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Eat at home, but let them do the cooking

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SOMETIMES the privacy of eating at home is more inviting than eating in public, but there’s no reason you have to do the cooking. It is possible to eat well in the following three, but their seating arrangements may make take-out more appealing.

 

Dining Out

Piazza De Nardi

  • 1360 Taylor Ave., 982-9461

Kudara

  • 421 Academy Rd., 477-8888

Famena

  • 295 Garry St., 414-9040

Piazza De Nardi’s cafe tables have grown from few to several. Nevertheless they are small, the views are of either the parking lot or the shelves of groceries, and, since the food is already prepared and you serve yourself anyway — cafeteria fashion — you may be happier taking it home.

The choices change daily, with entrées — accompanied by either a pasta or rice — approximately $8 to $13 for single servings (these are not shareable portions). They are mostly simple but very well prepared oldschool standards, much better than you’d expect from a steam table. The hand in the kitchen is sure, the sauces well balanced and the results savoury and satisfying. There are usually meatballs — monster size but still light and moist, in a well-modulated tomato sauce. On my visit there were slices of chicken breast in a slightly creamy sauce — far more flavourful than chicken breast usually is. And not all the dishes were Italian; for example, veal goulash — tender and slightly zesty with paprika.

Of course, there were pastas — a good meat lasagna, and terrific ziti — long, hollow tubes in an ultra-light tomato sauce (available as a main dish, or as a side). The service may be cafeteria style, but you’ll be asked if you’d like more sauce and/or grated Parmesan with your tomato-sauced dishes.

Other possibilities might be salmon, chicken cacciatore or parmigiana, or pasta al forno.

A separate section offers cold dishes to round out your meal. Or, for that matter, to anchor it, such as the roast beef — not exactly Italian either, but beautifully rare and perfectly tender.

They had run out of the grilled beets by the time I got there, and I didn’t get the broiled eggplant slices, but I did try the asparagus salad — big, fat, perfectly cooked spears — as well as grilled red and orange peppers (which could have used more seasoning). The only disappointment: the arancini rice balls (to be heated at home) with rice that was stodgy and a flavourless filling.

The counter staff are pleasant, but too busy to get into conversations about the dishes (there is often a lineup), so it helps to decide what you are going to order before you are asked.

And if you want vino to go with it, the shelves are only a few steps away.

 

Piazza De Nardi owner Maria De Nardi and head chef Tony Rampone serve tasty takeout.

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Piazza De Nardi owner Maria De Nardi and head chef Tony Rampone serve tasty takeout. (PHOTOS BY JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS) Photo Store

Sushi travels well, which is a good thing, since there are an increasing number of takeout outlets — like Kudara, for instance, a tiny room tucked into a wee strip mall behind a Domo gas bar, with three small tables and a few seats at the bar. Obviously, it is possible to eat there, but equally obviously, one might be more comfortable doing so at home. The menu is relatively small, too, but the sushi they do make are delicious, with particularly generous slices of fresh-tasting fish and moist rice that is seasoned with hints of vinegar and sugar. They are also well priced, with nigiri sushi from $2.45 to $3.95 for two pieces, regular rolls from $3.95 to $6.95, and special rolls from $10.45 to $12.95.

I particularly liked the nigiri sushi of white tuna, toro and the chopped scallop with tobiko and mayonnaise.

The specialty rolls are huge, but I had a hard time choosing among them, since imitation crab (which I dislike) was an ingredient in 10 out of the 15 listed. The White Dragon was one of the few without it, a fine concoction of deep-fried shrimp, cucumber, avocado and green onion, topped by white tuna and black tobiko.

That said, I still enjoyed two which did contain the "crab" but weren’t dominated by its sweetness — the Rainbow, in particular, which also had cucumber and avocado, with assorted fish on top, and the Caterpillar, with cucumber, unagi and avocado, topped by crunchy tobiko. Best of all, possibly, were donburi sashimi — really thick slabs of tuna or salmon served on rice. They come with slices of lemon, squirts of which do wonders for the soy sauce.

There are a few other items on the menu. Shrimp tempura are a little overbattered but good ($5.95 for five pieces, and the spinach salad had a nice sesame dressing ($3.45). The gyoza (five for $5.95) are deep fried and skimpily filled but tasty. However, hastily mixed miso soup ($1) was too thin on one visit and the seafood udon was disappointing — nice thick noodles, but merely passable seafood in a bland broth ($9.95).

 

If you eat at Famena, it will be on one of 14 stools at a curved counter, in a tight little place under the Garry Street Parkade. Obviously, much of the business is for takeout, but unlike the German specialties of the previous tenant, the cooking these days is Caribbean. You can have your curries made with chicken, beef, goat, shrimp, or all vegetarian, and they are richly flavourful and delicious. The meats sampled were moist and tender, the big, juicy shrimp were particularly good, and the house-made roti wraps are flaky, soft, and quite wonderful ($8.90 to $16).

If you want your curry with rice, be very specific — we ordered both kinds, but all turned up in roti shells. The doubles are flavourful snacks, but our beef patty — with a filling that tasted like leftover beef — had been nuked ($3 each). Jerk chicken had an odd, sweet flavour, and if you want a fried rice or a chow mein (served in the evening and on weekends only, $11.99 to $15.99), you’ll probably do better at your local Chinese takeout.

Open 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday to Wednesday and Saturday, and 8:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday.

marion.warhaft@freepress.mb.ca

Dining Out

Piazza De Nardi

  • 1360 Taylor Ave., 982-9461

Kudara

  • 421 Academy Rd., 477-8888

Famena

  • 295 Garry St., 414-9040

To see the location of these restaurants as well as others reviewed in the Winnipeg Free Press, please see the map below.

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