Marshall V. King
Dining a La King
As a kid, Paul Cataldo didn’t know what to do with arugula.
Believe me, he’s figured it out.
The owner of Antonio’s Italian Restaurant, 1105 Goshen Ave., runs a restaurant named for his late father. And his father grew the bitter green in the garden and kept adding it to salads.
Over time, Paul grew to like it and as a restaurant owner started using it as well.
He also uses romaine and a blend of other greens, as well as mint, in his salads.
And there’s a garden next to the restaurant from which some of the restaurant’s plates are filled during the summer.
Four years ago, Cataldo had a lot of eggplant at the end of the summer and was trying to figure out what to do with them.
So he dredged slices in bread crumbs, fried them in butter and stacked them with sliced tomatoes and mozzarella. It’s a take on a caprese salad.
An employee had the idea of adding honey to a dressing, so they made one with balsamic, the house vinaigrette and honey.
They tossed it with arugula and romaine, red onion, kalamata olives, mushrooms, croutons and mint.
The blend of ingredients and fontinella cheese went on top of the stack.
And a glorious salad emerged on a plate.
This is a salad that feeds at least two. And it’s got a range of flavors that few salads have.
The bitter greens and sweet dressing play off each other.
The mint adds a note to the greens.
The eggplant, tomato and cheese are different textures and temperatures.
And this $10.95 salad is amazing.
I’ve eaten enough of them over the last number of years that I can tell when Cataldo makes it or one of his staff. His are always slightly better, but no matter who makes the salad, it is one of the best salads in Elkhart County.
Is it the best? We’ll see, but it’ a clear finalist for the best salad you can buy in Elkhart County (five out of five stars). It joins Constant Spring as a finalist.
Readers also recommended the Black & Bleu salad on the menu that former Antonio’s chef Ashley Beachy created. It’s got a ton of flavor too.
And you can get the arugula salad without the eggplant stack for $8.95. That travels home in a to-go box better. But it’s got less going on flavor-wise.
Cataldo is proud of his tomato salad too, but that won’t be ready until later this summer when they’re ripe.
At Dandino’s Restaurant & Lounge, 1407 Elkhart Road, Goshen, the Allberry family has been serving a range of fish, steaks and seafood for decades. But the salads are incredibly popular too. And the list of them is expanding.
I got a chicken chef salad to go last week. A reader recommended the chef with blackened chicken, so I bit on that.
And I got it with the French bacon dressing, which they make in-house at the restaurant that is the closest thing Goshen has to a supper club.
The egg, cheese and chicken intermingled with the iceberg and romaine lettuces. I’ve written before about how I feel about iceberg.
But the biggest reason to like the salad at Dandino’s isn’t the lettuce or toppings. It’s the croutons.
They’re big hunks of bread. They’re crunchy. And they have a lot of flavor.
The reason is that they make them by deep-frying leftover bread, according to manager Morgan Flora.
They could be cut a little smaller. And they can’t be incredibly healthy. But they’re mighty good.
The restaurant is also serving strawberry chicken salad ($7) and both steak or chicken on chef or caesar salads, she said. There’s also a blueberry Waldorf salad at the moment.
“They’re very popular,” she said, particularly at lunch.
I get why. They won’t be a finalist in Salad Quest. But I am curious about that blueberry Waldorf salad, which I wasn’t aware of until the interview. (3 1/2 out of five)
Salad Quest may take all summer to finish. That’s just fine.
I’m hungry. Let’s eat.
Marshall V. King is managing editor and food columnist for The Elkhart Truth. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, 574-296-5805, via Twitter @hungrymarshall or the Dining A La King Facebook page.