Fill 'er up--with root beer, that is, in dry Carrollton.
Fill 'er up--with root beer, that is, in dry Carrollton.
Stephen P. Karlisch

Dry Spell

Over the last few years, millions have been marching to Washington and other places for a variety of reasons, swarming the Mall and pestering the media for attention. Let's see, there's been the Million Man March, the Million Woman March, the Million Family March, and the Million Mom March.

But these swell marches represent just the tip of the march iceberg. There was also the Mobilization for Global Justice, a thronged attempt to disrupt last April's sessions of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, and the Millennium March for Equality, a gay and lesbian trek whose goal seemed to be wholesale closet demolition. But the best of the activist struts was last May's Million Mutt March, a waddle billed as "a nationwide effort to promote the adoption of mixed-breed, older, and special-needs dogs and to help eliminate canine discrimination." Hmmm. Isn't this what pit bulls are for?

Most of these escapades had attendees numbering in the thousands rather than the millions and seemed to be mostly gatherings of posturers displaying their terrific swellness for being present at gatherings for swell causes. (When will we see the Billion Cockroach Crawl to the Mall? Now there's an abused interest group). Yet most of these crowded publicity stunts do little more than clutter the evening news and make us wish Rosie O'Donnell would get a job hosting Sam Peckinpah film revivals. These little stunts rarely result in anything concrete, unless special-needs mixed breeds have been issued Social Security cards and a couple of seats on the House Agriculture Committee since last May.

Yet why march to Washington? I think we could do a lot of good right here in North Texas with our own million whatever march on behalf of those of us who think drinking wine with meals ranks right up there with voting rights. OK, maybe voting isn't that important. Let's all march on the municipalities and precincts that insist on having stupid liquor laws. Let's draft Barry Switzer as our very own Rosie O'Donnell (is there a separated-at-birth quality there, or is my martini too strong?) and march on the city councils and mayors and city managers of those places that make you flash Unicards. And if that won't work, let's flay the voters and dip them in spas filled with moonshine.

Hell, let's all start with Carrollton, that parched, poor excuse for a flop community that doesn't permit the sale of a decent bottle of plonk to go with dinner, at least not easily. Let's march on anyone in that town who has anything to do with hooch measures, laws, regulations, statutes, ordinances, rules, edicts, acts, requirements, and other do's and don'ts, and force them to eat baked ziti with a tall glass of Cherry Coke and a clam juice chaser by threatening them with videotape of every Rosie O'Donnell political rant.

Maybe that's a little extreme, but I blew a couple of gaskets the other day in Carrollton after I discovered that Piccola Italia couldn't even serve me a glass of cheap Chianti from a straw basket with their spaghetti and meatballs bathed in a runny tomato sauce, because Carrollton is sort of dry. But I could bring in my own if I was that desperate. I was. Thank God (He drank wine, you Carrollton saps) there was a Tom Thumb a few doors down. Only Carrollton is so dry, Tom Thumb isn't allowed to have wine either. Or beer. All they have is Aqua Velva, and that doesn't pair well with anything.

It's hard to underestimate the culinary and cultural brainpower present in the Carrollton psyche. After all, the city once had an alcohol ordinance that permitted restaurants to serve alcohol only if they registered as private clubs with drinking areas hidden from view of nondrinking patrons. In other words, the brains in Carrollton are so dim they actually believe in second-hand inebriation. Jeez. If anyone needs a drink, they do.

But I digress. Let's forget about the vacant dolts in Carrollton's power seats and talk about the mozzarella sticks I had to eat with root beer. These thickly breaded sticks didn't exhibit much flavor (maybe it was the root beer), but they did have a good crunch, there wasn't much grease, and the marinara dip was superb. Piccola Italia's special salad didn't go well with root beer, either. This forgettable mélange of romaine, shredded mozzarella, sliced mushrooms, tired black olives (why no kalamatas?), waxy tomato wedges, and pepperoncini, was rescued out of obscurity by a delicious house-made tomato vinaigrette that lent this almost undeserving salad an air of rich robustness. They should bottle this stuff.

But I had no desire to pair the next course with anything that couldn't annoy the Carrollton City Council. So I ordered the rigatoni vodka, a chorus of pasta sautéed in a faded, flamingo-pink vodka sauce. Though I didn't catch a buzz, it was still a delicious little plate of noodles (especially for the price) with well-executed pasta and a smooth, light sauce that had just a tiny jolt of spirit.

The chicken piccata wasn't bad, either, though it could have used a broad pinot grigio to complement it. Though not as thin as to be expected, the flesh was plump and juicy, but it was hard to detect any flour-dredging across its surface. The sauce was smooth with a good lemon tang, and strewn throughout the liquid were capers nearly the size of chickpeas.

What this place really excels at is pizza. The ingredients are fresh, the crust is moist and chewy, and the surface is well-cheesed.

But it's Carrollton, so you can't wash it down with a pitcher of beer, or a bottle of wine. Still, there is Aqua Velva. Maybe that's why everyone in this town is so stiffly pleasant. It's better to smell good than it is to feel good. Just don't drink it where anyone can see you.


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