“My usual line is: I made a left at Shreveport,” says Jeff Mond, owner of Preston Royal East Shopping Center’s Pasta Plus, when asked how he ended up in Dallas.
Actually, Mond, a New Yorker whose ethnicity runs a fine line between Jewish (which he is) and Italian – “Are you kidding? My best friend growing up in Mill Basin, N.Y., was Joe Napolitano” – came to Dallas with a clear purpose: He was hired as a chef at the Hyatt.
After leaving the Hyatt eight years ago, he became part-owner of Pasta Plus, which had been in business since 1981. Three years ago, Mond bought out the other owners. Mond calls Pasta Plus his “Italian specialty store,” and there are many elements of the deli present. Dr. Brown’s soda stocked on the shelf is one.
“It’s the Cristal of soda. I can’t live without it,” he says.
When he became sole owner of the restaurant, however, there were quite a few things he decided he could live without.
“It used to be with waiters, all buttoned up with a tie, making me feel hot.”
Everything is a bit cooler these days. Freezers are constantly filled with ready-made dishes and quarts of Roma tomato sauce (“Everything is made here non-stop throughout the day”), shelves were moved out (“We didn’t seem to do as well as a grocery store”), and a new dining room was added.
Now the restaurant is a specialty in more ways than one.
For years before Mond took over, the restaurant’s pasta was a main draw, made with pure semolina (for the uninitiated, that would be the gritty particles of wheat left after finer flour has passed through a bolting machine).
“Before, it was the pasta that made everything, but now everything makes everything,” Mond says. “From our bread to our dressing to our tuna salad…the people that come for our tuna salad don’t eat anything else.”
And that’s OK by Mond.
“My regulars, the people who have been coming here for years…they’re like family.”
225 Preston Royal East
Open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
2 cups semolina
¼ cup water
¼ cup eggs
Knead semolina with a portion of the water and eggs. Add more liquid gradually until the dough forms little balls. Shape to form. Boil pasta for one minute. Saute with olive oil and garlic and serve with sauteed vegetables.
Chicken breasts (4)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Juice of ½ lemon
¼ teaspoon minced garlic
Chopped scallions (for garnish)
1 teaspoon white wine
2 tablespoons whole butter
Dredge chicken breasts in flour and saute in oil until light brown on both sides. Add the garlic and let it swirl around the pan for 10 seconds. Add lemon juice and wine and reduce mixture by half. Now sprinkle with scallions, add butter and allow it to melt. Do not let butter boil. Salt and pepper to taste.
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