Tinucci's: We eat the lunch Randy Moss dissed

Were Moss's criticisms legit? We ate at Tinucci's to find out.

Were Moss's criticisms legit? We ate at Tinucci's to find out.

Even though Randy Moss doesn't make his living as a food critic, he might be the harshest one in town. "I wouldn't feed this [expletive] to my [expletive] dog," he famously said of the food that Tinucci's restaurant provided after last Friday's practice. Perhaps Moss's pooch eats only filet mignon?

In preparation for today's free Randy Moss-themed lunch, the Hot Dish headed to Tinucci's to see if the criticisms levied by the Vikings' now-booted wide receiver were legit or unfounded.

[jump] Newport is a community busy with steel-making, waste-hauling, and trucking, and stepping into Tinucci's Deli feels like going back in time 52 years, when the family first got into the food business.

A counter full of ready-to-eat hot and cold foods stretches across the length of the deli. It's old-school, homestyle, Midwestern cooking: chicken and meatloaf and mashed potatoes and pasta and iceberg lettuce salads. It is a spread to feed those who do physical work--farm hands, factory workers, or football players.

A typical lunch crowd nearly fills the small seating area, and the clientele is heavy on retirees and guys who drive trucks and wear overalls. When I was there, a regular asked if he could cash a check--and the guy behind the counter said yes.

For about $9, Tinucci's offers dinners that include a choice of meat and two sides, often scooped up by a cute, gray-haired lady. And, yes, Randy, the food is not fancy, but that's the genre. Wake up and smell the watered-down coffee.

Tinucci's cooks the way Midwesterners do when they serve a large volume for a low price. The result is about the same as the spreads found at family reunions, church picnics, and funerals: The chicken's a little dry, the meatloaf's bland, the melon in the fruit cup is underripe, and the mixed vegetables are cooked within an inch of their lives. (The MVP among the dishes I tried was a rich cream-sauce penne that would probably require about 20 end-zone sprints to work off the calories.)

Some of these criticisms stem from ingredient choice, others from buffet-style serving, but the tradeoffs for both are convenience and price. What, exactly, did Moss feel he should have been served: the eight-course tasting menu at La Belle Vie?
396 21st St., Newport, 651.459.3211

Today's all-you-can-eat buffet will be free for the first 50 people who donate their Moss gear between noon and 2 p.m. Those without gear can pay $8.40, in honor of Moss's jersey number.