My introduction to Italian cooking was very rudimentary and sporadic. Growing up in the southern United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s, there wasn’t an abundance of Italian restaurants. More importantly, my grandmother – who raised me from childhood – always looked at anything other than the dishes she grew up with as suspicious.
So I started with spaghetti at Shoney’s and the occasional frozen pizza. But somewhere in my high school days, I discovered lasagna, and I was totally hooked.
Lasagna is a delicious and hearty dish, with layers of flat noodles, meat sauce, ricotta and other cheeses. There are bad lasagnas, where the noodles are too crispy or the cheese is too greasy. But then there is good lasagna, where everything goes well with the world.
They serve good lasagna at Anna’s Kitchen, located at Hilltop in Virginia Beach. This venerable restaurant goes through it honestly. The namesake Anna Alosa and her family came to America from Calabria, Italy, and the dishes served here were passed down from her mother.
Anna’s is a quaint restaurant located in the Regency Hilltop Mall, with faux brick lined walls and dark wood accents. The aroma of tomato sauce hits you as soon as you open the door, and if you aren’t hungry already, you soon will be.
My partner Doug and I started with the Greek salad ($10.99) which was promised to be large enough to share. It didn’t disappoint – in fact, it was big enough to take home for lunch the next day.
A large bowl was filled with crisp, chilled romaine lettuce as a base, and built on top and around the perimeter of the dish with sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, kalamata olives and a generous sprinkle of feta cheese. A nicely seasoned olive oil dressing came on the side.
The salad was fresh and delicious, and a great way to start the meal.
After bringing olive oil bread, we shared chicken wings and waited for the main event: the lasagna.
A large rectangle of the dish was served, with several high layers and the nose of tomato, meat and cheese floating around, perfuming the air.
Here, everything is homemade and it shows. The noodles were tender and a wonderful platform for the other ingredients. They cut easily with a fork and, although delicate, the dish was sturdy enough that the meat sauce and cheese stuck to the bones for a perfect bite.
I loved the meat sauce: there was a nice underlying sweetness in the tomato base, and hints of Italian seasonings – basil, thyme and garlic among them – added salty notes. Nice chunks of browned ground beef were everywhere adding taste and texture. The cheese was also present on all the layers and delicately sprinkled on top.
Between the salad, the wings and the lasagne, we also had a takeout portion to enjoy the next day.
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There is no beer, spirits or wine on the menu at Anna’s so I appreciated a glass of water. If you have leftovers for dinner at home the next day, I suggest a lovely classic Chianti to pair with anything with a red sauce.
Anna’s Kitchen is at 1940 Laskin Road, Virginia Beach. Call 757-491-5050 or visit www.AnnasPizzaKitchen.com.
Parrots, take note: key west party at the Commonwealth Brewing Company. The event starts at noon on August 13 and features island-inspired slushies and a pizza bar menu, live music and more. The party follows the release of Hemingway Key Lime Goes, Islamorada Goes on August 9 and Tranquil Dark Mexican Lager on August 12.
Commonwealth Brewing Company is at 2444 Pleasure House Rd., Virginia Beach. Call 757-305-9652 or visit www.CommonwealthBrewingCompany.com
Let’s taco ’bout it at the Virginia Beach Taco Festival, with variable hours on August 20 and 21 at The Shack. Grab over 10 deals from area taco restaurants and food vendors, enjoy a margarita bar, tequila sampling, live music, and general vendors. There will also be a taco and chili contest. Prices vary by experience, from $9 to $59.
The Shack is at 712 Atlantic Ave., Virginia Beach. Call 757-319-5146. For information and tickets, visit www.VirginiaBeachTacoFest.com.
Patrick Evans-Hylton [email protected]