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The View from My Kitchen

Benvenuti! I hope you enjoy il panorama dalla mia cucina Italiana -- "the view from my Italian kitchen,"-- where I indulge my passion for Italian food and cooking. From here, I share some thoughts and ideas on food, as well as recipes and restaurant reviews, notes on travel, and a few garnishes from a lifetime in the entertainment industry.

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Grazie mille!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Review: Pirate's Landing Seafood and Steak Restaurant in Elkin, NC

Shiver Me Timbers, It's GOOD!

So there we were driving southbound out of Virginia on I-77 when, about fifteen miles into North Carolina, we spotted a pirate ship. For the geographically impaired among you, I-77 runs nowhere near North Carolina's Atlantic coast. So what was a pirate ship doing aground more than two hundred miles inland? Serving great food, that's what.

Frequent readers will know that I usually seek out and review little out-of-the-way Italian eateries, but this place looked way too cool to pass up. I don't know about billing themselves as “The Most Exciting Seafood Restaurant in the Southeast,” but there is definitely a “wow” factor involved as you drive up. The building is constructed to resemble an eighteenth-century pirate ship. They've even surrounded parts of it with water teeming with fish. Okay, so it's a big koi pond. It's still cool.

The coolness continues inside where two-hundred year-old support beams imported from the St. Lawrence Seaway and antique planking on the “deck” blend with murals, ropes, cargo netting, and a host of “pirate treasures” adorning the dining area. According to the manager with whom I spoke, the owner, a Greek immigrant named Theofanis Kakouras, spent years collecting antique weapons, cannon, rugs, barrels, tapestries and other trappings to achieve a pirate ambiance that, although loaded with kitsch, doesn't really feel all that kitschy. And before you ask, the waitstaff does not run around saying, “Arrrrggggg” and “Ahoy,” although they do sport bright red sashes around their waists.

The menu is another matter; here you'll find combo dinners named for William Kidd, Black Bart, Calico Jack, and Edward England, as well as a “Buccaneer's Fried Seafood Feast.” But that's as “piratey” as it gets. The rest of the list is pretty straight ahead steak, seafood, and pasta-house fare. Okay, except for “Hook's Riblets” on the appetizer menu.

We arrived on the late side of a busy Saturday night dinner service. The wait was reasonable – about ten minutes – and while we were waiting, we were chatted up by a couple who asked if this was our first visit. When we replied affirmatively, they regaled us with tales of what they considered to be better seafood than could be found at the beach. Even though they lived some thirty or forty miles away they were Pirate's Landing regulars. They were soon called to their table and the friendly and efficient hostess escorted us to ours just moments later.

It's a big menu, folks, with about a dozen items on the appetizer side, a generous selection of soups and salads, pasta offerings that included shrimp scampi and pasta Alfredo, several fried seafood and broiled seafood choices, a smattering of sandwiches, and the aforementioned pirate-named combos. Then you get to the steak, chicken, and ribs side of the menu and the surf and turf dishes. They had a “pick two” deal going on, so my wife chose shrimp and scallops with garlic mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, and a salad. And since you can take the boy out of the Italian restaurant but you can't take the Italian restaurant out of the boy, I opted for the pasta Alfredo. (I know it's not Italian, but work with me here.) We also ordered up some standard fare mozzarella cheese sticks as an appetizer.

A nice beer and wine list was presented, but with the road still ahead, we chose non-alcoholic beverages. My wife pronounced the tea to be “very good,” a factor that often decides the overall fate of an establishment in her estimation.

Here's where the ship began to founder a little. I thought I detected a bit of “green” in our server. After you've been around awhile, you can just tell. Don't get me wrong; he was a pleasant, friendly, helpful young man, but he didn't seem to have relaxed into his job quite yet. As a result, our entrees hit the table before the appetizer – which actually never arrived – and the salads went missing, too. Our server was appropriately apologetic, but he got a little nervous when I asked him to have the manager drop by our table. I wasn't going to have him walk the plank or anything; I just wanted an explanation. I got one. The young man was, indeed, only in his second week on the job. Methinks maybe he was cast adrift on his own a bit too soon.

However, the food more than made up for the serving snafu. Did I mention the complimentary hush puppies that started our meal? They made the missed mozzarella sticks totally superfluous. Wow! When the server offered us a refill, I had to emphatically refuse for fear that we would be such complete pigs as to not only embarrass ourselves but to endanger our enjoyment of the rest of the meal. Yes, they were that good.

My wife mooned and swooned over the shrimp and scallops and said something about making a meal of the garlic mashed potatoes all by themselves. The vegetables were perfectly roasted and well-seasoned. For my part, I found the linguine to also be perfectly cooked and the “Alfredo sauce” – a term I abhor for its completely American inauthenticity – was, nonetheless, a good representation of the product. However, the pasta was quite bland and required a lot of salt at the table that should have been present in the cooking water, but was obviously lacking. An unfortunately common failing in some non-Italian kitchens. The portions were typically overly generous, so even though we were shorted an app and a salad, we still did not have room to partake of any of the scrumptious-looking desserts that were available.

The bill was shocking; we feasted gluttonously for under thirty dollars. The most expensive thing on the menu were the lobster tails, which check in at $22.95. Nearly every other entree is under fifteen dollars, with some less than ten. This seems like a great place to please your appetite without plundering your pocketbook.

Pirate's Landing Seafood and Steak Restaurant is located just east of Elkin, North Carolina, a bit north of Winston-Salem, at exit 85 off I-77. The building is hard to miss from the interstate and there are signs posted when you exit. There's a large lot, so parking is no problem. The restaurant is open Tuesday through Saturday from 2 pm until 10 pm and on Sunday from 11 am to 9 pm. Reservations are not required. Dress is casual (although I think I'll wear my pirate outfit next time.) Custom menus and accommodations are available for parties of up to 320 people.

So avast, me hearties! Hoist the Jolly Roger, haul anchor and set sail for Pirate's Landing!

Pirate's Landing Seafood and Steak Restaurant
161 Interstate Way, Elkin, NC 28621
(336) 366-4150
www.pirateslanding-nc.com

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