Restaurants & Bars

Dinner at Minerva - treated like Kings! (long)

tom in sf | Sep 21, 200301:55 PM    


Thanks to Jim H. amd Melanie for your reco's.

Now, I'm likely a big exception here, because now George considers me family. I haven't been treated this well in many moons.

(the story)

Happens that my first cousin Patti, who owns Little Italy in Anchorage, is long time friends with George, the owner of Minerva. George had one of the most successful restaurants in Anchorage for many years - Villa Nova. According to my cuz, he completely spoiled the locals and the place was packed every night. I can see why.

My partner Dan and I arrived around 7:15. Melanie, you're right, George was out on an errand and the service was pretty good, but not to the level that George provided when he returned. I was disappointed at first, that George wasn't there, but we went ahead and ordered.

We started with the Kasseri Flambe (tho that's not the menu name). A generous hunk of cheese, which must have been broiled to give it some caramelization, was doused with brandy and set aflame at the table. This was delicious, not too soft, great Kasseri flavor (my father turned me onto Kasseri years ago after his extended trip to Corfu), with good caramelization. I loved the crusty parts the best. Couldn't detect any brandy flavor. I'd order it again.

We then had their grilled sardines. Embarrased to say I was not too adept at de-boning the little guys, but got to taste them anyway. A bit bland. I had to season them myself. Still a generous order of six good sized sardines.

Dan ordered Scampi Oscar and I ordered the Osso Bucco. I asked for Potatoes Anna instead of the Orzo. The Osso Bucco was delish! Lamb shank, falling of the bone tender, slightly cinnamony, nice and rich. Lovely. The potatoes were nicely browned, rich and firm. Came with a creamed spinach which was also tasty.

Dan's scampi was OK. A cream sauce of large shrimps and artichokes. It was nice, but not that exciting. The two entrees came with a small, sharp Greek salad with lots of crumbled, mild feta, tomato and kalamata. Those were good, if not a bit vinaigery for me (Dan loved it).

Dan had the Black Opal Cab/Merlot and I had a Shiraz (you're right Melanie, the wine list is rather un-impressive). The wines were drinkable, not extraordinary.

George showed up about half way through our entrees. We met, he told me he'd known Patty since before she married Spiros (they now have three kids, the oldes boy is 18) and that he completely loves her. Then he excused himself so that we could finish our dinner.

George returned as our plates were being cleared and we talked - a lot. He ordered a round of Ouzo. Then, for the next two and half hours he treated us like his own family. It was amazing. He took photos, he introduced his wait staff and his chef, Johnnie. He told us of his long history of opening 14 different restaurants in SF (including the first Fior d'Italia, which he said was actually NOT the oldest Italian restuarant in the US). He kept asking his wait staff to brings us food from the kitchen, and he'd shout orders to the bartender for more Ouzo.

He said 'What would you like for dessert? Do you like lemon?' Of course, we said and he brought out a small cannoli-like pastry filled with w delightful lemon custard that tasted like a good lemon yogurt. He also brought us a 'bowl' made of almond paste filled with a delicious vanilla ice cream and covered with (I think) a branding cherry sauce. He ordered us a round of Ouzo.

The we had a fig tart that he made himself, with glasses of Port. More Ouzo, of course. More wine. He told me how he puts up the white anchovies himself and the waiter brought a plate of them, and some bread. They were really good. Not too salty. I have a feeling that I could have commented on every dish he had on the menu and he would have offered us a taste.

We took more pictures. By this time we were at the table on the dance floor and the other guests kept looking at us. George fetched our wines from our first table. He gave us a short tour of his new storage rooms and office. We talked of family, and food and the restaurant business. He loved the story of Dan and my wedding in GG Park.

George kept saying 'Any cousin of Patricia is my cousin!' he said (and I still don't quite believe this) "You and Dan come here any time you want. You don't pay! You're my family!"

I asked for a coffee. The waiter, who George has known for 40 years, brought me a double espresso, saying 'Now this is something I am proud to serve. This is very good coffee'

Finally, I looked over at Dan and his eyes were glazed and he obviously wasn't able to drive. Plus, he had to work the next day. So, I told George that it was time we went home. I could tell this could have gone on until the wee hours. We tipped the waiter very geenrously and weaved our way back to our car. I drove slowly.

btw - he also signed me up at the Restaurant Depot - a case-good supply store for restaurant owners. I now have a card to go in and buy 25 pounds of Arborio if I want.

It was like being in some old-world movie. What a treat. A most memorable fiftieth birthday, too! And, best of all, it looks like I have a whole new family!


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