My frame of reference for Italian-American food differs from most, coming from San Francisco’s North Beach eateries rather than the classic red sauce emporiums of the East Coast. North Beach fare differs from that of the Eastern Seaboard in that it tends more towards including more meat and seafood. Another point of difference is that most North Beach meals were all-inclusive, featuring everything from sourdough bread to spumoni ice cream. According to my friend, New York-reared Keith, East Coast menus are typically set up in an a la carte fashion.
Such is the case at Nederland’s Neapolitan’s restaurant, popularly known as Neo’s. Coming in after our first day of skiing for a late lunch, or early dinner, depending on one’s perspective, Keith, his young daughter and I decided to refuel ourselves here. A cozy spot accented by mood lighting and a rustic wood interior, it features salads in both side and entrée portions; sandwiches, including the standard parmigianas and calzones; and a full measure of pastas, including spaghetti, ziti and lasagna. There’s also a reasonably priced children’s menu.
There’s not much to be said about Keith’s daughter’s $5 spaghetti child’s plate, as she ordered it without sauce and simply topped with butter. What’s worth noting is how our server easily accommodated our special requests, including Keith’s desire for replacing his entrée’s side of pasta or garlic mashed potatoes with vegetables. Servers were professional through and through and of a higher caliber than usual for a casual establishment.
While our meals didn’t include beverages and dessert, the garlic rolls and starter salads were more than adequate. The rolls came from the kitchen piping hot and with a pleasingly crunchy crust. These carried a noticeable aroma of garlic — pungent, but not alarming. Slathered with butter, these were everything a dinner roll ought to be regarding flavor, freshness and texture.
Our salads also went beyond the usual, and they certainly beat the sometimes tired house salads of my youth. Eschewing iceberg lettuce, these starters colorfully blended carrots, tomatoes and fresh greens dotted with spiral pasta. Keith’s creamy Italian possessed a balanced flavor, and my Gorgonzola-laden vinaigrette skillfully combined the right amount of acid with the creamy assertiveness of the chunky blue cheese.
Keith’s $13.95 Chicken Parmigiana was blessed with a crisply breaded poultry cutlet and flavorful marinara sauce. Keith approvingly proclaimed his selection “very East Coast.” The tender chicken perfectly played off the lip-smacking red sauce. This marinara distinguished itself with vibrant tomato taste, accented by the perfume of garlic and an earthy blend of herbs.
My $13.95 combination plate blended ziti pasta, a meatball, eggplant and lasagna broiled under a coating of the delectable marinara and gooey cheese. This selection could have easily devolved into an illdefined blob of tomato and cheese, but each element held its own. The ziti retained an al dente texture, while the meatball was dense and hearty. Both eggplant and lasagna were soothingly familiar, with the pasta being particularly ribsticking.
While Neo’s doesn’t offer an all-inclusive meal, it doesn’t need to. We all had more than we could eat, and the addition of something like tiramisu would have pushed us over the edge. Regardless of whether your point of reference is West Coast Italian fare, or the pasta-heavy cuisine of the East Coast, you won’t be disappointed dining at Neapolitan’s.
1 W. First Street, Suite B
Clay’s Obscurity Corner: Homemade red sauce
Making red sauce at home is easy. While fresh Roma toma toes are
best, decent results can be accomplished with a large can of quality
tomatoes, especially San Marzanos. Start with adding enough extra
virgin olive oil to generously coat (about a quarter inch or so) the
bottom of a saucepan, and keep the heat in the low-medium range. Add
minced garlic to taste, and let it cook until golden but not too brown.
Turn up the heat, add tomato and juice, and stir until it simmers down
to a saucy consistency. Add herbs such as basil and oregano to finish.