Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Rants, Raves and Lessons on Staying in the Present

It has been roughly a month since we returned from Zihuatanejo. After having a few weeks to regroup, there are a few things that still warrant mentioning. Always top of the list are the restaurants. I have to admit I'm getting a bit tired of eatery posts. More often than not these days there is a trend among trip reports in which the primary focus is eating. A typical report goes something like this: "Monday we went out to eat at Restaurant X and ordered grilled Y with Z sauce. It was excellent and cost only (fill in the blank) dollars/pesos/euros/yen! The waiter was blasted slow and we about died of hunger but the place was packed so we understood. Tuesday we went to... " And on and on for about nine long paragraphs. Sigh. Why don't they just stay home and go out to dinner every night?! It would save them a lot of time and money. With that said here are a FEW Zih restaurants that we tried for the first time this year that are noteworthy...

Worth a Repeat Restaurant - Cafe Mandarino: This cozy cafe is located across from the church on Calle Cinco De Mayo. Their culinary niche is a varied offering of yummy filled crepes. The dinner crepes are quite large and filled generously with your choice of everything from Mexican to French fillings. In fact, the only regret about this place is that we were so full we weren't able to work our way through the dessert crepes. Crepes may not be traditionally Mexican but it was a nice change.

Cleanest Restaurant - Neuva Zealanda: We only ate breakfast here but their sparkling floors, tidy cafe counter and pristine bathrooms inspired confidence in their food. Even their menus were unsmudged! Fairly priced meals, standard Mexican menu and decent portions.
Calle Cuauhtemoc #23

Craziest Restaurant with Great Food - Angelos Pizza:
Whew! This place is something out of a Fellini film.

The Cast:
  • A screaming, raging, pan-banging Italian chef
  • A dreamy sweet faced waiter serenely taking orders and trying to retain calm
  • A sea of impatient customers unwittingly adding to the tension by their constant neck craning in the direction of the kitchen.
  • Us.. as.. well.. ourselves!
The scene: waiters fired..waiters re-hired..a fire juggler tossing torches just inches from the tables... Wine corks popping.. pasta slurping...too many customers.. not enough staff... loud background music ...Exciting Pandemonium!

When we visited we were seated promptly and after ordering, sipped on excellent and inexpensive wine. Eventually it was impossible to ignore the barrage of outraged screams coming from the kitchen. Coupled with this cacophony was a seemingly endless parade of the chef's friends who wandered by calling out enthusiastic greetings in Italian. (who knew there were so many Italians in Zih?) The shouts, agonized cries and pot banging continued from behind the counter. We fidgeted and wondered if coming here was a terrible, terrible mistake. At last, from this real life 'Hells Kitchen' chaos, our pasta dishes emerged. Within seconds we knew! They were ALL delicious. Forks stabbed ferociously back and forth as we struggled to try a morsel of each other's dinner. At last satiated, we sipped our wine, sat back and enjoyed the atmosphere. Apparently the evening hadn't been exciting enough for him, because Gerry took advantage of our pasta induced reveries (and subsequent inattention) to interject himself into this mad house. The chef had been doling out a scathing, long and LOUD critique to our serene and unflappable waiter. The monologue seemed to revolve around the pros and cons of firing him.

At this point my husband entered the fray. God help you if you are in a discussion with my Irish 'Persuader'. He can go all ten rounds - talking at you.. over you.. twisting what you say.. bringing up random bits of evidence to support his case...Yes, Gerry can go on for hours. So as the debate raged, both men's voices became louder, faces turned redder, customers interrupted their homage to pasta and exchanged looks of alarm. As I was preparing to give Gerry a kick in the shins (my long standing marital signal for 'knock it off, blockhead!') a silence fell over the establishment. The chef nodded in resignation and as he slumped weakly into a chair he agreed to keep our saintly waiter on staff. I strolled over and briefly interviewed this mercurial restaurant owner. Found out he was from the south of Italy.. had been chef at many interesting establishments.. just your typical, amazingly talented, wild Italian chef! As we prepared to leave, the waiter glided by our table and baring his peaceful Buddah-like smile, he breathed a soft "Thank you..". For this quick tempered Gringa he was a walking sutra lesson.

So, although Angelos is not for everyone, this place served up an unforgettable evening of high drama, some unexpected inspiration and outstanding food! We will be back. At Pedro Ascencio and Agustin Ramirez


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