could redefine what locals mean by “thin crust” and that would be a very good thing. These pies are sensationally thin and crisp, more so than any in town. Several were treated with great respect — real buffalo mozzarella (you can buy this at Costco now), fresh oregano, basil, goat cheese, etc. Salad choices included two vinaigrette dressings (ginger-wasabi and roast tomato) that were way out of the ordinary. Home made ravioli were revelations in red sauce.

Bordo’s is much more than a pizza joint; it’s also different things at different times. On the two occasions when I visited, it was impersonating a smoky sports bar, including lots of indoor cigar smoke. On several other occasions, second hand smoke was barely noticeable even though the bar is in the middle of the place with no wall protecting non-smokers. The menu included a lot of sports bar fare — onion rings, nachos, bread sticks, dips, wings, fingers and quesadillas. The best appetizer was calamari sautéed in whiskey, with fresh spinach and tomatoes, plus portabellas and shrimp, which could have been omitted. The squid itself was marvelous, whole tender babies and a few small rings, but the heavy flavor of portabellas detracted.

Desserts included cannoli, for which the filling was freshly made, and some less interesting outsourced cheesecakes. There was no espresso.

Bordo’s Eatery and Sauce
1250 8th St., West Des Moines, 221-2312
Sunday - Thursday 11 a.m. - 11 p.m., Fri. - Sat. 11 a.m. - 2 a.m.

Frank’s Pizza
2314 University Ave., 369-2430
Monday -Thursday 11 a.m. - 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.

Side dish
Something Good cooks their collard greens with smoked turkey, a healthy surrogate that fooled me into identifying them as ham hocks… Deep fryers have been banned in California schools. CV

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)
What's In A Name?(4-12-07) Lemongrass (4-19-07)
Chef Joe's Place (5-3-07) Suburban Restaurant (5-10-07)
Gateway Market Café (5-17-07) Irina’s Restaurant Bar (5-24-07)
Trailer Tripe (5-31-07) Azalea (6-07-07)
Pho All Seasons (6-14-07) Farmers Market (6-21-07)
El Sabor Latino (6-28-07) Crouse Café (7-5-07)
Bistro Montage (7-12-07) Jaliscolita rebounds (7-19-07)
New Saigon (7-26-07) Smokey D's BBQ (8-2-07)
Gourmet Burgers (8-9-07) Iowa State Fair (8-16-07)
Rolling Wok (8-23-07) Sports Bars (8-30-07)
Dragon House West (9-6-07) Carr’s Soul Food Cafe (9-13-07)
The Sushi Surge(9-20-07) B & B Grocery Meat & Deli (9-27-07)

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