Rice “n” Noodle (9094 Camp Bowie West Blvd.) looked like a good spot for Chow, Baby’s favorite dining-alone game: Guess who’s gonna order what?
Tucked in a strip mall just barely inside the loop, Rice “n” Noodle does a huge take-out business but very little sit-down, so it was easy to grab the prime eavesdropping table by the counter. First up: a young Laotian woman, surely hungry for home cooking, so Chow, Baby guesses the Lao papaya salad ($5.50). Wrong: She’s going for the wings (orders of 10 to 150 pieces, $5.25 to $77.85), and not even the sweet chile or Thai spicy flavors; she picks BBQ and lemon pepper. Well, what about this pair: All-American guy and teenage son, obviously fresh from some wholesome outdoor activity involving a ball. Wings, duh. No?! They both went for the spicy green curry ($7.75), a coconut-milky, palate-caressing, highly addictive stew of spices, veggies, and choice of pork, beef, or chicken. At least they picked beef.
Gee, why won’t people stay in their stereotypes? Chow, Baby certainly does. Even the owner, super-friendly Chad, pretty much does: After owning a nice restaurant in Thailand, he moved his family here in pursuit of the American dream and wound up working in a Wings 21. But when that closed, Chad kept the location and the wing-cooking equipment, added his own cuisine, and there you have it, like the window sign says: “Thai Food and Wings.” Chow, Baby hasn’t had the second, but loves Mrs. Chad’s renditions of the first: nongreasy Thai potstickers ($5.95); lightly marinated Bangkok BBQ pork ($7.95), mild lad nar with broccoli and pan-fried wide noodles ($6.95). … Ooh, here come some folks. Extreme Hot Wings types, from the looks of them. But Chow, Baby isn’t betting its mango sticky rice ($3.50) on it.
Fate, al Firenze
Clearly Chow, Baby was destined to lunch at Nonna Tata (1400 W. Magnolia Av.) on a certain beautiful day last week – at the height of the lunch rush, not only was a table actually open, but it wasn’t even the teeny one blocking the bathroom! And get this – spaghetti carbonara was on the menu! This has been Chow, Baby’s favorite Nonna Tata dish ever since it learned that the teeny restaurant’s strange no-cream, crispy-pancetta, slightly cheese-gritty version is 100 percent Italian-authentic. (Loyal readers may recall Chow, Baby’s research trip to Rome last winter, which has now been fully tax-deducted, so no need to go on about it.)
According to the waitress, though, Nonna Tata’s menu isn’t as ever-changing as it used to be; spaghetti carbonara now makes a frequent appearance. Well, the whole point of craving something is not being able to have it, so Chow, Baby instead chose pasta al limone e spinaci ($8.55), a lovely light spaghetti dish of lemon-drizzled sautéed spinach and a touch of cream. Pasta Firenze ($8.70) made a substantial midnight snack, and now Chow, Baby must add Florence to the research to-do’s to learn whether this hearty jumble of sausage, onions, walnuts, and penne in a chunky tomato sauce is indeed true to that city. Not that Chow, Baby would ever (again) doubt owner/chef Donatella Trotti’s Italian authenticity. Any such questions are easily settled with a bite of her luscious tiramisu ($5.50), which, Chow, Baby happens to know for a fact, is 100 percent the real Italian deal.
Contact Chow, Baby at firstname.lastname@example.org.