Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Tursi’s Latin King

Bob and Amy Tursi, Owners
2200 Hubbell Avenue
Des Moines, Iowa 50317
515-266-4466


Where to begin? The beginning, of course. “A” and “D” went to the Latin King for the first time for dinner on a Saturday afternoon about 5 P.M. We had been there previously for lunch (which was delightful) and wanted to experience dinner before writing a review.

The large, almost always crowded parking lot at the east side location tells you this is a popular and successful restaurant. The entrance, a courtyard design with a long ramp invites you through the overhead vines to the main door. The moment you are through the door, the greetings are profuse and sincere. These are real people who are genuinely pleased that you have come to their restaurant. The owners, Bob Tursi and his wife, Amy Tursi, are there with a friendly smile and a warm invitation to the table. Tursi has a sparkle in his eye that reflects hospitality and tells you he loves being a restaurateur; it also absorbs everything that is going on in the restaurant. As “A” and “D” were being escorted to the table, Bob was heard to say in passing to a member of the staff, “A little spill on the family’s table over there” and it was immediately attended to with speed and precision. Bob seems to be in every room of the restaurant and in the lounge, always making sure the customer is comfortable, served and happy. The Tursi’s honor the title of ‘Host.”

Comfortable tables and chairs; the booth tables are fixed to the floor and those of us with more girth (most of Iowa) probably will not be able to adjust the ‘table-to-tummy’ distance. The décor is authentic Italian family history, not the faux-Italian nonsense in places like the Bucca de Beppo’s. You know this restaurant has stood for something for a long time and it is proud of its heritage. The restaurant has a variety of different rooms, some large, some intimate. The lounge is spacious and has tables for dining, if desired. A fully-stocked bar and lots of attentive bar service is provided.

As soon as we were seated, the quiet, totally professional services began. Water glasses were filled with a friendly smile, and never were allowed to empty; yet, the service is unobtrusive and seamless. The very engaging wait person—a true, experienced professional—welcomed us and took our order for glasses of Chianti which arrived almost immediately. Other servers were waiting in their sections for diners to arrive and, interestingly, were observed to endlessly straighten napkin placements, arrange the shades on the table lamps, align glasses, and otherwise take professional pride in their tables. These are older, experienced professionals and it is clear that service means something and is important at Tursi’s Latin King.

The menu is large and intriguing with a sufficiency of choices for anyone. It includes an array of appetizers and features the house specialty, Antipasto, along with an interesting Shrimp Angela. Both are excellent, prepared perfectly and generous. Choices include a large variety of dishes in main categories of Pasta, Veal, Beef, Fish and Seafood, Chicken, House Specialties, Salads, and Desserts. There is also a Family Menu that offers full-dining combinations for larger groups and parties. The menus are ‘fully-furnished’ to say the least.

One of the signature dishes is Chicken Spiedini featuring marinated pieces of chicken breast, char-broiled with Amogio, a special, Latin King marinade. “A” and “D” had both enjoyed this dish for lunch previously and can recommend it absolutely.

The variety of dishes is planned to meet almost all tastes—there are, for example, three chicken liver dishes which are almost never seen; also, for the non-explorer diner, there’s fried chicken. The fish and seafood dishes include a number of shrimp dishes, as well as walleye pike, salmon, and orange roughy. Veal dishes abound! And, of course, there is a Steak DuBurgo, as well as other steak choices.

Salads were excellent—fresh, crisp, cold—and the creamy parmesan dressing is superb.

“A” ordered the Chicken Sorrentina and Filet Mignon Marsala. It was accompanied by a unique potato croquette, crispy outside and moist and flavorful inside, an imaginative addition. The chicken breast is done with Prosciutto and a light tomato sauce with melted mozzarella cheese. The filet mignon was perfectly prepared, a precise medium-rare, and the beef was full of flavor and tender. “A” gave the dish great compliments and rated it as high value for around $20.

“D” ordered the broiled Walleye Pike with fresh vegetables. This produced a delicious, large 10-ounce filet, broiled to perfection and exquisitely flaky and moist. The broccoli was vibrant green, al dente, and excellently prepared. Superb dish for about $16.

Dessert had to be Tira-Mi-Su and it is decadent and delicious. Our server deftly sold us on trying it and she was right: the best in Des Moines! Large portion, perfect for two people with some left over. Also, cappuccino and espresso are served.

Service is absolutely professional and flawless; experienced and solid. Everywhere you turn, the smiles are genuine and the warmth is real, not scripted or rehearsed.

Rating this restaurant requires that we accept it for the class of restaurant is in and not for how it compares to small, boutique restaurants, such as Sage or Mosaix. This is a large, family-oriented, high-volume restaurant that does not pretend to be gourmet or bistro-like, although it clearly has a Master Chef and staff in the kitchen. It serves superb food and focuses on the customer and service with a goal of delivering value and enjoyment. Among its restaurant type, it is head and shoulders above the rest and is a Five Star from beginning to end. Whether a large gathering, dinner for two, lunch, or a stop in the bar for a glass of wine and a sandwich, you won’t find better than Latin King.

Rating: 4 Absolutely! 1 = No 2 = Maybe 3 = Yes 4 = Absolutely!
Quality: Top quality
Service: Top quality
Value: Top value
Recommended: Absolutely!

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