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!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

First The Cronut, Now The Spaghetti Grilled Cheese


For the record, I love spaghetti. And as I enter my seventh decade, I still claim a simple, gooey grilled cheese as my favorite sandwich. That being established, I would never (x10) consider putting the two together as one dish. But somebody did.

A couple of guys named Paul Cao and Minh Pham run a place in Huntington Beach, California called Burnt Crumbs. Not my first choice for an appealing restaurant name, but that's just me. Anyway, the entrepreneurial pair were reminiscing about their UCLA college days and about Cao's “signature” spaghetti, which he intentionally burned on the bottom “to give it a crispy texture.” Of course, my nonna would have just called it burned spaghetti and thrown it out, but to each his own, I suppose. Apparently, there was some leftover spaghetti and some leftover garlic bread in the kitchen and the creative duo decided to combine the two into a sandwich. No word on whether or not alcohol was involved in the creative process.

Now, I know all about the “creativity” that goes on in restaurant kitchens. We ran a weekend spaghetti special once and had some meat sauce left over on Monday, so one of the cooks came up with a variation on chili cheese fries. He dumped the leftover sauce on fresh, hand-cut French fries and dubbed the dish “spaghetti fries.” We have yet to see customers breaking down our doors over it.

Not so at Burnt Crumbs, though, where the spaghetti grilled cheese has become their top-selling sandwich. Seriously. Instagram has gone crazy over it and the success of the unlikely combo has even surprised its creators. Noting that other menu offerings are much more “intricate,” Pham says, "This is definitely not our fanciest sandwich ... but I think it’s a very approachable item. Everybody loves spaghetti and everybody loves garlic bread.”

Yeah, Minh, true enough. But together? To quote Bill the Cat, “Aaack!”

If you're still trying to wrap your brain around the concept, here's how they make it. It's quite a labor-intensive process that begins with scratch-made spaghetti sauce and freshly cooked spaghetti into which mozzarella cheese is liberally mixed. The mixture is then leveled out and cooled on sheet trays before being cut into squares. The squares get wrapped with more mozzarella and are then sandwiched between slices of fresh sourdough bread drenched in garlic butter. Yum? Maybe. But I'm one of those people that won't let my bacon touch my eggs on the plate, so don't go by me. “Deconstruct” the whole conglomeration and I'm your huckleberry. Serve it all mashed together and.....not so much.

If you've got adventurous taste buds and nine bucks to spare, head for the Eureka State and Burnt Crumbs and indulge yourself. And when you're finished, hie thee to my place on the other coast and I'll fix you up with some spaghetti fries. I've still got plenty left.