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.
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.