Strati Wild Italian unites the Pasta Partners

Me and my friend Beth in 2006. HOLY CRAP, THAT WAS NINE YEARS AGO.
Me and my friend Beth in 2006. HOLY CRAP, THAT WAS NINE YEARS AGO.

When I was a student at Western Kentucky University, my friend Beth and I dubbed ourselves Pasta Partners. The name came from our affinity for the pasta station in the dining hall in Garrett Conference Center. The student newspaper office was located in this building, which meant I spent more time here than any location during my undergraduate education.

The dining room was in the basement of Garrett. The pasta station was located right between the door and the cash register at the end of a half-circle of meal stations. The Pasta Ladies were suited up in stained white chef’s jackets and hats to match. Their demeanor was more lunchroom lady than Top Chef.

The Pasta Ladies had their system down. They squirted oil into a skillet and plopped in a small spoonful of garlic to begin each order. They scooped the meat and veggies we wanted for our pasta from black plastic containers nestled in ice. Penne noodles went in next, followed by a ladle of marinara, alfredo sauce, or a combination of both for the adventurous among us. Once the Ladies tossed everything together over their individual burners, they slid the pasta onto black plastic plates and sprinkled a handful of cheese on top of it all. A hearty helping of carbs got Beth and I through many long afternoons and evenings in the newspaper office.

Several years later, Beth and I have rekindled our partnership at Strati Wild Italian, a fast-casual Italian restaurant at 1702 Bardstown Road (where Sitar Indian Restaurant used to be). The setup calls upon our collegiate carbo-loading days but expands on the little pasta station we loved. The concept is similar – customers at Strati can build their own small or large pasta dish from the viewable selection of pasta shapes (cavatappi FTW), meat, veggies and sauces. Small pans are stacked on a big hot plate near the beginning of the line. The cooking of the pasta and vegetable prep happens in the back kitchen, which leaves a Subway-like assembly line behind a sneeze guard at the front of the house. I didn’t mind waiting a couple of extra minutes for fresh pasta to cook in the back kitchen – it appeared that the selections out front were purposefully small to ensure constant freshness. Employees are friendly and patient when they walk newbies through the pasta-creation process. And if you freeze with so many options before you, there is a selection of  pasta dishes that the restaurant has put together on the menu.

A selection of fresh veggies and at Strati Wild Italian.
A selection of fresh veggies and at Strati Wild Italian.

Strati also has wraps and salads if you’re so inclined. However, it would be a shame to bypass the build-your-own pasta option. I made a creation with a spicy marinara, chicken and plenty of vegetables that was a little bit heavenly, mainly because I got to choose exactly what I wanted. Add a tiny bottle of wine ($3.99), and a small pasta order ($7.29) made for a satisfying weekend dinner.

A small pasta bowl at Strati Wild Italian. And yes, it pairs well with a little bottle of wine.
A small pasta bowl at Strati Wild Italian. And yes, it pairs well with a little bottle of wine.

I was inherently biased to like Strati – the same folks responsible for Wild Eggs opened this restaurant, and I, indeed, love me some Wild Eggs. Fortunately, the company’s commitment to fresh, friendly service has spread to this latest offering, and the restaurant gives Beth and me a reason to get the band back together.

Strati Wild Italian

1702 Bardstown Rd., Louisville

More information: Strati Wild Italian’s Facebook page

Hear that music? The GelatoMobile might be in your neighborhood

Picture courtesy of Kristin Gilbert.

*UPDATE: The GelatoMobile will be at the Gray Street Farmers’ Market from 10:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. and Burger’s Market from 3 – 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25.

The family behind Gelato Gilberto have taken their product to the streets.

Justin and Kristin Gilbert, the owners of the Gelato Gilberto shop in Norton Commons, rolled out the GelatoMobile last week. They have snaked their way around Louisville neighborhoods to sell gelato pops, a frozen version of the rich, Italian dessert.

I first experienced Gelato Gilberto at the Jeffersonille Italian Festival a few weeks ago. A big bowl of the chocolate gelato made me swoon. Imagine my delight when I learned that the Gilberts had created their gelato truck.

The Gilberts have always wanted some kind of vehicle to sell their wares, Kristin said. At one point, the couple explored buying a double-decker bus from London in which they would make and sell gelato (and live on the top floor).

The couple currently serve three different kinds of gelato pops out of the GelatoMobile — chocolate with sprinkles, strawberry sorbet and a Bomb Pop-like combination of strawberry and Blue Sky flavors, Kristin said. Each pop is $3 or two for $5.

“It helps to have a friend,” Kristin said.

Don’t worry if you visit the brick-and-mortar Gelato Gilberto — the shop is still open at 9434 Norton Commons Boulevard. You can also get pints of Gelato Gilberto at a few area grocery stores, including Whole Foods Louisville, Paul’s Fruit Market and Earth Fare.

With this recent blast of warm weather, Kristin said the GelatoMobile will probably be on the streets through the end of this week. Then, they will let the truck hibernate until spring.

“We’re having a hugely good time,” Kristin said.

Do you want the GelatoMobile to visit your neighborhood? Leave a comment, or contact the Gilberts directly at or visit their Facebook page.

It’s not too late to take part in Fleur De Licious, a showcase of downtown restaurants

Photo courtesy Fleur De Licious.

To eat at some nicer restaurants, I sometimes have to wait for a good deal or promotion.

Enter Fleur De Licious.

During this event, which ends Saturday, May 21, participating restaurants in the downtown Louisville area are offering a “prix-fixe menu highlighting specialties from their standard menu,” according to the Louisville Downtown Management District.

Translation – participating restaurants will have three-course meals for $30 per person. It might seem kind of pricey, but that’s a steal at some of these places.

Here are just a few participating restaurants:

Click here for a complete list of restaurants where the Fleur De Licious deal applies.

The $10 Challenge: Spinelli’s Pizzeria

(Blogger’s note: This is a restaurant that multiple people have recommended. Think you know of a better place? Let me know.)

There’s a few foods and restaurants that can drive a woman to gluttony.

Baked Cheetos maintains a high post on the list of items that will drive me to eat in excess, as does Mama Eats’ spaghetti and oatmeal-raisin cookies.

Last week, Spinelli’s Pizzeria triggered a voracity in my appetite not seen since I discovered Five Guys in 2007.

Exhibit A:

Leave this to the professionals, kids.

And it even has the same effect on others. Exhibit B:


The future Mr. Ashlee Eats. See why I keep him around?

Now let’s talk about what drove me to such un-ladylike behavior.

Continue reading “The $10 Challenge: Spinelli’s Pizzeria”

The $10 Challenge: Ramsi’s Café on the World

Oh, how I love potatoes.

Choice is good – that is, until I’m hungry.

Then, things get agonizing.

When the hunger pangs start kicking in, I need to make a decision quickly. There’s no time for contemplation. I need a menu with slim pickings so I can make a hasty decision before my thoughts are drowned out by my belly rumbling.

That said, I learned the hard way that Ramsi’s Café on the World is not the place to go when you craving some quick food.

It’s not the service that’s the problem. Nor is it slow cooks in the kitchen.

There’s just too many choices.

Continue reading “The $10 Challenge: Ramsi’s Café on the World”

A year of being cheap: Readers’ picks for top five $10 Challenges of 2010

(Blogger’s note: This is the first in a few posts that will reflect on 2010 or look ahead at the coming year. Because who doesn’t love a few good year-end countdowns and listicles?)
Readers loved Hillbilly Tea.

The bundle of take-out menus on my freezer door reveal a year full of food – good, bad and mediocre.

The $10 Challenges have given me a great chance to rediscover my hometown. I’ve learned a lot about the city and how to eat well on a tight budget.

Judging from my blog stats, you guys seem to really enjoy it, too.

$10 Challenges are the most popular posts on this blog. And some of you have made some great suggestions of places I should visit. Please keep the tips coming.

Here are the top five most-viewed $10 Challenges of 2010:

  1. Hillbilly Tea: This restaurant provides a gourmet take on Southern food. At first glance, the smaller portions and neat presentation can be intimidating to a casual diner. But the taste is down-home. Pair a meal with a Mason jar full of tea, and you are all set for a tasty restaurant experience.
  2. Burger Boy: Everyone needs their favorite greasy spoon to call home. This restaurant is mine. Burger Boy is open 24 hours, and serves breakfast all day. On nice days, it’s great to grab a table outside and chat with the regulars over coffee.
  3. Los Aztecas Mexican Restaurant: The dish I had during this particular Challenge wasn’t my favorite, but I’ve been going to Los Aztecas for years and will continue to do so for their wide selection of Mexican staples. If you’re willing to spend a couple of extra bucks, go for the quesadilla fajitas with a margarita. Thank me later.
  4. Annie’s Pizza: This is one of my favorite overlooked restaurants in Louisville. With only three locations, it’s hard to get if you don’t live in Shively or Portland, but it’s worth a trip across town for their hot, over-stuffed sandwiches.
  5. Moby Dick: This fish joint with locations sprinkled throughout the metro area is an old favorite from when I was a kid. Moby Dick is a reliable standby to keep on your favorite restaurant list. The food is always hot and tasty. And have fun ripping open that greasy brown bag.

The $10 Challenge: Bearno’s Pizza*

*The Better-Late-Than-Never Edition

Ordering your own pizza is a display of equal parts independence and self-reliance with a pinch of gluttony.

“Look at me,” I often tell myself while perusing online pizza menus as I plot the night’s meal. “I can order any combo of toppings I wish. I need consultation from no one. Take that, cruel world.”

I reserve this treat for the long days when nothing is going right, and the smallest joy can make you feel like you’re back on top. On a recent crappy day, I relaxed with a Golden Girls DVD, some leftover Dragon King’s Daughter sake and my own medium pizza from Bearno’s Pizza.

Continue reading “The $10 Challenge: Bearno’s Pizza*”

The $10 Challenge: Sicilian Pizza and Pasta

(Note to readers: I’m the master of losing things, and that has happened with great form as I write this post. I can’t find the cords, card reader, etc. that I need to upload pictures from my digital camera, so this post will be sans pics until I can find it. Sorry, folks. Carry on.)

A couple of bites into this week’s Challenge, I left the kitchen table to find some crushed red pepper.

That’s never a good sign.

Unlike my dad, whose behind has barely grazed his seat before he stretches for the salt and pepper shakers, I leave my food alone and trust the folks who were paid to prepare it.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t restrain myself while eating lasagna from Sicilian Pizza and Pasta.

The Italian restaurant, located in downtown Louisville about a few blocks away from the mouth of Fourth Street Live, had many things going for it when I began my research for this week’s Challenge:

  • Free delivery
  • Wide variety of inexpensive food
  • Printable, online coupons
  • Praise from users

The menu offers a lot of dishes that you expect from a typical pizza/pasta joint at very reasonable prices. There are six options for the calzones and strombolis ($8.99 for an 8-inch regular), including Hawaiian with pineapple and ham and spinach with fresh garlic and four types of cheeses. The 8-inch subs are only $5.49, and you can add chips and a drink for only $1.99. And pizzas start at $7.99 for a small cheese and extend to $17.99 for an extra-large gourmet pie (interesting options include bacon double-cheeseburger, Greek with feta cheese and black olives and chicken alfredo).

I should have known from the Urbanspoon reviews to stick with the pizza, which one foodie raved was the “best dough on pizza I’ve eaten.” But one of the coupons on Sicilian’s website was for any two pastas, salad and breadsticks for only $14.99, a Challenge-friendly deal for my boyfriend and I if I ever saw one.

Continue reading “The $10 Challenge: Sicilian Pizza and Pasta”

Mark your calendars: Spaghetti Sauce Cook-Off, 8.21.10

I foresee spilled pasta sauce in my future.

The Italian American Association is presenting a Spaghetti Sauce Cook-Off Aug. 21 at St. Joseph’s Church in Butchertown. Members of the association will serve up samples of homemade pasta sauce from “secret family recipes,” according to a news release from the IAA.

For $5, you can eat all the spaghetti, salad and bread that your stomach can handle. That’s right. Five bucks. And as a bonus, kids five and younger eat free.

All of the proceeds from the event go to the Family Community Clinic on the campus of St. Joseph’s.

All-you-can-eat pasta + $5 + good cause = guaranteed attendance from Ashlee

The Stats:

  • Spaghetti Sauce Cook-Off
  • 5-8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 21
  • St. Joseph’s Church, 1406 E. Washington St., Louisville, Ky.
  • All-you-can-eat spaghetti, salad and bread – $5 (free for kids five and younger)

*Special thanks to food and travel writer Dana McMahan for giving me the heads-up about the Spaghetti Sauce Cook-Off. Do you know of a special food-related event? Contact me and I can blog about it.

The $10 Challenge: Annie’s Pizza

I didn’t mean to eat the entire sub sandwich.

Really, I didn’t.

I had just returned home from an evening women and finances event that included free wine (!) and platters of hors d’oeuvres. I filled my plate with enough grapes, little cubes of cheese and baby stuffed mushrooms that I should have been content to end the night with a snack.

But I decided to stop at Annie’s Pizza.

Annie’s is a local restaurant that evokes much hometown pride. There are three locations — two in Shively, the Louisville community in which I was raised, and one in Portland, the neighborhood I serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA. Growing up, it was a treat when the uncle who babysat me splurged for some Annie’s when my mom worked late.

Annie’s is a pizza joint that has probably survived because of its simplicity. The selection of pizza, subs and sides is wide enough to please everybody without trying to get too experimental with the recipes. Plus, it’s one of few local places in the areas that it serves.

The Annie’s restaurant I visited on Cane Run Road welcomes you with a sign featuring their mascot, a chubby lady holding a pizza. Their mascot is more representative of any tiger, bear or blob I know.

The small restaurant is filled with plenty of red booths, but the only patrons at about 7 p.m. were a small family parked in front of the TV showing Spongebob Squarepants.

I ordered a chunky barbecue chicken sandwich, which comes with a bag of Lay’s chips, banana peppers and a pickle. It is one of the most expensive sandwiches at the restaurant at $6.89 (the others at that price are the roast beef, fajita chicken, Philly and cheese, and Cane Run club).

At this point, I should complain about the 15-minute wait for my order. It had been a long day, and I just wanted to get home and pet the pup. But waiting for your order inside Annie’s is like watching the previews at a movie theater: it’s an important part of the process that gears you up for the main show.

The place was filled with the wonderful scent of baking mozzarella. It’s hard to be upset when you’re imagining that it’s your dish that’s going into the oven and emitting that mouth-watering smell. The scent got even stronger as a medley of employees marched in and out of the kitchen to deliver fresh pizzas and serve that family in the corner.

And fortunately, Annie’s has two TVs in the dining area, so I could enjoy Food Network, the perfect foreplay for a good meal.

Eventually, my sub was ready, I went home and the fun began.

Gooey goodness in a bun.

My fingertips were immediately covered with a sweet and tangy barbecue sauce when I unwrapped the foil that kept the sandwich hot. The sub was stuffed with shredded chicken that had been cooked in the sauce. The melted mozzarella I had fantasized about blanketed the chicken and and was topped off with diced sweet onions.

The bread was a beauty. Toasted on the outside. Buttery on the inside. Soft. Thick. Yummy.

(/salivating at the memories)

The sandwich is a mess to eat. But I have always found messy food to be the best. The barbeque sauce was sweet and tangy. The crisp onions (which are optional) give a nice texture to the otherwise gooey sandwich.

I thought I would just eat half the sandwich and save the other half for a future lunch. But that chunky barbeque called my name, over and over again.

It would have been rude not to answer.

And for such a great price, the sandwich, and everything else on Annie’s menu, can call me anytime.

Chunky barbecue chicken sandwich with chips: $6.89
Total (with tax): $7.30

Mission: Accomplished