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Expat wanderer

Petrella’s Italian Cafe on 9 Mile Road in Pensacola

One of the reasons AdventureMan and I have been married almost 40 years is that we agree on some very irrational basics – like nothing says romance on Valentine’s Day like Italian food. He had recently been to Petrella’s and suggested I might like it – so off we went, on the worst day of the year to try to get in someplace without a reservation. I remembered all our Valentine’s Day dinners in Kuwait, trying to get in someplace, anyplace, Italian was out of the question, fully booked. We usually ended up bribing someone to let us have an early dinner, promising to be out before our later-eating Kuwaiti Valentines diners arrived; they would never even know they had shared their reservation with us.

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We were in luck. Although every table in Petrella’s was taken, within five minutes one group left and we got their booth. AdventureMan had truly nailed this one; this is a neighborhood eatery, full of people who have been eating at Petrella’s for a long time. There were lots of couples, like us, but also many groups of four, many working people having their daily lunch, and a very large table of women affiliated in some way. We speculated, maybe church? Maybe a retirement home? Maybe a club?

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Petrella’s took me back to my childhood, where Italian food was “foreign” food and very exotic. People didn’t eat out so much. The very most special restaurants were steak restaurants, or clubs. Even pizza was new, not uncommon; there were frozen pizzas and home-made pizza dough, but it wasn’t the normal American kind of food – meat, potatoes, veg. It was kind of “spicy.” Yes, I can hear you laughing, but things were different, eating out was not a daily or even a weekly event, eating out was something you did maybe once a month. Even then, it was sometimes, hamburgers! Dairy Queen was about the fastest-food there was and there were no McDonalds or Burger King chains, no Kentucky Fried Chicken. There was A&W Hamburgers; there were ice-cream and soda bars, and of course, in Seattle, there was Chinese and Japanese foods.

Petrella’s is comfortable. The salads and the dishes they served are the dishes Italian restaurants have been serving for a hundred years. The lunch specials are all under $8.00, and they all come with salad and garlic bread. They take it for granted you are going to need a box to take home the excess; portions are large. We also had our lunches for dinner 🙂

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This was AdventureMan’s main course, the Baked Spaghetti:

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and here was mine, Petrella’s Famous Marsala (with shrimp):

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It was comfort food. Nothing fancy or unexpected, but good, honest ingredients, crafted well. It’s a kind of food that calls you back again and again when you want a good reliable meal. I know we will be going back, and we will probably take family and friends, it’s that kind of place.

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They have an excellent website, with their complete menu.

February 16, 2013 Posted by | Aging, Character, Community, Cooking, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Restaurant | | Leave a comment