Second Helpings

Witness for the Prosciutto: Should a restaurant reveal a dish's every ingredient on its menu?

That's the question a reader asked me, after an upsetting experience at an Italian restaurant.

It seems the couple, neither of whom ate red meat, ordered chicken parmigiana. They expected a chicken breast draped with melted mozzarella and tomato sauce.

But, to their "shock and horror," the diners found the chicken coated with a slice of ham. "We were both literally nauseous," the husband writes, "and stunned."

The manager was called over, and he acknowledged that the recipe called for a layer of prosciutto.

"Don't get me wrong, Howard," my correspondent says, "I'm as open to a restaurant's right to interpret a dish as the next person. What makes us furious, though, is the fact that [the menu] does NOT mention the inclusion of prosciutto anywhere in its description of the chicken parmigiana."

It's a tricky question. I know someone who is violently allergic to walnuts. When she eats out, she always asks if there are any walnuts in what she ordered.

It seems to me that if the prospect of something, whether walnuts or red meat, in any dish will upset you, you need to make sure to ask. It's not fair to treat a menu description as a recipe. Is the steak house to blame if a lactose-intolerant diner doesn't know the beef is sizzled in butter? Should folks allergic to eggs get annoyed with a Chinese restaurant that mixes egg into fried rice? If you can't stand olives, should you be angry when a mushroom pasta platter comes full of them?

Like my reader, I don't expect chicken parmigiana to come with a slice of prosciutto. But I'd call it a nice touch, not a nauseating one. So, I expect, would most people.

I'd suggest that after my red-meat-averse readers select their dishes, they ask one simple question: "There's no beef or pork in anything we've ordered, is there?" That way, there's no guessing, no assuming. The responsibility falls squarely on the restaurant.

That's a Croque: Does anybody eat a ham sandwich on rye, a tuna fish sandwich on a roll or a BLT sandwich on toasted white bread for lunch anymore?

Our traditional sandwiches face overseas competition. A new place, Croque, is bringing -- what else? -- croques to town.

These are French sandwiches. Back in France, there are two kinds. A croque monsieur is a chic name for a ham and cheese sandwich, prepared in a sandwich grilling iron. The croque madame adds a fried egg on top.

Croque makes its croques on a baked baguette. Along with monsieur and madame, you can find nine other varieties, including croque camembert (ham, tomato, Brie, cranberries), croque Hawaii (ham, pineapple, cheese) and croque mademoiselle (corn, mushroom, peppers, jicama, cheese, tomato, onion).

A small sandwich -- plenty for lunch -- goes for $3.50 to $4. Croque is a storefront in the shopping center at the southwest corner of Scottsdale Road and Thunderbird. It's open 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. Call 480-607-1285.

Suggestions? Write me at or New Times, P.O. Box 2510, Phoenix, AZ 85002.


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