Sunday, March 20, 2011

One Tank Lunch Excursions: Jackson's American Grill, Venice, FL

I told my wife that since we usually head on home shortly after lunch we should from now on refer to our day trips as One Tank Lunch Excursions. She agreed.

Our latest foray took us to Venice, Florida, a beachside community on the Gulf Coast just south of St. Pete. We arrived early and took in some of the downtown sights, including the Farmer's Market, several touristy shops and, after what seemed like a mile and a half walk westward, Venice Beach. It's a lovely town.

That's me dwarfed by some well-rooted members of the community.

By the time we returned to town center from the beach, having stopped briefly at a garage sale where I picked up a Porche cap which I needed to cover my bald head having left my Yankee cap at home along with my sunscreen, it was lunch time. Lunch time for me, that is, since controlling my diabetes requires me to eat at regular intervals.

Researching the local eateries, my girl had discovered that Jackson's American Grill had been highly rated by various sources. "Five Star," she told me. So, knowing I craved the occasional burgher, fries and milkshake combo, she had pre-ordained Jackson's as our lunchtime stop.

Jackson's American Grill

We arrived there at about ten after eleven when, it was evident, they were still in the midst of a brisk breakfast trade. And, to be totally honest, the breakfast plates that were flying by were filled with the most mouthwatering specimens of breakfast fare I have seen in some time. Unfortunately, we had eaten our breakfasts at home at around 6:30 AM, before we had headed out. So, a second breakfast seemed to go against our private code.

We inquired if it might be too early for lunch but were assured it wasn't. Service was very good - our server was a young lad named Will - as was our lunch. Among the shortcomings was the fact that shakes came in only one size. Ever carb-conscious, I usually prefer a small shake. Also, I chose not to go for the 8 oz burgher, opting instead for the 5 ouncer, but, though nicely presented with lettuce, tomato, bacon and a pickle, it was absolutely dwarfed by the bun which seemed more suitable for an 8 oz burger or larger. Too much unneccesary bread!

Another thing I'm forced to mention is the attendance of dogs. Among the people eating at tables out front on the street were several dog owners whose mutts were on their laps, in their arms, tied to their chairs, sniffing here and there, or otherwise preoccupied. In fairness, the entire town of Venice should be tagged as Dog Friendly. During our earlier trek to the beach, we had been passed by a girl runner, a look of "screw you" plastered on her smug face, who had been followed closely by her faithful, unleashed pit bull. Just down the road, we were confronted by a little old white-haired lady out walking her unleashed poodle. All through town, dogs were angrily confronting other dogs, as I detoured out into the street to avoid their little yelping matches. I understand the love people have for their pets - I still miss my two cats dearly - but, I would never subject friends or strangers to them against their will. Not so with the people of Venice. There's even a downtown dog wash. And, of course, people collecting for a new dog shelter were set up in the farmer's market. So, if you are not a dog person, I'd say Venice isn't a place for you.

Anyway, getting back to Jackson's American Grill, because of the mismatch between burgher and bun, I'm going to give it four stars. But, if I'm ever in the neighborhood, I'd love to try them for breakfast.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Ron's Pizzeria & Cafe, Naples, FL: A Zero-Star Rating

With spring break giving us a few days off, my wife decided, after a winter of my complaining that it was just too cold in central Florida, that it might be nice to go on a little excursion to Naples, Florida, to see how life was in the tropics.

We took off bright and early, following Mapquest's simple directions, and drove into Naples by eleven. After locating our hotel, we headed out to one of the trendy touristy districts my sweety had found via Google. It was lunchtime for me, and luckily, there were more restaurants on 5th Avenue South than parking places.

As a diabetic, when I'm traveling, I usually load up a syringe ahead of time for lunch in order to simplify things. This strategy, deciding on an insulin dosage ahead of time, means I have to order an amount of food to fit the dosage. On this day, it seemed to me two slices of pizza could fit the bill nicely.

We were perusing the menu outside of McCabe's Irish Pub when I noticed Ron's Pizzeria & Cafe across the street. “How 'bout some pizza?” I asked my wife. “Good answer,” she replied. Ron's had pizza on the menu displayed outside, but I couldn't find it listed by the slice. “Let's go inside and ask,” suggested my tour director. So, we entered.

We were immediately accosted by shiny headed waiter hellbent on leading us to a table. We weren't ready for that, yet – we just wanted to know if they sold pizza by the slice. No, said the waiter, his shaved head glistening with perspiration, they did not. He obviously surmised it was a financial decision on our part. I didn't think it was any of his business that I was only carrying a two-slice dose of insulin or that my cholesterol-conscious wife would never eat more than one slice of pizza whatever the occasion.

Then, he told us they offered a ten inch pie. As I tried to conger up an image of a ten inch pie, he added, somewhat snidely, that we might want to get it “to go,” as though he preferred we didn't stay on the premises. “Why? You mean we're not good enough to eat in this place?” I snapped. I mean, seriously, where in hell were we going to go? “How much is a ten inch pie?” I asked, hoping for a ballpark figure of the price. “Well," he sneered, "that depends on what you want on it.” That's when he made his fatal mistake. He opened a menu, extended it toward my wife, pointing at its contents, and began “If you can read...” With that, I shoved the menu back toward him and suggested he shove it up his f#$*ing ass, not, mind you, to cast aspersions regarding his sexual proclivities, but just to let him know I'd had enough of his shit. As we left, he offered up a wimpish retort in his native tongue which, he should be thankful, I couldn't understand. Please note: This dirt bag, along with the last nine generations of his inbred heritage, and all his progeny as well, are not, on their best day, worth one one-thousandth of my wife's last sneeze. Were this the old west or even Sicily, and not Florida - last stop before the hereafter, I would've shot the bastard.

My wife later suggested that our rude treatment may have been due to assumptions the grease ball had made about our socioeconomic status. I guess that could be true. We were both rather casually dressed. But, what kind of people get all dolled up to take a stroll around town? I mean, besides hookers, octogenarians whose cosmetic surgery lets them pass for 75, and other phonies.

I briefly considered buying the restaurant just so I could fire the slimeball, but my wife, ever the pragmatist, pointed out that with all the restaurants in the area he could easily lie his way into another job.

Anyway, the zero-star rating can be attributed to the fact that due to a discourteous staff I didn't have an opportunity to sample the offerings of Ron's Pizzeria & Cafe. People who have had that opportunity have spoken out here. Not even a few favorable reviews apparently submitted by Ron's employees can improve the ugly portrait painted by past customers.

Luckily, just down the street we found Cafe Luna which offered pizza by the slice, though I opted instead for a meatball sub which was out of this world, and courtesy in the ten plus range. If you're ever in the neighborhood...

All in all, Naples is a nice place to visit. The Gulf down that way is beautiful. These 3 pics were taken from Naples Pier.

And we enjoyed looking at homes with their well-kept yards in the old historic neighborhoods. But, as for a place to settle, there are far too many people for us, too many cars, and way too many tourists. I think we'll stay put for the time being and tough out those occasional dips below 50 degrees.

Note: It appears that we may have received a response from someone representing Ron's Pizzeria, though they identified themselves simply as "otch." Telling is the fact that the details of my experience as I reported them are not disputed. Their argument apparently being that my wife and I deserved the treatment we received because of our audacity to think that pizza might be available there by the slice. Though I would like to post the comment, the language and sentiment expressed in it are too vile for public viewing. Besides, there's always the possibility that whoever sent me this comment, replete with its misspellings and greenhorn grammar, are not representatives of Ron's Pizzeria at all, but, rather, a party or parties who wish to make the crew at Ron's look like a bunch of idiots. Meanwhile, I'm trying to see if blogspot can trace the comment back to an IP address.