Call it the Meatball Mambo. The Pizza Promenade. The Tagliatelle Two-Step. Whatever alliterative metaphor you choose, there’s no question that some serious shimmying has been underway with Lafayette’s Public Road Italian dining scene.
The comprehensively named Eddie’s Diner Pizzeria Grill, administered by one of the former proprietors of the defunct 7 West, opened recently in a no-nonsense space just a few paces down from the latter’s former location, even as that corner storefront has been taken over by the resurrected, erstwhile Sweet Tomato. If you find that confusing, take heart: All you need to know is that there are two pretty good places to eat instead of one.
At Eddie’s, the emphasis is on friendly service and value. With a down-home lack of finery, Eddie’s is reminiscent of the many rural eateries my family frequented on vacation. You come in, sit down, order, eat, and get out of there with the majority of your wallet intact.
And value is the soundbite here. In fact, Eddie’s lunch special might be the early frontrunner for a Best of the West nomination: Best Place to Get Buffet-Full Without Getting the Buffet. To wit, lunch patrons may choose an entrée (which includes all sandwiches, pasta dishes and small pizzas), pair it with soup and salad, and drop a paltry $6.95.
We did just that, sampling a couple of Caesar salads, the house tomato bisque, and a soup du jour of chicken and sausage gumbo before tucking into Eggplant Parmesan and a small, three-topping pizza. The Caesars were overdressed by a long shot, but everything else was very satisfying. The soups were delicious (the gumbo ought to go on the regular menu), and the eggplant was a very capable mix of crispy breading and sweet, earthy flesh served over ample spaghetti and sauce. The pizza, built in my case with artichoke hearts, Roma tomatoes and roasted red peppers atop a substantially thick crust, was more than I could finish.
Up the road, meanwhile, Sweet Tomato has done little to modify the space it took over. Gone are the white linens, eschewed in favor of red-checked tablecloths and a few framed black and white photos of sexy Europeans doing sexy things in sexy places. But the general layout is the same. Lunch was hopping in the loungy front room when I took a seat at the bar, where I was capably taken care of by the restaurant manager.
Sweet Tomato is decidedly more atmospheric than Eddie’s has chosen to be, and they have the conspicuous advantage (in my mind) of serving alcohol. I perused from a baker’s dozen wine selections, settling finally on a glass of Hob Nob Pinot Noir ($7), a label of significant sass for the price (Random sidenote: Hob Nob has an amusing website).
Forgoing the expansive list of appetizers, salads, calzones, pizzas and sandwiches, I dove straight into the encyclopedic selection of pasta dishes, from which I chose the Sweet Tomato Linguine ($13.95). Served with bread and a side salad (or, in my case, a Caesar for a buck more). This eponymous dish was an absolute delight. Prepared to a perfect al dente, the linguine mingled with shrimp, sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and spinach in a decadently garlicky white wine sauce. Ask for an extra bread stick to soak up this magical mélange.
While the food was tasty and the service was friendly, there were a few blips that require mentioning if Sweet Tomato wants to be seen as a more refined location for diners. Despite the presence of a bus person in my vicinity for the duration of my visit, for example, my salad plate remained, empty and despondent, until my entrée arrived. At this point, I was silently cued (by the expectant holding up of said empty salad plate in front of me) to take my dirty silver back for use with my pasta. Had I been reset in a proper fashion, moreover, perhaps I would have been supplied with a pasta spoon, the absence of which made for sloppy spinning. Are these points too persnickety? Foppish, even? Perhaps, but I maintain that these are the basic services for which servers are so perfectly named. Populists like to point out that one need not pay too high a price for good food. Granted. I would say the same for careful service.
Those nitpicks aside, it seems the dust has settled from the Tagliatelle Two-Step on Lafayette’s main street—and the town is much better off for it, assuming you like to eat Italian for lunch and dinner.
And really, who doesn’t?
Eddie’s Diner Pizzeria Grill
103 1/2 S. Public Road