Saturday, March 6, 2010

Frankie Johnnie and Luigi Too--Mountain View, CA

Last Saturday we returned to the same strip of restaurants on El Camino as the night before (please see our review for Chef Xiu). After a long wait, we were anxious to sink our teeth into appetizers. The calamari came with a relatively thick batter that flaked off easily, revealing bare, pink, extraordinarily long tentacles. I have no hang up over those long, skinny, curly tubes, but many do and it’s something to be aware of. The appetizer came with three dipping sauces, including aioli, tartar and tomato. Far more distinctive and fun was the sausage bread, which had embedded sausage pieces with cheese just under the crust. The bread was delivered hot and came with a marinara sauce.

I asked our server to choose his favorite oven-baked dish. I was glad he selected the lasagna, as that was also on my mind. What came was a monstrous portion baked in its own oval au gratin dish. By my measurement, the big chunk came in at about five inches wide, two inches deep and seven inches long. The lasagna arrived piping hot with melted cheese on top and was filled with delicious ricotta. I appreciated that there was no soupiness to it. That is, it wasn’t watery as many pasta dishes can be. Interestingly, there was a small cube of steak in my lasagna as there was in my son’s spaghetti.

My wife tried their special, a butterfly pasta (farafalle) with spinach, tilapia, salmon and clams. She wife enjoyed the dish and gave me some salmon, which all but melted in my mouth. My dad had the fettuccine with shrimp. He thought the dish a bit heavy, but good. All three of us finished our plates.

The twins each went with a spaghetti, which they cleaned up and then some. The bigger twin couldn’t get enough of the dinner bread, which was a freshly baked sourdough. He used it to wipe his plate to a mirror finish.

As I left the restaurant I was already strategizing my return visit. After all, the lasagna, however fundamental and basic the dish may be, was terrific—the best in memory. As I wrote a draft of this review a few hours afterwards, though, I was still thirsty after drinking about half a gallon of ice water throughout that evening. My wife expressed having a similar thirst, so our dinners were certainly sodium rich.

If you go on a Saturday, get there early. We arrived at 5:35 pm but still needed to wait half an hour for a table. We passed the time watching from the sidewalk the five employees dedicated to making pizza, with one only working the oven. By the way, if you take out from the Frankie’s in Saratoga, be sure to check your order before leaving. Of the three or four times we tried, they never got it correctly—they’re especially prone to forgetting the soup.

Frankie Johnnie and Luigi Too
939 West El Camino Real
Mountain View, CA 94040-2513
(650) 967-5384