Saturday, June 30, 2012

Cuzzin's Cafe - Italian Comfort Food

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I love stuffed artichokes. You can't always get them. I used to go to Palermo's in Oak Lawn, but they are often out and don't have this delicacy that years ago an Italian date told me was something to share with someone you really loved.

So when I heard Cuzzin's Cafe in Orland Park served stuffed artichokes, I figured, why not make it a meal, and took the family there to enjoy a nice authentic Italian  meal.

The food was very good, for the most part. I can't say it was bad. But it was off when we went tonight. Right off, I ordered the stuffed artichoke. It was tough, although the stuffing was phenomenal. Usually, you work your way through the maze of artichoke leaves covered in thick stuffing and the artichoke meat is soft. But this one was a little under cooked, maybe. Tough tough. The heart was like stone and it's the first time I didn't finish eating it, even though Alison kept telling me that "It's fattening." Not referring to her but to me where fatty foods have been making their presence a little too known.

You eat artichokes with your hands, grabbing one leaf at a time and scraping the stuffing and the artichoke meat off with your teeth, discarding the tough leaves. It's messy but fun. And when you can share it with someone you love, it's just that much better. Alison tried it but Aaron hasn't evolved into a food experimentor yet. He's still too young. 

Anyway, I figured, no problem. Then they brought the bread. It was a few slices of fresh Vienna bread with a plate of marinara sauce, olive oil and grated cheese. Another reminder that there wasn't enough but that's okay because it's too fattening. 

Everything Italian is fattening, honey! Not that pleading does any good.

So I ordered heart attack on a plate, Fettucini Alfredo. The sauce was too thick, like peanut butter. Another excuse for my wife to tell me, "It's fattening, don't eat so much." I didn't.

I ordered a side of meatballs and so did my son, Aaron. My meatballs were over mixed with stuffing, and not enough meat. It tasted like stuffing more than a meatball. So I didn't eat them all. In fact, my wife was happy because I really didn't eat much at all. "Too fattening."

I know. I know.

Anyway. we'll give it another try again. The food had real authentic Italian flavors and taste. It is more of a casual dining room setting, which was nice. Maybe like a little cafe like the ones were visited when we crossed over from France into Italy a few years backed and spent the day in Menton along the French Riviera.

All Cuzzin's needs is an outdoor fountain and some little tables. It would be fun. 

Sometimes restaurant's have bad days. So I don't want to be too hard because I know the place is great. It really warmed my heart when I heard one of the waitresses say, "Hey Mom, I need a plate of ..." Family run and family operated. You have to give them the benefit of the doubt. So while I am having funw ith this experience, I;m not going to trash the place because it is great.

Try it. You'll like it!

-- Ray Hanania

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

New Middle East restaurant coming to Orland Park, one of Northern Illinois' best

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It's called the Nile Restaurant and it's located in a strip mall at 87th and Harlem Avenue in Bridgeview. For the most part, mostly Middle Eastern men eat there. Some Americans. It's like a community insider's preference.

But it is the best Middle East restaurant in Northern Illinois, by far surpassing every other restaurant in a 100 mile radius of the Southwest Suburbs. No restaurant comes close to the food. But it is spartan. Stripped bare with essentials, only. Not the kind of place a family would go to enjoy an afternoon lunch or an evening dinner.

That will change soon, though, with the opening of The Nile II in Orland Park in the Jewel Osco Mall at 159th and 94th Avenue, where the Pita Oven tried and failed to work. The new Nile restaurant is bringing over the chef from 87th Street that has given that restaurant its phenomenal reputation. American Arabs know to go there when they can. The food is simply perfection.

The Mensiff -- lamb, rice, pita bread and the Jameed (lamb milk based sauce), is superb. No one makes it better than The Nile. It's usually the featured dinner on Fridays, which is the Muslim sabbath.

When it opens, you have to try this place. If you like Middle Eastern food, you will absolutely love The Nile II when it opens.

So many Middle East restaurants have tried and failed. Al Bawadi in Bridgeview is good and among the region's best, but it can't compete with The Nile.

-- Ray Hanania

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Police Robo-call on car-jacking 167th and LaGrange

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Nothing online yet about a car-jacking reported by the Orland Park Police in a late night robo-call to residents.

The call reported a car-jacking at 167th and LaGrange Road around 2 am, warning residents that police were conducting a field search for an individual described as being 6 foot 5 inches tall.

That would put it at around Orland's Marcus Theater parking lot.

-- Ray Hanania

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Orland Trustee Pat Gira plays politics while ignoring her responsibilities to village taxpayers

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Village Trustee Patricia Gira is engaged in a transparent political game to promote her allies in the upcoming spring village elections. That's good to see, considering that she has spent her entire public career closing her eyes to the problems of her political pals.

Gira is angry that Pat Maher, the son of Village Clerk David Maher, was thrown out of office in the last election at the Orland Fire Protection District. Gira and Maher ran together, her for village trustee -- a seat she barely won -- and Maher to use the OFPD as a base to launch a career to higher office.

Neither really cared about the public's interests.

For example, Gira has been sending out letters to senior citizens in Orland Park inciting them tp fear using lies and exaggerations. Gira claims the OFPD is weighing closing Fire Station #6.

Not only is that an outright lie, but OFPD President Jim Hickey publicly stated that he opposed any proposal to close a fire station. In fact, it wasn't the OFPD board that brought up the issue of "closing Fire Station #6." It was in fact Pat Gira who brought up the idea?

Why would she do that when she knows that is a lie?

Well, she is using fear mongering to incite the community and to confuse seniors about the facts. She wants to build up a challenge against the OFPD in the next election in the Spring in the hopes of electing her allies to the board.

Gira ignored than nearly $2.6 million that the OFPD cut from the budget of the Fire District, the budget that her ally Pat Maher rammed through the board in January 2011. 

Gira was silent over the fact that the OFPD for the first time in FIVE YEARS has a budget UNDER $30 million.

But she did complain that the Fire District has "three public relations consultants." Not true, of course. When Gira and Maher were running the Fire District, the OFPD had four media consultants and PR consultants.

The new board under Jim Hickey, however, cut the costs of the PR workers saving more than $12,000 a year. The OFPD pays $36,000 a year for a PR consultant (me) compared to the $48,000 that Gira and Maher paid before I was hired.

Of course, Gira is hoping to incite fear and raise phony issues hoping you won't ask, for example: "How much does the Village of Orland Park which has raised property taxes how many times over th eyears, pay for public relations and PR?"

I've sent an FOIA under the Village of Orland Park's so-called transparency program to find out exactly how many hundreds of thousands the village is paying. We'll see how they respond and I'll publish it here.

It is a shame that Pat Gira is using her public office in the village to run her election strategy against the Orland Fire Protection District. Her letters are signed by her Village Title and are being sent as a Village Trustee. Is the Village of Orland Park paying for that electioneering? Maybe the Cook County State's Attorney should investigate if any village money or resources are being used by Village Trustee Patricia Gira to pay for her political campaign against the Orland Fire Protection District.

In the Spring 2011 elections, Orland taxpayers declared they have had enough with lying and cheating elected officials. They forced Maher to quit the race after his lies were exposed. Pat Gira backed him and distributed his re-election literature. 

Not only did they vote against Maher but the majority of Orland Park voters voted AGAINST PAT GIRA in that same election. She barely got 40 percent of the village vote. Nearly 60 percent of the vote went to someone else rather than Pat Gira. She doesn't even have the backing of a majority fo the residents. She knows this is probably her last term in office so she has decided to throw mud, as she did in the last election, and attack the integrity of the Orland Fire Protection District.

CANDIDATE/PARTY     ......................................................% .....................Votes

Edward G. Schussler (Orland Park United)          14.25                        2,616
Patricia A. Gira (Orland Park United)                      13.65                       2,504
Carole Griffin Ruzich (Orland Park United)            12.05                        2,211

(Their votes add up to 39.95 % of the total votes cast)

I'm not going to let that happen. I'm not going to let selfish Pat Gira undermine the will of the voters who spoke loud and clear and demanded that the new OFPD better manage spending and taxpayer dollars. They demanded the OFPD cut budget spending to prevent taxes from increasing as they have in the past.

Gira is really a disgrace. That she would fear monger and incite seniors especially into believing that Fire Station #6 will be closed when she knows that is a lie and she knows that she manufactured the issue to create fear and concern, is disgraceful.

-- Ray Hanania

More reading:

Click here to read Village of Orland Park breaks promise to refund property taxes to offset Sales Tax increase