We can never pass up pasta, delicious and delightful in any of its hundreds of whimsical shapes. Should we ever forget why we love it so, one trip to Leccabaffi reminds us.

Soft pasta in this quiet, upscale eatery is homemade, lovingly cranked out by real Italians. Sauces are fashioned from scratch and married with straight-from-the-homeland-style ingredients. Spaghetti and meatballs? For shame. Instead, we're feasting on authentic pappardelle con salsiccia casareccia e pisellini (a mouthful that means pappardelle with homemade sausage, tomato and peas). We're nibbling on gnocchetti, semolina based instead of flour, then baked, sautéed and coated with a vibrant blend of fontina and Gruyère cheeses. And we're feasting on fettuccine, egg noodles tossed with lobster, organic tomato, garlic and extra virgin olive oil.

In Italian, Leccabaffi means "lick your mustache." In English, it means "lick your plate."

This is the stuff all sausages should be made of -- homemade European-style tubes crafted from recipes unchanged by Schreiner's since 1958. And with more than 100 varieties, there are no missing links here. We're partial to Polish kielbasa, German brat and brockwurst and Hungarian kishke, although sometimes we take the high-health road and go for low-fat poultry models.

Schreiner's, we salute your sausages.

The only thing better than a good hot dog is a double dog -- twice the pleasure, you know. And Luke's has both on its menu, all pure juicy beef, and served in classic Chicago style. These tasty pups come tucked in a fresh poppy seed bun, and slathered with yellow mustard, chopped onion, and neon green relish. The capper? A sport pepper, sliced tomato and a whole pickle, sprinkled just so with celery salt. Unwrap the white paper bundle and find a delicious extra: mounds of crispy, salty, crinkle-cut fries. At just $2.85, it's an affordable meal any day of the week. And that double dog? It's just a buck more. We're in puppy love.
Whether it's served steaming hot to chase off a chill, or dished up cold to take the sweat from our brow, soup satisfies. And Kashman's has made soup into a year-round comfort food. When it's chilly outside, Kashman's charms with its winter seasonal menu. Selections change daily, and include favorites like a hearty white chicken chili with onion and shaved Parmesan, sumptuous autumn pumpkin, double-beef chili, beef barley, and a zingy New Orleans corn and crab bisque. During the summer, Kashman's sets out beautifully complex Portuguese lemon mint chicken, and cool gazpacho. No matter the time of year, we can count on the classics: rich Santa Fe tortilla, creamy broccoli Cheddar, matzo ball, chicken noodle and a lip-smacking lime vegetable.

We suppose it's better to call Diamondbacks pitcher Randy Johnson "The Big Unit" than "The Big Johnson." Still, it's more information than we want to know, thanks. Who came up with this nickname, anyway?

The only such thing we're interested in exploring is The Big Unit Hot Dog served at Alice Cooper'stown -- a two-foot-long frank, all beef. And it's a big meal, served with choice of two sides: fries, Coop's coleslaw, potato chips, or calico beans. For half a buck more, we can dress our dog with cheese, chili or beer-soaked sauerkraut. Now that's a unit we can understand.

"Over 473,899 chicken-fried steaks served," boasts TexAZ Grill's marquee -- and we believe it. We're personally responsible for about 208,414 of those orders. That's how much we crave these jaw-droppingly good slabs of hand-cubed beefsteak, double-dipped in a sinfully milky batter and fried. This is down-home Texan tuck-in, too, served with roll-your-eyes wonderful mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, a buttermilk biscuit and a do-ya-right salad topped with green olives. We tip our 10-gallon hat to TexAZ Grill.
The drop-dead gorgeous historic Royal Palms property makes a delightful place to eat our veggies. Garden-fresh beauties are selected, whenever possible, from local, organic farmers. Boasting select seasonal dishes from Barcelona, Spain, and the Tuscan region of Italy, the menu tempts with such dishes as a salad of organic greens, tomato fresca and pine-nut dressing; chopped vegetable salad with feta and Kalamata olive vinaigrette; or watercress salad with baby beets and baked goat cheese. Sandwiches scintillate, such as a goat cheese and red pepper pita with hummus and sprouts. And soups soothe our very soul, like a dreamy carrot broth with chervil emulsion.

Though they're not always on the menu, vegetarian dishes are a highlight here. We ask for the chef's seasonal selection, roasted in the hunter's lodge-style fireplace in the dining room. A superb sampling includes grilled eggplant, roasted pepper, asparagus, and goat cheese cannelloni.

The menu at Don and Charlie's warns that its prime rib is served daily until it runs out. So we get there early. We've never been denied, no matter the time -- that's how well this kitchen knows its clientele -- but why risk missing the juiciest, most flavorful cut of rib in town?

The best cuts of meat are aged on premises, then slow-roasted to our order -- rare to medium-rare to showcase the quality of the beef. We've got our choice of sizes and savories, too. Usually the "small" 12-ounce is fine; other times we want the hungry man's large 16-ouncer. For beefier eats, get the prime rib bones, regular or barbecue style. Either way, tender meat melts in your mouth, dipped in rich jus and slathered with honest, zesty horseradish. And entrees come with complimentary chopped liver, an enormous breadbasket, a huge salad, and potato: au gratin, baked, double-baked or French fries.

So they're green beans. Soy what? That's just it. Edamame are Japanese soy beans, and they're really good for you, packed with stuff that, among other things, is supposed to help prevent cancer. There's not much to edamame -- the pods are simply steamed and flecked with rock salt, then served hot. But this quiet presentation means no hiding faults, either. Pods must be pristinely fresh, and cooked just so, or else the skin slips slimy. Too much salt? Gak. Too little? Why bother? The wrong kind? That's just outrage: Real edamame are right only with rock salt. That's why we choose Zen 32, which gets its pods perfect every time. In a world of has-beans, these are our edamame dearest.

We never thought we'd pay $19 for a plate of old-fashioned spaghetti and meatballs and be happy about it. But that's before we discovered the soul-satisfying dish at Tarbell's. This is a full-flavored feast, starring a vibrant marinara made with organic tomatoes (yes, you can taste the difference) and hefty, beefy orbs. Plus, Tarbell's hip, beautiful-people atmosphere comes with the meal at no extra charge. When we've had a rough day, we like to snuggle up at the always happening bar and drown our sorrows in spaghetti. Works every time.

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