Saturday, March 17, 2018


Tonight we're celebrating St. Patrick's Day by eating Italian.  We're at JOE AND MIMMA'S in Riverside Shopping Center in Danville.  That's right, we didn't go to Greensboro for dinner.  We went to Danville.

I ate at JOE AND MIMMA'S many decades ago, but I don't remember much about it.  I would say Debbie is much more of a regular there.  Debbie's family often has celebrations there - somebody's birthday or a special occasion.  I'm usually not invited.

It seemed everybody at JOE AND MIMMA'S recognized Debbie and knew her name.  Even small-time TV can make you a star 30 miles away.  No one recognized me.  I'm not looking for sympathy.  I prefer to travel incognito.

Way back in the olden days, I was reminded of an occasion when we (Debbie and I and her friend and husband) ordered a bottle of Sangiovese (wine), but the hostess for the event made it perfectly clear she would not be buying wine for dinner.  I think she was paying for everything else, but there would be no alcohol put on her tab.

Isn't it amazing?  I'm talking years ago, and Debbie remembers what kind of wine we ordered.  Sometimes the woman's memory is scary.

It's odd how Baptists will deny any association with wine, but Jesus not only drank wine, he also made wine.  Debbie (a former Baptist by birth) explained hardcore Baptists believe Jesus drank and made grape juice, not wine.  Baptists take the Bible literally except certain parts that they don't like.  Baptists don't like Jesus drinking wine, so it must have been grape juice.  I personally think Jesus drank coconut milk because that's what my religion tells me to believe.

But, enough about wacky Baptists, let's talk about dinner at JOE AND MIMMA'S.

Once we were able to squeeze in the door, and I do mean squeeze.  There was a throng standing inside the door.  I had to stand outside the door for a bit while the guy in front of me was half in and half out.

It had been years since I had been there, so it was confusing to me.  Everyone seemed to be holding styrofoam boxes or bags and green tickets.  Only much later did I learn these were people waiting to check out with their leftovers in hand.  You could barely get in the restaurant for all the people waiting to leave the restaurant.  I'll tell you more later.

Fortunately, Debbie knew the routine and when she showed up (she was parking the car while I was supposedly getting us a table) she knew what to do.  She plowed through the crowd and found her way to a smaller spot towards the back to register us for a seat.  I saw nothing on JOE AND MIMMA'S website where you could call or register for a reservation

Here's a photo of a board with the evening specials that was taking up valuable space at the overcrowded front door.  I'll try to read it for you: 1) lobster crab cakes in a lemon cream something...maybe frida (?); 2) Chesapeake seafood chowder with oyster, shrimp, cod - crolo(?); 3) grilled marinated mahi-mahi in papaya-pineapple salsa served with Jasmine rice a tempur(?) asparagus; 4) Prosciutto-burrara fat bread; and 5) swiss chalet chocolate mousse cake.

I know the specials sound like instructions to Gort the robot from THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (the 1951 Michael Rennie/Patricia Neal version, not the crappy Keanu Reeves/Jennifer Connelly version), but it's the best I can do.  Klaatu barada nikto!

The sign says it all.  Wait and wait some more and wait some more.  We had arrived at the wrong time on the wrong day.  Apparently, everybody celebrates St, Patrick's Day by eating Italian.

Debbie decided to play Solitaire on her cell phone during the Bataan Death March to the inner sanctum.  Most of the people sitting and standing around us did the same.  I can't say for sure they were playing solitaire, but they were staring and pecking at their cell phones.  Debbie wondered what they did before cell phones were invented.  I suggested maybe they talked to each other.

Here's the salad Debbie made for me.  JOE AND MIMMA'S has a small bar where you make your own salad.  I'm not sure why, but Debbie volunteered to make my salad.  She did a pretty good job except for the four little tomatoes.  I don't like cherry tomatoes.  I don't why, but I don't like them in my salad.  Debbie knows that, but she put them there anyway.  She said she was trying to figure a way to get some vegetables in me.  I did not remind her that tomatoes are fruits, not vegetables.

The dressing is Ranch.  MIMMA makes (or buys) a good Ranch dressing.  The ingredients were fresh and tasty.  It was a simple salad, but very good (except for the damn cherry tomatoes).

Unfortunately, I was not able to completely finish the salad because the meal turned out to be too gargantuan. 

Debbie made a salad for herself which I don't think she was able to finish it either.  Too much food.

I now know why everyone leaving the restaurant seemed to be carrying a box or bag.

I went all out for St, Patrick's Day because I am Irish.  I ordered an Italian beer in a green bottle.  Peroni is made in Italy.  We used to sell Peroni in our store.  I recalled it being very nice.  It still is.  MIMMA'S served it in a frosty mug.  That was a nice touch.  NASTRO AZZURRO means "blue ribbon".  The Peroni went well with my dinner.

OK, there's a couple of things we want to talk about here.  That is Debbie's glass of Chianti in the rear on the left.  It is an unpronounceable Chianti.  It was not very good and was served at or above room temperature, not at 55 degrees or anywhere near that.  Debbie suggested the bottle had been stored next to the pizza oven.  I tasted it.  I think they put the glass of wine in the microwave to knock the room temperature "chill" off it.

Do not order a Chianti that you cannot pronounce at JOE AND MIMMA'S.  You will regret it.

In front of the unpronounceable Chianti is our appetizer.  It is goat cheese, portobello mushrooms, and caramelized onions served on a flat bead.  Doesn't that sound fantastic?  It was delicious! The bread was crunchy and the three toppings were...PERFECTO!  The goat cheese was tangy and stood out above the other ingredients.  We like goat cheese

This single appetizer with our salads, Peroni, and unpronounceable Chianti could have made our entire dinner.  Just forget the entrees and sides that were to come.  But, of course, we forged ahead.  St. Patrick was counting on us.

This is the focaccia bread that was served with our dinner.  It was excellent.  The little bowl of magic sauce for dipping your focaccia was also outstanding.  We asked our waitress (more about her later) what was in the sauce.  Despite working for MIMMA'S for years, she did not know.  Apparently, in all those years no one had ever asked.  Amazing.  

She went to the kitchen to ask about the magic sauce.  She returned to tell us it contained olive oil, dried tomatoes, basil, garlic, and oregano. I don't believe it was even extra virgin olive oil.  The color was too light and the flavor not so "olivey".  Whatever was in it, it was great!

The real mystery was why our waitress did not know what was in the magic sauce.  Debbie said it was because most people are not like me - they don't care what the ingredients are in a dish, even in an outstanding magic sauce.  Oh, well, their loss.

This is the side dish that came with my entree.  I could have chosen pasta with marinara sauce, mixed vegetables, or pasta with meat sauce.  I chose pasta with meat sauce.  Some might call it spaghetti. 

I have made a mess of the dish.  It did not look like what you see here when it was served.  Unfortunately, it tasted like it looked.  The dish was not hot and had little flavor.  Debbie makes spaghetti that is ten times better than what MIMMA served.

If you decide to eat at MIMMA'S, I recommend you try the mixed vegetables as a side.  I don't know what vegetables are included but don't take a chance on the pasta with meat sauce or marinara.

I did not finish the pasta with meat sauce.  It was not worth the effort and what it was doing to the front of my shirt.  I am a messy eater.

Here is my entree.  It is CHICKEN MARSALA.  Marsala is a fortified (higher alcohol content) sweet red wine.  Sweet wine is not my forte, but what the hell.  

I normally order pasta or seafood at an Italian restaurant but decided to go full kinky this time.   I love chicken but rarely order it.  If the world's chicken supply became contaminated with a virus or something icky, I guess I would starve.   I think my love of chicken grew out of eating my Grandmother's fried chicken at her kitchen table when I was a tiny lad.

MIMMA'S chicken Marsala was two breasts fried crispy and served in the wine sauce with mushrooms.  Again the plate did not look like this when it was served.  I made the mess, but this time the dish was excellent.  The wine sauce was only slightly sweet and the mushrooms were perfect with the chicken.  This was a very good dish.  Just don't order the pasta with meat sauce as a side.  You don't need the pasta anyway.  It's just too much food.

Debbie is trying to tip her plate so I can photograph her entree, but her sauce was trying to escape the shallow bowl.  We're in an Italian restaurant, so, of course, she ordered veal.  Debbie is like a broken record when it comes to Italian food.

She wanted VEAL ALLA VALDOSTANA, but MIMMA'S is no longer offering the dish even though it's still listed on their website.  Alla valdostana means served with prosciutto and fontina cheese.  Debbie speculated the dish was too expensive to make.  In reality what she actually got was the same price as the alla valdostana.

Debbie's entree was VEAL PICCATO.   It was served in a lemon butter sauce with seven secret herbs and spices.  I think that's linguine under the veal and lemon slice.  Italians have so many pastas it's hard to know what is what.  Whatever it was, Debbie seemed to like it.

It was good, but not CHICKEN MARSALA good.  I think the VEAL ALLA VALDOSTANA would have been much better.  I seem to recall her bringing some ALLA VALDOSTANA home to me in a styrofoam box.  It is too bad MIMMA'S is no longer offering it.

We reluctantly ordered a dessert.  We really had no room for dessert, but we ordered it to get the big picture.  The sacrifices we make for you people are unbelievable. 

This is PANNA COTTA which means "cooked cream".  A lot of phrases don't translate very well.

PANNA COTTA is a mound of vanilla custard with whipped cream on top.  It is served with blueberries and strawberries.  The sauce is Kirsch brandy.  Kirsch is cherry-flavored alcohol.

It looks heavy, but in fact, it was quite light and tasty.  Debbie was too full to do more than barely taste it, but I "forced" it down.  Debbie said the blueberries were good for me.  I always listen to Debbie, so I had to eat the whole thing.

These are twins Dixie and Debbie.  Dixie was our waitress.  She was very good even if she had the wrong name to be working in a very Italian restaurant.  According to Debbie, Dixie has been at JOE AND MIMMA'S forever.  A Dixie should be working at a diner called EATS.  Dixie should call herself SOFIA when she's at work.  After decades on the job, Dixie finally learned what is in the magic sauce.

By the time Debbie got to the register to check out, most of the throng was gone.  It was agonizing watching the guy at the register.  He had to pull out a calculator when Debbie told him to add 15% for a tip.  He was painfully slow and apparently his credit card machine doesn't print a line for the customer to add whatever amount she wants to tip.  

Debbie said he is MIMMA'S husband.  This is not JOE.  According to Debbie, JOE AND MIMMA are brother and sister.  JOE runs a JOE AND MIMMA'S in Richmond and MIMMA mans the Danville post.  MIMMA was at the Danville location working the kitchen and, yes, MIMMA knew Debbie's name and talked about seeing Debbie on TV.

For the record, we did not leave JOE AND MIMMA'S carrying any boxes or bags.

This is a photo of MIMMA'S wine stock.  I suppose the heating elements are under the bottom of the bottles.

Asked to compare JOE AND MIMMA'S with SALVINO'S, Debbie gave them an even score.  I gave SALVINO'S the edge.  If for no other reason, SALVINO'S doesn't serve its wine from the surface of the sun and I'm guessing the spaghetti is edible.

Note when JOE AND MIMMA'S was crowded, it was still very quiet.  I could have an across-the-table conversation with Debbie with no problem.  Double stars for this feature.

Total cost for our St. Patrick's Day dinner was about $83 with tax and tip.

JOE AND MIMMA'S is recommended.

Click images to enlarge