The newest Italian eatery in identity-conflicted Rancho Dominguez is located on Victoria Street in a strip mall that includes the place to get The Best Pho in Los Angeles, a Quiznos, and an ever-changing rotation of mom-and-pop lunch spots that cater mainly to firefighters, whitish-collar captains of industry and those of us at Cal State Dominguez Hills who are starved for options during Campus Dining's semi-hiatus during the summer months.
I was sitting in my office one morning when a guy with a New Yawk accent walked in and gave me a handful of fliers and coupons for Ferraro's on the Hill, including a coupon for a free slice of cheese pizza. Although fliers don't usually excite me, the messenger got authenticity points for his pronunciation. I just happened to be mulling over where James and I would go to lunch that day, and Ferraro's, looked promising with its menu of classics, the names of which all ended in an operatic vowel.
The restaurant itself is stark and clean, with a map of Southern Italy on a chalkboard-like surface and plain wooden tables and chairs. But my old friend "Al Fresco" beckoned from the large and sunny patio area, so we seated ourselves outside after ordering from the counter.
Spaghetti with meat sauce is my usual litmus test for a new Italian restaurant. I ordered the Bolognese meat sauce, while James had his spaghetti with meatballs. When our pastas were served, we noted with delight that the noodles were coated with sauce in addition to being topped with a generous dollop of sauce on top. But it was the complex flavor of the sauce itself that made us wish our plates of pasta would never end.
Works of art: Bon vivant James Scarborough and his life-changing plate of spaghetti and meatballs.
Actually, James, who is an art, theatre, and film critic for the Huffington Post and his own blog, really is a work of art, having been immortalized in a portrait by Ray Turner, which is on view at the Long Beach Museum of Art through Sept. 11. As executive director of PICTURE Art, a new venue on campus, he has become the Pied Piper to students who wander into his space and end up wanting to work as docents, or at the very least, decide that it's a great place to bring a date.
As we sat eating in reverence while trying to figure out the exotic herbs that were surely responsible for our state of gastronomic rapture, Joe Ferraro came out and asked how the food was. Like pupils showing off for a culinary tutor, we burst forth with our guesses on the secret ingredient: Fennel! Sage! Nutmeg! Coriander!
Joe indulgently listened and then revealed to us that the sauce did not contain any of these spices, but was simmered for six hours and included a touch of cream. He then brought us a soup bowl full of Joe's Famous Tomato Salad, which consists of chunks of fresh tomato, red onions, and basil, marinated in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. We were bursting from our Bolognese bacchanal, but slurped up the gazpacho-esque concoction greedily, soaking up the tomato juice with our bread.
You say "tomayto," I say "tomaato"... And, "Bring me more bread!
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