By Ross Morrone
7807 Market St., Boardman
Sunday, private parties; Monday, 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday, opens at 3 p.m.
Sometimes I don’t want to think when I am going out for a meal. Ever feel like that? I’ve had it with decision making for the day, and the last thing I honestly care about is what I really feel like eating. I’m more interested in grabbing a quick cocktail and enjoying a conversation that isn’t anything work-related.
Choosing a place to eat and what to eat seems like work sometimes. You just deserve a nice dinner, Ross. OK, fine.
We all have our favorite restaurants. I have mine, for sure, and even though one of them happens to be a chain (Cheesecake Factory. Honestly, can you argue?), I do have my local favorites.
Johnny’s, located on Market Street in Boardman, definitely tops my list. There is something different about Johnny’s to me. The atmosphere reminds me of one you may find downtown in a big city, and the food is consistently good. Two attributes I enjoy when I am spending my night out with good company.
This week I wasn’t interested in the eating experience. I wanted to see what the chef, Brandon Bruce, considered to be his signature dishes. I’ve worked my way around this menu before and was eager to see what my waitress was going to bring out.
First, there were some fresh slices of warm homemade bread and peppers. I never talk about this simple gesture by a restaurant but decided to this time.
I love peppers. I can them every fall and spend the rest of the year enjoying the fermenting pepper rings in vinegar and spices.
Much like my good looks, they only get better with age.
If you are going to send this item out for free, I expect it to be a sneak peak of what I am in for with the rest of dinner. Even with the simplicity of the bread offering, Johnny’s is able to provide a few seconds of joy in my mouth.
The peppers sit in a spiced mix of oil. With a rip of the bread and fold of the hardened crust, I scoop up the soft peppers. My lips feel the heat first, and then it becomes apparent on my tongue.
As beads of sweat form on my forehead, my taste buds sing a tune of joy as they enjoy the spices and heat of every bite.
Sauted Greens ($7) was the first dish sent out by chef Brandon. Often times greens are bland or overpowered with salt. Avoiding that classification, these had a secret ingredient, prosciutto.
The saltiness of this dish came from the cured ham and is apparent in every single bite. It’s a great trick if you want to season without actually using salt in any dish.
The oil from the banana pepper atop the mound of greens gives a hint of heat to the dish — not overpowering or unbearable, but it’s there.
The first of two entrees was the Fettuccini Florentine ($15), consisting of bowtie pasta, spinach, mushrooms and feta cheese saut ed in garlic butter reduction.
This dish is simple in theory, but as you scoop all the ingredients up together and let them absorb into your palate, you notice that they each bring a unique profile to the overall flavor you get from this dish. The balance of salt and savory tips the scales on every individual bowtie.
The second entre was the Chicken Queen Victoria ($23). This dish is a perfect marriage of land and sea as two chicken breast cutlets act as the table for lumps of crabmeat and scallops. The chicken was moist and had a nice consistency of chew. The scallops were soft, not chewy, and the crab melted with every bite.
The sherry cream sauce is what brings this dish together. Its sweet cream flavor could be a stand-alone soup. Every taste has perfectly blended stock flavor of crab, chicken and scallop.
I used the leftover bread to soak up as much of this juice as I could and left the dishwasher with an easy job.
With the holidays in full swing, there is no doubt that we are all going to get out to dinner with friends and family a little more. For your next night out treat yourself to a meal with top-notch quality and taste. It will make your decision of what to eat a little easier knowing that you are almost guaranteed a great meal at Johnny’s!
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