That Food Guy
Thursday, June 03, 2010
  Gondolier - Lenoir City, Tennessee

Gondolier 6/3/10
Italian Restaurant and Pizza – Eat In or Take Out
744 Hwy 321 No. Lenoir City, Tennessee (865) 986-6668

On our way to Alaska, we stopped off at Melton Hill Campground. We chose this very nice TVA facility because it is close to our cousins in Knoxville. We happily agreed to meet for lunch at The Gondolier. The Gondolier is a twenty-one store chain located in five southeastern states. They are a self-proclaimed Italian restaurant and pizza shop, to eat in or carry out. This would be my first time at a Gondolier, this one in Lenoir City, Tennessee.
The building is a simple box structure that would make the restaurant equally at home in a store front. A small kiosk in the entry is just for to go orders. The interior is nicely appointed for a pizzas restaurant with booths lining the walls and tables and chairs filling the center. The tables are quick to rearrange and they were able to seat our large party in a matter of moments. It is a busy place with a rapid customer turnover and the servers are constantly in motion. It makes for a somewhat loud background noise level but other than that I have no complaints.
Beverage orders were quickly taken and a tray of piping-hot soft-crust breadsticks was delivered along with saucers of savory marinara sauce for dipping. All most too hot to handle, the bread sticks were tasty with a slight herb flavor. When dipped in the marinara sauce, all very nice. We looked the menu, a six page list of Italian-themed foods, some deli-style sandwiches and offerings from the grill. To accommodate a lot of tastes, they also offer a children’s menu and an assortment of hamburgers. I did notice that the server’s station, near the middle of the dining room, was loaded with pitchers of the various beverages, the usual condiments but absolutely loaded with many sizes of Styrofoam take home boxes and the bottom of the station filled with traditional pizza boxes. The servings are ample and most everyone takes a part of their meal home with them.
I said we read over the menu but one of us didn’t. Cousin Lynn took a long hard look at the magnificent cakes in the refrigerated glass case in, of all places, the restaurant entry hall. Dinner or dessert? Not always an easy choice to make. It was a short self-debate for Cousin Lynn and she chose dessert. She ordered a slice of 4-layer Italian Cream Cake ($5.99). When I asked her how it was she said, “So sweet, so smooth, and sooo good!” I do believe she enjoyed it. It was a very large slice of a very high cake and the last bit just had to go into a take home box.
Cousin Steve ordered a chicken Caesar salad ($6.99). From down the table I could see it was a large bowl, lots of lettuce and croutons and chicken. The menu says with grilled chicken and parmesan cheese. Considering my girth, it would have been a good choice for me. After dinner I asked how he liked his salad and he said it was very good and had a lot of chicken. In the end about a third of Steve’s salad went into his take home container.
Cousin Nancy ordered a small personal, three topping pizza (($7.50). Her choice of toppings was pepperoni, Italian sausage and onions. The pizza arrived hot and steaming, the cheese melted and flowing around the toppings. Gingerly holding the first piece, she took a bite and gave me a positive, thumbs-up sign. It was good pizza! And yes, about half of Nancy’s pizza went home in a box.
My wife, Janis, ordered a meatball parmesan hot sub sandwich (5.99). The menu describes it as “homemade meatballs on a hoagie roll with marinara sauce and melted provolone cheese.” The meatballs were large, firm and seasoned well. There was a lot of melted cheese over. The usual accompaniment is French fries. In this case she ordered onion rings so we could mix and match with the French fries I ordered. And yes, she took about 1/3 of her sandwich home with her.
My personal order was chicken souvlaki on pita sandwich ($6.29). A gyro by any other name... I of course ordered mine with the French fries. The menu describes the sandwich as “chunks of white meat marinated and served on pita bread with tomatoes, onions, lettuce and cucumber dip [tzatziki sauce]). Tasting the tzatziki sauce, I could taste the yogurt, the cucumber and garlic. Certainly a passable sauce though I would have preferred a bit more cucumber to the mix. The French fries were nicely done. The pita bread was folded over a large serving of white chicken meat chunks with fresh lettuce, sliced tomatoes and thinly sliced red onion. I liked the red onions, a good, extra effort choice for this kind of sandwich. Tzatziki sauce and chicken pita, I was all very wonderful and tasty. Would I order it again? Most certainly. It is hard to find a good chicken gyro. But? If I had my way I would make the sandwich more like a souvlaki, with thin slices of meat. My sandwich was full of nice large, tasty pieces of white chicken meat. Biting through the big pieces of chicken makes the bread, even pita bread, and the sandwich fall apart. You end up eating the last half of the sandwich with a knife and a fork. But, as I said, I would order it again.
The restaurant continued to be busy all during our visit. In spite of the workload, our server was able to keep our glasses full, was eve so courteous and was there when called. Our serer and all there rest of the staff added to the pleasure of the meal. On the way out I notice they have a Lunch Specials menu good from 11Am to 3PM. It has most of the items from the dinner menu but at a reduced price.
And no. I was the only one who was able to finish their meal and I had to go home without a doggie bag. In a way that is too bad because a bit of that chicken souvlaki sandwich would have made a wonderful midnight snack. (Sorry about the photos with this one – it just wasn’t my camera day.)
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