Italian Hospitality

So after a long morning of meetings, I pick up Mama Squirrel for a late lunch. After a bit of aimless wandering, we decided on pizza. Our wandering led us to Ace’s Chicago Pizza in Cordova.

We arrived just after the lunch buffet had ended. The buffet was still well stocked though, and the pizza looked quite good for buffet fare. The very friendly lady running the place offered us the buffet in spite of the time. What really caught our attention though was spaghetti and meatballs with the buffet. The spaghetti had already been put away, but the nice lady offered to make us some. Mama and I loaded up our plates with pizza, which was just as tasty as it looked, while we waited on spaghetti. Like the pizza, the spaghetti was good, but it was the meatballs that really stood out. Ace’s offers a meatball sub. We knew right away we would be coming back for that.

Ace’s also has an attraction that we haven’t seen else where in Memphis, a true Chicago style hot dog with sweet pickle relish, tomato slices, and pickle spears. The thought of the nice folks and great sandwiches makes me almost ready for Monday and lunchtime.

While our Ace’s experience was more likely Southern hospitality in an Italian setting, we had another experience recently that was true Italian hospitality. After another bout of aimless wandering at lunchtime, Mama and I found ourselves in Collierville’s town square, looking at Pasta Italia and knowing that we had found the right place for lunch.

We were warmly greeted when we entered the comfy, homey space. We felt like we were being welcomed to sit at someone’s (tastefully appointed) kitchen table with great Italian music playing to liven the house. We ordered beef carpaccio as an appetizer and a sampler platter for an entree to share.

As we were waiting for our appetizer, we bemoaned the lack of business in such a lovely place. Not long after that we heard our server apologizing to someone at the door, telling them that the restaurant was closed for lunch that day while the chef prepared for a large catered event. We had slipped in before they had a chance to put up the closed sign, and they were too polite to chase us out.

As if that kindness weren’t enough to get us back, the food was remarkable. The carpaccio was a surprisingly large serving of tender beef made sweet with olive oil and tart with citrus. Guilt was the onlly problem with the dish. We hated to leave any of it on the plate, so we ate more than we should have before giving up. This dish would be a satisfying appetizer for four or perhaps even more to share. The generous shavings of the house Parmagianno Reggiano were meltingly delicious with the carpaccio and with the fresh focaccia.

Our entree was a marvel, four different pasta items from the restaurant’s menu. The ingredients were fresh and authentic, and the approach was careful and loving. The intrepid blogger, alas, was unprepared. I didn’t take any notes on the specifics of the marvelous meal, so I won’t risk besmirching it with inaccurate recollections. I will say that if I were to choose a single Italian meal in the Memphis area, it would be Pasta Italia.

Ace’s Chicago PizzaClosed
1134 N. Germantown Parkway
Cordova, Tennessee 38016
(901) 756-7223

Pasta ItaliaMoved
101 N. Center Street
Collierville, Tennessee 38017
(901) 861-0255

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4 thoughts on “Italian Hospitality

  • November 22, 2006 at 12:02 pm

    Watch out if you visit Pasta Italia in Collierville. Recently, we took our daughter, visiting from DC, for her birthday – a party of 3. The waiter mentioned, in his listing of specials, a 4-5 pasta sampler starter, chef’s choice. As all the starters were no more expensive than $12, I wasn’t concerned and ordered it. Imagine my surprise when the tab for the starter sampler was $45. My bad, I should have asked, but declined to do so because of my daughter. The food was delicious but left a bad taste with the $45 sampler. And believe me, it was a sampler: 2 bites each of 4 pastas. May not make a return trip because of this. Haven’t decided yet.

  • November 22, 2006 at 8:47 pm

    That sounds like they made a mistake. We had the appetizer, the sampler, dessert, and two beverages for only $50 including tip. Admittedly not something we could afford to do frequently, but it was a great special day lunch. The sampler is not a large dish, but we loved it. We are looking for an excuse to go back soon.

  • December 16, 2007 at 11:55 am

    my experience is very similar to leonards. My wife and I ordered an entree special (steak for 2) that was very tasty, but we were shocked when we recieved the bill. While i don’t exactly remember the price of the special, our total bill was $120 (we had 1 appetizer and split a dessert). So the special had to be in the $75 range, almost double the price of entree prices. The capacity of the establishment is small, so it is clear they are trying to squeeze as much $’s per person to make up for small sq. footage. $125 for dinner for 2 in collierville is way out of sight. For food that’s just as good and much better value, try Fino Villa.

  • May 31, 2008 at 9:31 pm

    While I agree the food is pricey–always ask on their specials. I agree with Squirrel..everytime I have eaten there the food is absolutely incredible. I have eaten at Fino Villa-which by the way Michele(pasta italia’s owner/chef) used to cook there-and our first trips were great. But later on, not so great. I don’t know if it had anything to do with different chefs or not.
    Pasta Italia is by far the best restaurant I have ever dined. Truly amazing!

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