TNT Diner

Good eats and drinks around Tacoma, Pierce County and South Puget Sound

Category: Never Been dining series

Nov.
22nd

Never Been, Italian Edition: Three red sauce joints you need to visit

The Aversano's special, a pizza with fresh veggies, mushrooms, onion, olives and pepperoni. The Sumner restaurant features vintage decorations including a coal car from Black Diamond that houses a generous salad bar. Dean J. Koepfler / Staff Photographer
The Aversano’s special, a pizza with fresh veggies, mushrooms, onion, olives and pepperoni. The Sumner restaurant features vintage decorations including a coal car from Black Diamond that houses a generous salad bar. Dean J. Koepfler / Staff Photographer

Food writers suffer from TNFP syndrome, a condition in which they’re always trying to find “That Newest Fancy Place.” It’s true that I’m occasionally afflicted, although I’ve been going through a detox program lately with a tour of forgotten restaurants.

Call them old-time Italian-American eateries, spaghetti dens, pizza havens or the moniker I think is perfect: red sauce joints.

They’re old Italian restaurants that don’t try to be something they’re not. They don’t use terms like “dairy-infused protein” (cheese) and “sun-kissed grape essence” (wine).

You’ll never find a server wearing a nametag who asks you if you’d like an endless bowl of limp salad.

Red sauce joints are old and proud and unfortunately seem to be on their way to obsolete in South Sound.

My job as the hired gullet for this newspaper is to tell you where it’s worth your time and money to eat. Three South Sound red sauce joints fit that bill and I’d like to keep them in business.

They’re restaurants nominated by readers during my last installment of “Never Been,” my occasional series where I visit restaurants that have operated for at least 15 or 20 years that you might drive by dozens or hundreds of times, yet you’ve never been inside. That’s where I come in.

Take a tour today with me of Pizza Casa in Lakewood, Aversano’s in Sumner, and Bella Nina’s in Tacoma. Read more »

Jan.
11th

Never been: A dining series digging into American classics

Chicken fried steak is a diner classic served at Ma's Place in Puyallup. Staff photo/Lui Kit Wong
Chicken fried steak is a diner classic served at Ma’s Place in Puyallup. Staff photo/Lui Kit Wong

You know those quirky restaurants that have been there for an eternity, yet you never bothered to try? I have a whole list of those. I call them “never beens.”

This year, I’ll visit some of my “never beens” and report back, and I’d appreciate reader suggestions for this occasional series. (Find my contact info at the end of this story.) Parameters are easy: The restaurant should be at least 15 or 20 years old (the older, the better) and it should have an aura of grit (read: diners, dives and places known for serving a stiff drink). Better even are restaurants that serve good ol’ American classics. You know, like chicken and dumplings and chicken fried steak. Bonus points will be awarded for meatloaf on the menu.

Take a read now of two “never beens” I’ve finally conquered: Ben Dew’s Clubhouse Grill and Ma’s Place. Read more »