Munch goes to PapaGallo Cucina

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In exhausting all means necessary to avoid doing work, Munch makes daily rounds through the newsroom of One of America's Great Newspapers, badgering colleagues who'd rather be left alone with unsolicited conversation about the most random minutiae possible.

Yesterday's discussion, with a business reporter who shall remain nameless: favorite monologues in baseball movies. That sap gets all weepy over "The Natural," but Munch prefers the "Bull Durham" bit where Crash Davis offers his treatise on life with Annie Savoy and Nuke LaLoosh.

Why, pray tell, does Munch bring this up? Because Munch is in desperate need of a hook to keep this column going, that's why.

So what does Munch believe in?

Thought you'd never ask. With apologies to Ron Shelton ...

"Well, Munch believes in the chef, the bartender, the waitress, the smell of Polish women making pierogies, fat-back bacon, high fiber, good scotch, that the memoirs of Anthony Bourdain are self-indulgent, overrated crap.

"Munch believes Guy Fieri is a tool. Munch believes there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Applebee's and Bud Light. Munch believes in sweet sausage, soft-serve ice cream, that breakfast is better at 3 a.m. after carousing than at 8 a.m. after a good night's sleep, and Munch believes in long, slow (cooked), deep, soft, slabs of barbecued ribs that you can still taste in a burp for three days."

Munch also believes that places located in suburban strip malls are usually the dregs when it comes to finding a decent place to eat.

Turns out, Munch can be wrong. As in the case of PapaGallo Cucina. (See what Munch did there?)

Located in the Collier Town Square -- which looks half-vacant, totally nondescript and as uninteresting a shopping center as you might see in modern suburbia -- this little diner, just a year old, adds charm and character.

Founded by accomplished chef Len Spampinato, it's a bright, cheery breakfast and lunch spot with a rooster-themed decor (gallo means "rooster" in Italian), chosen because of a song Mr. Spampinato's grandfather used to sing to him as a boy. He is very much the rooster-in-charge of his kitchen, preparing well-made dishes served up by the helpful and friendly waitresses, Lucy and Ange(-lica).

Classic breakfast dishes and egg specialties are available ($2.25 to $7.90) as well as slow-cooked warm oatmeal with brown sugar and raisins ($4.75) and triple berry pancakes ($6.95).

Munch loved the Cannonball Omelette ($7.90) though an antacid was needed later, on account of the spicy sausage, fire-roasted peppers, fresh tomatoes and pepper jack cheese, served with a side of hot sauce.

Regular column contributor BBBOM (Blond Barkeep Bud of Munch) had the huevos rancheros ($7.90): spiced black beans topped with two eggs, spicy tomato salsa and melted jack cheese over warm tortillas.

Her verdict?

"I could eat this every morning."

Indeed, we were so pleased with breakfast, we made a takeout lunch order on the spot.

BBBOM took home an order of the golden fish tacos ($8.95), made with fresh fish and Asian cilantro vinaigrette and chili lime cream, served with creamy coleslaw and fries, which she later reported she'd eat for lunch most days, too.

Despite it being healthy, Munch liked the Power Sandwich ($10.95), a balsamic-seared piece of chicken served on 12-grain bread, with crushed almonds and sprouts. A cup of honey carrot soup ($3.95) was excellent -- thick and sweet, spiced up with a dash of pepper.

So, what does Munch believe, exactly? That PapaGallo Cucina is a great little joint. Even if it's in a strip mall.



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