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Little Italy: Where the Specialty is Italian Cuisine


little-italy-12Written and Photographed by Barbara King

If you’ve lived in Tyler for any length of time, you’ve probably visited this quaint, old-world restaurant on S. Broadway and feasted on the tantalizing Italian fare.

Opened in 1995, Little Italy has become a familiar favorite over the years, with consistent food, service, and an atmosphere that hasn’t changed much over the years.

Assistant Manager, Texas Ladd says, “Our goal is to keep folks coming back for good variety, fresh Italian options, and a family environment.” Most of the staff – including the owner, general manager, and one of the cooks – have been part of the restaurant from the very beginning, and are proud to continue to be part of one of Tyler’s choices for dining.

The restaurant is typically a busy beehive of activity, especially during the lunch and dinner hours, seating 93 guests at 23 tables. It is always crowded but the atmosphere is never loud. “We get a lot of regulars who have been eating here forever,” explains Ladd, “because they know our standards and tastes don’t change, and they will leave full and satisfied.”

little-italy-2The daily lunch specials are a great bang for the buck, all available for $7.95, with all specials served with choice of soup or salad, accompanied by their super fresh, hot from the oven, garlic rolls. All soups are prepared fresh, and their original house tomato vinaigrette house dressing is legend. Lunch specials are available seven days a week, 11am-4pm, and include a very extensive list of options including cannelloni, ravioli, lasagna, manicotti, meatball parmigiana sub, baked ziti, and stuffed shells. Alfredo choices are $8.95 and feature cannelloni, lasagna, manicotti, or spinach lasagna.

Start out with some scrumptious appetizers like fried mozzarella cheese, fried calamari, or fried mushrooms. Larger parties might want to share a combo platter; shrimp cocktail, and shrimp or scallop scampi are available as well.

You might have a hard time picking a favorite item for your main meal as the menu serves up everything from subs, pizza, seafood, chicken, veal, and of course an abundance of pasta dishes.

little-italy-6Homemade baked pastas are a huge hit, including cheese or meat ravioli, tortellini, eggplant parmigiana, fettuccine Alfredo, manicotti, and of course, angel hair or spaghetti with meat sauce.

Chicken dishes include Alfredo, cacciatore, Florentine, marsala, primavera, and piccata. For seafood lovers, the catches are calamari, clam linguini, red snapper, and scallop scampi.

A highlight of the menu,you can build your own pizza! Little Italy has toppings available including Canadian bacon, hamburger, pepperoni, sausage, black olives, green peppers, mushrooms, and onions. Specialty pizzas like spinach and chicken Alfredo are ready when you are.

Hot subs might hit the spot on colder days, like the cheese steak, meatball parmigiana, sausage and pepper parmigiana, or veal parmigiana.

Soups are fresh, hearty, and made every morning. The daily lineup is terrific. Soups of the day are Sundays cheese tortellini, Monday pasta ravioli, Tuesday chicken and rice, Wednesday creamy potato with broccoli, Thursday cheese tortellini, Friday is Florentine, and Saturday beef and cabbage is available.

little-italy-7Rounding out the menu are the house specialties including fettuccine carbonara, rigatoni Alfonzo, (rigatoni sautéed with Alfredo and marinara sauce and fresh basil) and tortellini a la Para (with fresh broccoli in Alfredo sauce).

Families are more than welcome at Little Italy, and youngsters can either feast on side orders like a side of shrimp, meatball or spaghetti, or choose from their special menu for kids 12 and younger that features a choice of a slice of pizza with one topping, a side of chicken Alfredo, chicken spaghetti, or cheese or meat ravioli. All these kid’s menu items come with a free drink.

Little Italy caters for larger groups too, and only needs 48 hours to whip up an Italian feast for your party or corporate event. They can work with you to design a special menu everyone will be talking about.

Kelli DeShazo was enjoying lunch as a special treat for her mother’s birthday. “This is one of our favorite places,” she said. “We love the spinach lasagna and the eggplant parmesan, but especially the house dressing. It is our favorite.” To go boxes covered the table as portions are substantial.

little-italy-33Lots of folks take their best and favorite drinks with them, as the restaurant is BYOB, and it’s the perfect setting for an anniversary, birthday, or date night. The menu proclaims, “bring your own best and we’ll do the rest” for BYOB options.

Ladd says people absolutely love the desserts and keep coming back for more. “We get a lot of positive feedback about our Tiramisu (ladyfingers dipped in espresso, liquors, cocoa and topped with a layer of marscapone cheese),” Ladd explained. “Other exquisite desserts include tres leches cake, all kinds of cheesecakes (black forest, New York, strawberry, amaretto, and triple chocolate) and cannoli (baked pastry shell filled with cocoa, cinnamon and vanilla crème cheese).”

Come in and dine the Italian way at Little Italy, located at 3320 S. Broadway, Tyler, (903)595-1184,



The Skinny on Cooking at Home: The Cookbook Junkie


By Guest Blogger Tena Jerger filling in for Gini Rainey, the original Cookbook Junkie

I was not raised in a household that did a lot of cooking at home. We ate out, went through drive-thrus, had sandwiches, or made a meal on chips and dips more times than I care to think about. My mom simply had no interest in cooking. Don’t get me wrong, she cooked ‘some’ – for special occasions or if my dad or grandmothers guilted her into it, or when she got a new toy like a Frydaddy. We ate corn dogs and French fries until we all begged to go back to Weinerland’s drive-thru.

And even though my mom never really cooked, I have always enjoyed cooking a lot. I’ve had my share of disasters but I prefer to eat at home, preparing our food ourselves.

My favorite cookbooks are pretty much any in the Skinnytaste line of books. Author Gina Homolka has a cult-like following for her blog and has several NYT best selling books under her (skinny) belt.

I’ve been making Gina Homolka’s recipes for years. I find them both easy to follow and very flavorful. I have always found the ingredients easily – there is never some obscure expensive ingredient that the recipe must have. All of her recipes are made with real food that are “skinny on calories but not on flavor.”

That being said, I should add that she has recipes for all kinds of eating styles including vegetarian, Weight Watchers, gluten-free, Paleo, Keto, Whole 30, and more. Beside each recipe, there is a color and letter coding like V for vegetarian, GF for gluten-free, kid-friendly, freezer-friendly, crockpot etc. And, for those of us who count calories and want to know nutrients or carbs, she also has all of that included.

I was recently given a gift card for Barnes & Noble so I purchased two of her hard copy books, “Skinnytaste Fast and Slow: Knockout Quick-Fix and Slow Cooker Recipes” and “The Skinnytaste Cookbook: Light on Calories, Big on Flavor.”

From the “Light on Calories,” one of my favorite recipes is Buttermilk Oven-Fried Chicken. I’ve made this over and over, and still to this day have not changed the recipe in any way except that I use a cut-up fryer instead of just legs. Soaking your chicken at least overnight keeps it moist and juicy. The recipe is at

I’m sure you are wondering “why do I need to have the book if all the recipes are on the blog?” Well, they aren’t. In fact, there are quite a lot more in print. One of my favorites is the So-addicted Chicken Enchiladas. These enchiladas are easy to prepare and taste excellent too. This recipe is only available in the book so for copyright reasons, we can not post the recipe.

From the “Fast and Slow” book I love the Banh Mi Rice Bowl. I make up the pork tenderloin and freeze in small batches for a quick lunch. The recipe is at

All of the photos in these two cookbooks are professional and abundant throughout. The recipes

are well put together, easy to follow, and not just the same tired ones redone with diet ingredients. They are original and loaded with flavor and are good enough to serve at dinner parties and more importantly – to make you feel like you are not dieting. All of her recipes are quick to make if you follow her tips for prep and shopping.

From her bio, “Each month millions of readers visit [her blog] Skinnytaste and learn how easy it is to cook healthy recipes for the whole family. Her work has been featured in Fitness Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens,,,, among other media outlets.”

Her books are available digitally, in hardcover and on her blog website.



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Foodie Events: March 17th, Grand Opening of The Porch at ETX Brewing

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News & Events

Quick Dawgs of Texas Opens! You know that building with a cowboy-shaped roof? It now serves hot dogs made with love and care by David Lovelady. “This particular building here is set up to handle hot dogs,” he said. “I’d been looking at different buns, wieners, different chilis, for many months before we started this thing.” The new business features an array of hot dogs, mostly priced between $2-$5, with nachos and meals priced a few dollars higher. The menu — which is still developing — includes all beef, bun-length hot dogs; brisket sausage links; Earl Campbell Hot Links; Frito pie and more. Lovelady said the chili cheese dogs and hot links have been some of the most popular selections. Picnic tables will be added outside the drive-thru soon. Quick Dawgs is located at at 220 SSW Loop 323 in Tyler, and serves all beef, bun-length hot dogs, brisket sausage links, Earl Campbell Hot Links, Frito pie and more.

March 15th (6:30-9:30pm) – “Wine and Cheeeeessssy Dinner” will be held at Cork, Food & Drink, 109 E. Grande Blvd., Tyler. Tickets are $70. The menu will include fondue, gruyere and chorizo, mac and cheese with lobster, ribeye toast with blue cheese, and roasted fig with ricotta along with accompanying paired wines. Reservations can be made by calling (903)363-9197 or at

March 17th (5pm-12 midnight) – St. Patrick’s Day Party & Grand Opening of The Porch at ETX Brewing – Love the beer at ETX Brewery? Then you have got to try The Porch, ETX Brewing’s new restaurant. Join the fun in celebrating their expansion with green beer, great food,  and live music with Old Omen, Metrograde and Eli Tidmore. ETX Brewing and The Porch are located at 221 S. Broadway, Downtown Tyler.

March 21st (7-9pm) – Spring Vintner’s Dinner – Kiepersol is kicking off the 2018 Vintner’s Dinner Program with a Spring-inspired menu. Don’t miss this fresh and vibrant dinner paired with our delicious wines. The menu is seared scallop with almond mandarin salad, asparagus chicken and rice soup, lemon and rosemary lamb, and lemon and spring fruit curd. Tickets are $100 per person not including tax and gratuity. For reservations, call (903)894-3300 or go to Future dinners are June 20th, July 25th, September 26th, and November 28th.

Roost Chicken Salad & Deli will open a location in Southside Bank at S. Beckham across from ETMC Hospital.

March 23rd (6:30pm) – Beef & Bourbon with Cut Beef and Rebecca Creek – Join this terrific pairing of Cut Beef and Rebecca Creek Bourbon. Upon arrival at High Hill Farm, you will be greeted with an assortment of custom made cocktails and perfectly paired hors d’oeuvres. Relax, dine and enjoy as our Chef and Rebecca Creek Distillery fulfill you with their perfect creations made from the freshest local beef and perfectly aged bourbon. High Hill Farm, 12626 CR 217, Arp. Go to to make reservations.

March 31st-April 1st (all day) – Bread Class & Easter Brunch – Have you always wanted to bake like a master Chef? The key is simple ingredients, proper instruction and the right location. Join Chef for a fun weekend experience in the kitchen of Côte at High Hill Farm. You’ll learn the techniques, recipes and process to baking homemade breads. Cap off your day with a stroll in the vineyard, wine sampling and overnight stay in one of our relaxing bungalows. After a perfect night’s sleep, join us for a special Easter brunch featuring beautiful farm fresh brunch including items from the garden, local food items and fresh juices.  Mimosa’s and bloody Mary’s also available for your enjoyment. High Hill Farm, 12626 CR 217, Arp. Go to to make reservations.

Crawdaddy’s Boil-N-Go is now open at 14801 State Hwy 110 S. in Whitehouse. Featuring crawfish, shrimp, crab legs, corn, potatoes with all the fixing, Crawdaddy’s is open Thursday-Friday 5-10pm, Saturday 12 noon-10pm, and Sunday 12 noon-6pm.

April 7th (8am-12 noon) – The Rose City Farmers Market will open soon at it’s new location at 236 S. Broadway Ave., just a half block north of Front St. in the parking lot of Bill’s Unclaimed Furniture. The market is open from April to November. This is across from “Moss, Where Flowers are Fair” and ETX Brewing Co. The new location will be near the free parking in the Fair Plaza Parking Garage. The Rose City Farmers Market is a family- and dog-friendly community gathering place, providing locally-grown produce, herbs, wood oven breads, pastries and granola, jams, pickles, locally roasted coffee, cheese, artists and artisans, live music, and sometimes even yoga. They are open every Saturday April-November 8am-12 noon. For more info on the market or to apply to be a vendor, contact (903)539-2875,, or

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Around East Texas

SportsZone Bar and Grill: A Cornucopia Culture of Downtown

stretford tyler tx

The SportsZone Bar and Grill:

A Cornucopia Culture of Downtown

By Barbara Greenbauer

The SportsZone Bar and Grill on the Square in Downtown Tyler is now a go-to spot to eat, hangout and get your fill of sports- themed fun and entertainment.

Josh Collins, local owner and operator, wants everyone to know that “Downtown has a new lunch spot” and it’s a great local bar and grill that is all about community with a “Cheers-type mentality, where everyone is welcome.”

The place is light, bright, and filled with sports memorabilia, with a great-looking bar and high tabletops galore. With a brand new revamped menu, the SportsZone is ready to bring you great food in a space with a different vibe than your regular sports scene. It’s never a loud, in-your face crowd, there’s plenty of parking Downtown, and plenty to do inside.

While you try your hand at the pool or foosball tables, you can chow down on a great burger with a side of waffle fries. You will really get your fill of sports, as the restaurant is lined with 10 big screen TV’s. The view from any seat in the house is stellar. There is always a Texas team on the screen somewhere in the restaurant. There’s even TV’s in the restrooms because they don’t want you to miss a second!

Dart aficionados can try their luck at the dart boards or try your hand at a game of beer pong.

“We really support the Downtown culture,” says Collins. “We can be the spot to go to before or after a show at Liberty Theater. I don’t think folks in Tyler realize how many people live and work Downtown and the community continues to grow.”

The Bar and Grill supports local events like Red Dirt BBQ and Music Festival, Hit the Bricks 2nd Saturdays, and the Rose City Farmer’s Market, “to support and spread the word about the great things happening Downtown,” said Collins.

Step inside the bar and grill and you will want to hang out, use the free Wi-Fi, watch some TV, and taste what the kitchen has to offer.

The edible options at the SportsZone are fast and healthy too. Lunch variables include an out of this world chipotle black bean veggie burger, seared tuna salad, and a grilled chicken salad. Lunch is served Monday-Friday 11am-2pm.

The bar and grill, open 7 days a week, features a great mixture of fare, from “Beginners” like onion rings, pickle fries, frito chili pie, chili cheese waffle fries, “Not your Mamas’s Churros,” humus and naan bread, and battered corn bites.

For more hearty appetites, try the ultimate BLT, fried chicken sandwich, chicken fingers, or their spectacular wings. Their wings are uniquely double-baked with choice of BBQ, lemon pepper, flaming hot or special Zone sauce. The new chickenless wings are so good that you won’t even realize that they are vegetarian! They can also handle to-go orders, but guarantee fast and efficient service during the peak lunch hours. “We want to be known as the new Tyler lunch destination,” said Collins.

The “Out of the Oven” pizzas include margarita, Hawaiian, or the much requested, “Build your own” with toppings including pepperoni, sausage, hamburger, Canadian bacon, black olives, mushrooms, jalapenos, and roasted tomatoes. You can get a super lunch special with a slice of pizza, side salad and a drink for just $8.

The bar is a fully-stocked cornucopia of Texas liquors and beers and the bartenders are super friendly and accommodating. From Lone Star, Shiner, Deep Ellum and ET Brewery, and True Vine – you’ll find it at SportsZone. Every Tuesday, if it’s made in Texas, it’s on special. And if you are looking for something more exotic, the bar can handle almost any drink imaginable, all you have to do is ask!

There are always specials and giveaways going on – from Happy Hours to buckets of beer. Check their website and Facebook regularly to see what’s happening. “A lot of our patrons are regular customers, but by word of mouth and social media, we’ve begun attracting a new group of folks who love being Downtown and taking advantage of all we have to offer,” said Collins.

Come grab a drink, see a game and have a great meal at The SportsZone Bar and Grill, located at 115 E. Erwin, Downtown Tyler on the Square. Like them on Facebook at SportsZoneTyler, or You can contact them at (903)266-9132. They are open Sundays 12pm-12am, Monday-Friday 11am-12am, Saturday 12pm-1am.


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