Monday, September 26, 2016

Vittorino’s Italian Restaurante and Pizzeria – Loudon TN

A little over 3 years ago Laurie and I tried a new Italian restaurant in Loudon Tennessee… We are always looking for good Italian cuisine, be it casual or upscale.  Either option is hard to find here in East Tennessee.

It was time for another visit and another chance to re-evaluate Vittorino’s offerings...

Vittorino’s is located in a strip mall that’s anchored by a Food City Grocery Store on TN Hwy. 72 in Loudon Tennessee.

As I paid the bill I asked for a ‘to go’ menu and the fact that I blog came up.  The hostess asked what name I used for my blog and I told her.  She told me that she knew who I was and that her Italian mother wasn’t happy with part of my last ‘review’.  For the record, I checked my last write-up and I don’t understand what she might be referring to.  On Trip Advisor, reviews of Vittorino’s are mixed and perhaps our hostess had me mixed up with someone else.

The interior of Vittorino’s is pleasant enough and it was clean.  Large windows on 2 sides provide lots of light.  Lunch traffic was minimal although there was some carry out business too.  From what we could see, the restaurant’s staff consisted of our hostess/waitress and a cook/chef in the kitchen.

Our waitress started us out with these ‘gratis’ pizza ‘bread’ slices with parmesan cheese a bit of seasoning and the house marinara sauce for dipping.  Laurie had thought it was pretty good the first time and she confirmed her feelings this time as well.  I was neutral the first time but I did like it on this occasion.  It certainly is a nice touch. 

Laurie ordered a luncheon special.  It was the Baked Ziti and it came with a side salad.  The salad was decent with lettuce, carrots, olives, mushrooms, tomatoes and onions. 

The baked ziti consisted of penne rigate pasta with ricotta and mozzarella cheese and Vittorino’s homemade pasta sauce.  Laurie liked her entrée and said that she’d order it again. 

I’d ordered pizza back in August of 2013 so I decided to try something else this time.  What can be more basic than an order of Baked Spaghetti with meatballs?  I was a happy camper… The spaghetti noodles weren’t overcooked, the marinara sauce wasn’t too sweet, (unlike many Italian restaurants in the south), and the meatballs were very tasty. 

We were happy with our choices during this visit to Vittorino’s.  The price was certainly a winner.  With tax and tip our bill totaled $19.35!  We will have to return again in the short term to revisit the same items that we’d ordered during our first visit.  To read my first post from 2013, go to

Vittorino’s Italian Restaurante and Pizzeria is located at 2761 Hwy. 72 in Loudon Tennessee.  Phone: 865-408-2422.  Vittorino’s is on Facebook at

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Friday, September 23, 2016

Nature at Work…In Our Yard!

Once again it’s time to share photos of nature’s visitors in our yard… We do live in a wooded area with woods on all 4 sides.  Across the street it’s completely wooded with no structures to be seen.  In addition, although a new home is being built one lot away on one side, we still have mature trees on wooded lots on either side of our house as well as a strip of trees behind us and our neighbors at the back. 

Nature’s visitors are frequent and they come in all sizes.  We haven’t seen any raccoons, skunks or fox this year but our yard continues to feed and nourish lots of nature’s denizens…

This …. Hawk is welcome in our yard at any time!  Something has to keep our squirrel population under control and this beautiful hunter has the skills that it takes to get the job done.

These turkeys were pecking and scratching their way through the woods at one edge of our yard.  They are big birds and they’re frequent visitors in the area. 

It’s been very dry this summer.  With my surgery back in June, I’ve lost the crab grass battle for the year.  The local flock of turkey doesn’t seem to mind what our grass looks like but they do like the fact that we water regularly.  The only complaint we have is that they sometimes really make a mess in the mulched flower beds as they search for a meal…

So what is this little group of turkey doing by the drainpipe for our downspouts?  The young turkey to the right made a big discovery.  One of our not too bright but enterprising squirrels decided that the drainpipes were a great place to hide his cache of hickory nuts!  Gone!

We’ve had families…no, actually herds of deer in the neighborhood.  They manage to keep our bushes trimmed and our monkey grass under control.  This fawn was one of a pair of twins who visited us one day with their mamma… 

This was the other twin from the pair of fawns…

After a bit mama decided it was time to move on… The good news is that they just ‘trim’ our vegetation before they seek out their next snack.

It was nice that mama deer stopped to look back at Laurie.  This pretty doe posed nicely don’t you think!

We have lots of birds around the house too… They tend to be birds that like the cover of wooded areas.  This Chickadee is one of the many birds that love our big rock that creates a pond whenever we water the yard or it rains.

Time for a quick bath… No problem that a voyeuristic wren has stopped by to watch!

I wonder what that wren was thinking.  The Chickadee has a little preening to do, that’s for sure!

We have a hummingbird feeder up for more than 6 months each year… These pretty little birds really stoke up on the sugar water when they aren’t fighting each other over the feeder!

Late every summer, the local Gold Finch population flocks to our cone flowers for an annual feast.

Then we had this eager Wren who decided to build a nest in the newspaper slot under our mail box.  Laurie couldn’t believe how fast he built this nest in an effort to attract a mate… Hey, a guy has to do what a guy has to do!

This buck decided to visit our back yard one sunny day.  He apparently likes the taste of oak leaf hydrangea!   The only plants that the deer have eaten to the ground are Laurie’s hostas.  They just eat the hostas that are in the flower beds away from the house.  They’ve left the ones alone that are up against our back deck.

One last photo of our little buck… If he’s smart he’ll stay in the neighborhood for the duration of the upcoming hunting season.  He sure is a handsome young fellow!

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by to check out our local wildlife menagerie!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Breakfast in Madisonville Tennessee

We decided on an early morning drive over to the Tellico Plains Bakery in Tellico Plains Tennessee.  We had company coming and we thought that a selection of baked goods, (with fruit too), would make for a nice early breakfast for the group…

Since we were going out early anyway, I suggested that we should stop for breakfast along the way.

I’d heard a couple of radio ads and I’d noticed a positive on-line posting for Linda’s Café in Madisonville Tennessee.  Linda’s is about a block off the main road (TN Hwy. 68) and it’s easy to miss if you aren’t looking for it…

The décor in Linda’s Café is pretty typical for a small town diner.  There is lots of space between tables.  Some tables have table cloths and others don’t but the lack of sameness provides a certain down home feel to it.

Linda of Linda’s Café must be doing something right.  Despite a less than ideal location plus the fact that this restaurant is only open 35 hours per week, Linda’s has served their customers since 1994!  Twenty-two years of life for a restaurant is an eternity!  

This is Linda’s Café menu.  There isn’t a website to refer you to so we thought that photos of the menu would give the readers a good idea as to what this diner offers.  

Even though we were there during ‘normal’ breakfast hours, Laurie and I were especially happy to note that Linda’s Café serves breakfast all day!  As you may have noted, the menu is pretty basic…which is fine with us as we generally prefer a ‘standard’ breakfast.

I ordered 2 eggs over-easy with biscuits, brown sausage gravy and 2 sausage patties. ($4.99) I like hashbrowns with my breakfast so I ordered a side and requested them ‘crispy’ or ‘done’.  The hashbrowns were $1.99.  Coffee is $1.39.  While the gravy wasn’t my favorite, it was OK.  The eggs were cooked properly, the sausage patties were better than average and the hash browns were just fine…

Laurie ordered the same exact breakfast as I did except that she had bacon instead of sausage.  She doesn’t normally like brown gravy but she thought that this version was pretty good.  The bacon was better than average… We thought that the coffee was above average too.

The waitress was nice and service was just fine.  This breakfast was better than the norm for this neck of the woods and the prices are hard to beat!  We will be back in the not too distant future.  Maybe we’ll give lunch a try…

Linda’s Café is located at 440 Isbill Road just off of TN Hwy. 68 and east of US Hwy. 411 in Madisonville Tennessee.  Phone: 423-442-3343.  Linda’s Café is only open Monday – Friday from 8 AM to 3 PM.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for breakfast!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Monday, September 19, 2016

Barley’s Taproom and Pizzeria – Maryville Tennessee

We are always searching for that ‘new dining experience’ here in East Tennessee.  We’re continuously hopeful that we’ll find a new restaurant that we can add to our list of ‘regular’ places.  I will admit that ‘regular’ to us means that we might eat at a restaurant from between 2 to 8 times a year, hardly enough to really support any particular establishment.

This is Barley’s Taproom and Pizzeria in Maryville Tennessee.  There are 2 Barley’s locations with the second one being in downtown Knoxville.
Burleson Brands owns Barley’s as well as a number of other restaurants in the Knoxville area.  Aubrey’s, Sunspot, Bistro By The Tracks, Stefano’s Pizza, drink., Fieldhouse Social as well at The Crown and Goose are all Burleson operations…

Barley’s Maryville is an expansive and cavernous building with an outdoor seating and second floor as well.  The bar is large and the draft beer options are almost endless with about 70 on tap!  Then there are the bottled beers, wine and mixed drinks too… For those from the greater Knoxville area, Barley’s occupies the former Roy’s Records Building in downtown Maryville.  

For those who are from Canada or who are familiar with Canadian cuisine, this is Barley’s version of ‘Poutine’.  On the menu this ‘Small Bites’ offering is listed as “Gravy Fries”. ($6.00) In reality, this is not a small bite but rather a meal in itself!  Crispy French fries are topped with gravy, pulled pork and more gravy. 

This meal is a bargain even if it is an artery stopper!  Laurie isn’t into this kind of thing so other than a bite for her to taste it I ended up consuming the Gravy Fries all by myself!  It was very nice and very filling…


·         As I mentioned above, Poutine is a Canadian dish that originated in the province of Quebec.  The original is made with French fries and cheese curds topped with light brown gravy.

·         There are many variations of poutine.  Some restaurants offer poutine with such toppings as sausage, chicken, bacon, or Montreal-style smoked meat.  Some ‘poutineries’ even boast dozens of variations of poutine.  More upscale poutine with three-pepper sauce, merguez sausage, foie gras or even caviar and truffles can be found.

As another appetizer, one that Laurie would eat, we also order Chips and Salsa. ($4.00) The salsa was excellent but Barley’s needs to upgrade the quality of their corn chips.  They were fairly tasteless and couldn’t even be called ‘average’.

We were going to order the Beer Cheese and Chips for our second appetizer but our waitress told us that we should skip that one.  She told us that no one likes Barley’s version of beer cheese dip.  We appreciated her honesty! 

Well, as it turned out, I’d ordered my entrée before I saw that platter of Gravy Fries.  This is my small Big Daddy Pizza with pepperoni, Italian sausage, ham and beef. ($13.00) While East Tennessee isn’t exactly a Mecca for pizza, this offering was quite good with top quality ingredients.  For any one worried about my health, I did take half of this pizza home and Laurie had it for lunch the next two days. 

Laurie ordered Barley’s version of Spanakopita for dinner. ($12.00) This offering consisted of spinach and cheese filled phyllo dough that are served over fettuccini Alfredo with portabella mushrooms and roasted tomato.  She really enjoyed her dinner! 

Barley’s menu is fairly imaginative!  How about an Eggplant Sandwich, Chicken Raj (an Indian offering), or a Coffee Braised Lamb?  Entrees include Salmon Grit Cakes and Three Cheese Ravioli.  A Kale and Brussel Salad is another unusual offering. 

We enjoyed Barley’s and we will return!  Drinks were priced reasonably and our server was very helpful.  Live entertainment is frequently offered in the evening.  Barley’s Maryville is located downtown at 128 West Broadway.  Phone: 865-983-0808.  Website:

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for dinner!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave 

Friday, September 16, 2016

A New Casual Italian Dining Option in Knoxville TN

I keep an eye on local Facebook feedback on local restaurants, especially one’s that are new to the area.  As a result, we’re always trying someplace new.  In this case, an Ohio favorite for some local transplants came to town and they were elated to have a taste of home in Knoxville…

This is LaRosa’s Family Pizzeria.  As per LaRosa’s website: “In 1954 Buddy LaRosa opened his first family pizzeria on Cincinnati's West Side.  His Sicilian-born father told him he was crazy. "You gonna sell pizza? ‘Med-i-gans' never gonna buy pizza from you," he said.  Who could argue with him?  After all, back then many Americans hadn't even heard of pizza.

If I counted correctly, LaRosa’s franchise operations are indeed a success.  Focused around Cincinnati but reaching into much of south and central Ohio, this 65+ location chain can be found in Kentucky, Indiana and now Knoxville.  Most of the LaRosa’s restaurants are clustered in the tri-state area around Cincinnati. 

LaRosa’s dining area is open, bright and has a friendly feel to it.  Waiters and waitresses take your order and provide needed services.
LaRosa’s is more than a pizza parlor… In addition to the obvious, the menu offers appetizers, wings, salads, calzones, hoagies, pasta and desserts.  Catering service is also available.

I didn’t order pizza.  I wanted to try another basic so that I could get a better feel for LaRosa’s offerings.  This nice side salad came with my entrée…

Sorry for the blurry photo… I must have been in a hurry to get to my plate of Spaghetti in meat sauce with 3 meatballs. ($10.74 with the side salad included) I enjoyed my meal.  The meatballs had a nice texture and flavor.  The spaghetti meat sauce was fine if just a little sweet for my taste.  

Laurie loves pizza so she ordered a large 'create your own pizza' with pepperoni and spicy sausage. ($15.99) The crust was fairly thin as we like but there was too much tomato sauce and the sauce was much sweeter than we like on our pizzas.  The meat and cheese were of good quality but the sweet sauce tended to cancel out the flavor of those ingredients.

Of course, opinions on what makes a great pizza are all over the place.  It’s really a matter of personal preference and what you grew up with.  Our search for ‘our’ ideal pizza here in East Tennessee continues…but we’re sure that many folks will be happy with LaRosa’s entering this market.

LaRosa’s Family Pizzeria in Knoxville is located at 9169 Kingston Pike. (The corner of Kingston Pike and Cedar Bluff Road) Phone: 888-527-6727.  LaRosa’s website can be found at

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Casual Dining Lakeside – Tellico Lake Tennessee

Dinner time…where should we eat?  Our choice needed to be relatively close to home, casual and moderately priced…

We decided to have dinner at the Tanasi Grill which is located in the Tellico Village Golf Club.  The restaurant and golf club are right off of TN Hwy. 444 between Lenoir City Tennessee and TN Hwy. 72.  It’s about 9 miles from our home in the woods…

This is the Tanasi Golf Clubhouse.  The building houses a golf pro shop serving the golf course itself as well as the restaurant.  Both operations are open to the public.

As you can see, this is a popular place for diners from Tellico Village and the surrounding area!  The dining room is fairly spacious and the deck is available for those who like to dine outside.  Another dining area is available for groups…

The view of Tellico Lake from the dining rooms and the deck is not too hard to take…  Talk about ambiance!  Many diners come to Tanasi Grill via boat and they tend to love the outside dining area. 

 We like chicken wings but we are picky!  We’ve had so many variations over the years with different flavors, coatings, etc., that anything better than average jumps right out at us.  That was the case with this full order of Parmesan Garlic Wings. (Half-price appetizers = $5.50!) The wings were fried just right…nice and crispy with lots of garlic parmesan flavor!

I ended up eating the majority of the chicken wings so I thought that I would ‘behave’ and stick to a lighter than usual dinner.  So I ordered the Chicken Caesar Salad. ($9.00) The chicken was plentiful and moist, the Romaine lettuce was fresh and the Caesar Dressing was better than average.

Laurie’s entrée came with this nice large side salad…with Ranch dressing.  FYI…there were 3 cherry tomatoes buried under the lettuce mixture. 

For her entrée, Laurie ordered something unusual for her.  This was the 8 oz. Chopped Sirloin. ($9.00) This ground sirloin patty was grilled medium rare as requested and then it was topped with crispy onions and bordelaise mushroom sauce.  Her meal came with 2 sides, one being the big side salad and the other was some nicely flavored French fries. 

We had read that the recent management changes at the nearby Blue Heron Restaurant had also positively impacted the Tanasi Grill.  Having now eaten at both locations within a 4 – 5 week period we can confirm that those positive rumors were right!  We enjoyed our meals at both locations…

The Tanasi Bar and Grill is located at 450 Clubhouse Point in Loudon Tennessee.  Phone: 865-458-9392.  For directions and to check out the menu, just go to

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by to see what was for dinner!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave