Come Young, Come Old, Leave Drunk
At Penne Pomodoro's Brunch

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To be honest with you, if I'd known before we sat down at the Lakewood Penne Pomodoro on Sunday morning that they're a beer- and wine-only joint, I'd never have gone. No liquor means no Bloody Mary, and no Bloody Mary is a crappy way to spend Sunday morning. But considering everyone dining at Penne Pomodoro was either 5 or 95, I guess I can see why Alberto Lombardi wouldn't want to spend the money on a liquor license.

But my God, they are practically giving away mimosas and Bellinis. We'll get to that in a minute.

Italian food isn't the first regional cuisine I think of when brunch comes to mind, but it has a number of advantages. Fresh bread and oil and vinegar serve as an alcohol-sopping hangover-stopper, much the way chips and salsa operate in Tex-Mex. Indeed, the overall high-carb nature of pasta dishes can be as stomach-soothing as a pile of starchy potatoes. And certainly Italian chefs know their way around a stick of butter, at least one of which I like to have of a Sunday.

Penne Pomodoro is like the Olive Garden, but locally owned and probably a smidge better. Because I genuinely enjoy the Olive Garden, I consider this a fairly high compliment. I'm not kidding you. I think it's great. Anyway, the crowd's the same at both places: blue hairs and breeders. We got a toasty booth in the walkway area, which felt a bit like dining at the mall, with bald spots and babies wherever we looked.

The brunch menu isn't particularly diverse, but we both found something to enjoy. For me: crab-meat omelet. For Man O' the Hour: Penne Hash. For both: $1 mimosas and bellinis!

What can you say about a mimosa or a bellini? They're fruit juice and Champagne. If you fuck up a mimosa or a bellini, you probably also need a remedial course in breathing. They tasted fine, and they were, as I've mentioned, $1 each. Limit six, though, so's to ensure Grandma doesn't go telling about that time she found Uncle Jimmy in the closet doing unmentionable things to his teddy bear.

My crab-meat omelet came topped with a creamy, buttery Hollandaise -- but not nearly enough of it. The crab was dry, but the roasted peppers were juicy and flavorful, complemented by fresh green onions. My breakfast potatoes were moist without being oily, and the garlic toast was a welcome addition to the pile of vegetables.

The MOTH enjoyed his Penne Hash, a pile of potatoes, sausage, peppers and pomodoro sauce topped with poached eggs and Hollandaise,

Thanks to the cheapness of the drinks, we managed to get out of the place for well less than $20 each, including tip. All the Penne Pomodoro brunch entrees are less than $12, and they open at 10 a.m. but don't close until 3 p.m., so there's something on offer whether you're an early riser or getting a late start. Penne Pomodoro is an ideal destination for brunchers looking for good food and a cheap buzz, so long as you don't mind hanging out with families, old folks, and other people who appear to have their shit together.

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