Italian Feast at Noon
Don and I don't usually eat big lunches, especially when we're traveling.
But when we saw Occidental on the roadmap, we knew we needed to add it to our route... and prepare for a little feasting. As we headed into the 5-block town, we tried to remember the name of the place where we'd had an amazing Italian meal, about 38 years ago!
We spotted a couple of Italian restaurants in the small town.
We weren't absolutely sure if the old Union Hotel was the place we remembered, but it was open and it looked pretty charming.
We parked and headed towards the gate with the Union Hotel clock.
The patio area looked lovely on a September day, but it didn't seem to be open.
Lots of Doors
We headed towards the 2-story hotel. I loved the words up near the roof.
"1879... Union Hotel... Italian Dinners"
I liked everything about those words. I love old restaurants and I love old hotels. Sadly, I don't believe there are hotel rooms upstairs anymore.
I believe the saloon is the original structure from 1879. It began as a general store and meeting house.
Then it became a saloon and eventually a hotel and restaurant. I was tempted to ask the bartender, since he had no customers. But, he didn't look like he was up for a talking history. We moved on down the hall.
It was an adventure searching for the dining room. I loved the stairway with the funny little "baby gate" thing. There must have been 50 coats of brown paint on the stairs and railing.
I later learned a little history about those brown stairs. A man named Carlo Pannizera, bought the building in 1925. He reopened the saloon as a rooming house and restaurant. One day he ran to the rescue when his waitress, Mary fell down the stairs. Carlo carried Mary to the doctor and before long, they were married. Their descendants own and run the Union Hotel today!
I don't know if there's any history about this swinging half door, with a shelf. It was doing a good job holding a wine glass, when we passed by.
I love stories about the families behind historic restaurants and hotels.
The Main Dining Room
I had to grin when I saw the red and white checked curtains and table cloths in the dining room.
I grinned even bigger when I saw the classic, wax-covered Chianti bottles on all the tables. Better yet, the candles were lit at the tables where there were diners.
I can't think of the last time I had lunch by candlelight. I know that breaks some kind of dining etiquette rule. I'm all for breaking that rule.
Our server (Terry, I think) was wonderful. She seemed excited to know we were from Texas, since she'd lived there a while herself.
She gave us some ordering suggestions and then the food started coming... family style!
Before the Main Course
The bread and oil arrived first.
A plate of salami and cheese came next, with serving bowls of minestrone and salad and kidney beans.
Lasagna and Ravioli
We had to order a little Chianti to go along with our lasagna and ravioli. Don looks happy about that. But actually we were just happy about the fun of this cozy place, where the food kept coming.
Don and I love to eat, but neither of us can actually eat all that much. It's sort of embarrassing sometimes. But, Terry was happy to wrap up about all our leftovers. Usually that doesn't work well when we're traveling, but we actually microwaved them for dinner, in our hotel room that night.
My Kind of Cozy
I had a great view from my chair of the cozy dining room. There is just nothing better than comfort food in a comfy-cozy setting.
Not all people love the red & white checked look, or even the dark wood paneling, but this is my idea of comfort dining.
From Doors to Barrels
I loved the kitchen door with its little square window, balancing on point.
I loved the barrel supported shelf, holding pumpkins, flowers and the Virgin Mary.
Off to Explore
Don took care of the bill and I told him I was heading to the restroom. He knows those words actually mean, "I'm going exploring... with my camera."
The retro pink bathroom was worthy of a photo. I love pink tile.
I took a little peek into the Bocce Ballroom with its own bar and raised stage.
Flowers and decorations told me a wedding had been celebrated recently.
The Dining Room
From the Bocce Ballroom, I looked back at the dining room. The dining room was actually built in the 1940's to connect the original Union Hotel and the Bocce Ballroom.
As I looked at the candles and lights strung from the ceiling, it made me hope to return sometime for a dinner, at night. I'd love to see the place filled with families and romantic couples... and maybe a little Italian music!
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.