Our Gourmet: Rig A' Tony's is far from typical take-out
It is a common truth that winter is the best time of year to stay inside and watch television. Americans love to do that.
They also love to eat, and have friends over. But shopping, cooking, setting the table and cleaning up is not included in our favorite things, so having friends over to share the high-def widescreen can be a chore.
But if you're lucky enough to have a Rig A' Tony's nearby, there's no need to pass up this prime-time TV season of NFL playoffs, movies, Oscars, and old favorites launching new episodes.
So get some gourmet Italian take-out, invite the friends, set up the TV trays and indulge — it can hardly get much better.
Our Gourmet: Take-out food is generally limited to, and over-saturated with, Chinese food and pizza. So it is a breath of truly appetizing air when one comes upon Rig A' Tony's expansive and gourmet menu of pasta, pizza, sandwiches ("Spuckies"), soups, salads, calzones, wraps, and specialty dishes.
The restaurant has two locations, and does an award-winning catering business, but smaller, in-house dinners to go are Tony's bread and butter, and we recently enjoyed some delightful football-watching hours with friends and plates full of truly delicious food.
OG: We know about take-out pizza, so we sampled a Prim A' Vera pizza ($14.99) in Rig A' Tony's small dining area while we perused the menu and ordered dinner for later. In a word: Magnifico! In two: Unbelievably good! First, it's huge. Second, it's dripping with cheese edge-to-edge (no 2-inch dry, tasteless buffer zone a la cardboard). Third: A wild concoction of toppings on the Prim A' Vera makes it very likely the best pizza we've ever sampled. With a white, spiced, creamy Italian sauce thoroughly blended with other toppings (not sitting on top like an afterthought), this pie offers large carmelized onions, spinach, roasted red peppers and thinly-sliced ham — all evenly distributed and served to the table piping hot.
The Dining Companion: Re-heating take-out food is easy. It is in the transportation from store to home that dishes lose integrity and taste — airtight containers are essential to superior performance, and Rig's packages its food in aluminum containers with tight-fitting plastic tops — then wraps them in plastic wrap to ensure top quality.
OG: A favorite among the Patriot fans at home, Shrimp Amore ($13.99 for a single, which feeds three easily; or $34.95 for a family size, which probably feeds eight) combines taste and spice in a superb Italian entree whose richness rivals anything on the menu at Fratello's, Florence's, Carrabba's or any other popular, more expensive Italian restaurant around. Huge shrimp are enveloped with large-sliced marinated tomatoes, mushrooms, garlic oil, basil and red peppers. The sauce is key here. It is ample, on the thin side and spicy — from the combination of garlic oil and the peppers, and the sauce is infused in the totality of the dish, making every bite count. Best served in a bowl. Truly delicious. 14/15
TDC: Jumbo Cheese or Meat Ravioli ($9.99, $32.95) was a more standard entree, featuring large, square Italian ravioli under a marinara sauce and parmesan cheese. Ours was the meat version. Perhaps we overcooked it in the re-heating, or perhaps the thinness of the ravioli pasta just didn't stand up to the time delay between cooking and serving (the main problem with any take-out food). Still, it offers a very tasty meat filling encased in the large ravioli and makes for a winning side dish. 11/15
OG: I don't give top scores to many dishes, and here I have almost three in a row. Sausage Abruzzi is a super hearty, filling entree ($12.95; $39.95) chock-full of thick, slightly spicy Italian sausages, with large slices of roasted red peppers, onions and garlic, in a spicy red sauce. Dig in! This was enough for one of our diners (except for dessert), and a single serving could easily suffice as a dinner for two, combined with the crisp tossed salad and Italian bread that comes with every order. Outstanding. 14/15
TDC: Rigatoni Broccoli & Chicken: A creamy white sauce (there is a choice of wine sauce) graced this substantially loaded combination of large, tender sauteed chicken chunks, sliced broccoli and fresh lemon. The creamy sauce needs to be re-heated slowly, and the lemons need to be stirred around to reach the edges of the servings, but after that, this dish ($11.95; $34.95) stands up to gourmet critics and perhaps an overtime NFL game. It is hearty and filling, but somehow remains on the light side because of the lemon flavoring, which cuts through the thick white sauce like a finely honed hunting knife. Most diners agreed we might try it with the wine sauce next time. 13/15
TDC: Tiramisu, (under $5) was yummy, yummy, yummy, with just the right flavor and creaminess for this favorite of mine — delicate enough to be springy and rich enough to satisfy. A tiny bit heavy on the cake layer, and could use a pinch more coffee flavoring, but a delicious dessert to be sure. 8/10
OG: Put an "M" in my initials and there you have it ... a dessert that might make a couch potato simply turn off the light and go to sleep instead of going up to bed. A $2.99 (single) serving of Coconut Cream Cake that would feed three is a great big chunk of four-layer white cake, slathered with a white frosting that is to die for and blended thoroughly with tasty bits of coconut. No matter who wins the game, this dessert wins the vote. And it must be very popular; the refrigerated case at Rig A' Tony's was well-stocked. 10/10
All in all, Rig A' Tony's put our faith back in take-out options, offering a new game on the same old playing field. The money is well-spent on a $15 pizza in-store (piping hot) compared to two slabs of decorated dough delivered to your door in a cardboard box for $15 or so. Cooked dough placed in a cardboard box tends to develop the DNA of the box ... you know the rest.
If Rig A' Tony's is in your lineup for an Oscar telecast, or a football game, or a movie or some other form of entertainment on the tube, your evening will be an enjoyable one — even if the Ravens beat the Patriots on Sunday or the 49ers or Falcons win the Super Bowl.
It's a sure bet.