November 30, 2005

Woo hoo! Italian cuisine finally arrives in the IL Quad Cities

Dispatch/Argus photo by John Greenwood

I'm lovin' it! For far too many years there's been such a crying need for a good Italian restaurant on this side of the river that I almost considered opening one myself. Dare we hope the dream has finally come true?

The Brown Bottle restaurant has opened in the former "FIVE" location in downtown Moline, and it looks to fill the bill and then some.

The Dispatch/Argus has a good review here which notes such mouth-watering fare as their paesano bread...

Our server described the fresh-baked loaf as being about the size of two fists, but it actually was larger than that. Served with a giant bulb of roasted garlic, Parmesan cheese and olive oil, the bread was the perfect way to start our meal.

If you've never eaten garlic with bread this way, it's worth a try. (You even can do it at home.) First the chef slices off the top of the garlic bulb to reveal the cloves, then he pours on the olive oil and roasts the whole thing. Out of the oven, the cloves taste mild and spread just like butter. Delicious! (Although perhaps not the best appetizer choice if you're on a first date!)
The Dope's been doing garlic like this for years, which gives me the strength of 10 men. (well, strong breath at least.)

The restaurant is located where the defunct restaurant FIVE once was, and the review reports that the new owners haven't changed the decor much. It's hard to imagine that they haven't made the atmosphere a little more appealing than FIVE, which after all was as warm and inviting as a poorly lit operating room.

In addition to pasta dishes, the Brown Bottle also serves steak and prime rib, which ain't all bad either.

Salad? Sounds like they've got that aced...
My meal started with a house salad of mixed greens -- some of them downright spicy -- and The Brown Bottle's homemade Maytag blue-cheese dressing. This was the most creamy, mild blue-cheese dressing I ever have tried, and it was as thick as sour cream. (I was disappointed, however, to find just one big hunk of actual cheese in the mix.)

The menu says that all of The Brown Bottle's salad dressings are homemade, and according to the restaurant's Web site, the dressings have become so popular at the other locations that they're sold in pints.
They even offer pizza...
The 14-inch pie ($14.25 with two toppings) had an extra-crispy crust and a tangy -- not sweet -- sauce. It arrived piping hot and oozing mozzarella, and it was heaped with chunks of robust Italian sausage and slices of pepperoni. My companion, who is a certified pizza junkie, said it was one of the best pizzas he ever has eaten.
Desserts include brownie pie, tiramisu, spumoni, biscotti, pie and ice cream, and my fave, creme brule.

--Location: 1624 5th Ave., Moline. Make reservations at (309) 736-9288.

--Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily for lunch, 5 to 10 p.m. weekdays for dinner, 5 to 11 p.m. weekends.

--Dinner prices: appetizers, $5.95-$7.95; salads and soups, $3.95-$9.95; entrees, $12.95-$17.95; pizzas, $10.35 to about $15.40; sandwiches, $7.95-$9.95; desserts, $3.25-$5.50.

For complete menus for lunch and dinner, and to see what's offered at the bar, visit Carry-out orders are accepted.

The Times reports on the opening as well and provides some background info on the business.
The second-generation, family-owned restaurant quietly opened its doors Nov. 21, marking the fifth current —and only Illinois — location for the 33-year-old business. With four sister restaurants across eastern Iowa, the opening actually marked a return to the Quad-City market for The Brown Bottle, which had a restaurant in East Moline until the late 1980s.

The new Moline restaurant is located in the former FIVE restaurant in the Fifth Avenue Building in the heart of downtown. FIVE, which was a Manhattan-style dining establishment, closed in September 2004 after about 17 months in operation. The Landaus lease the 11,000-square-foot restaurant from building owner Rodney Blackwell, who had been a partner in FIVE.

Landau, whose parents Donald and Donnalee Landau founded The Brown Bottle in 1972 in Cedar Falls, Iowa, said most of the changes in the front of the house were to décor. The changes, he said, bring an Italian flair to go with the menu, which still is based on his mother’s original recipes and sauces. But in the back the house, an entirely new kitchen was installed.

FIVE had a lounge area that will be the first lounge for Brown Bottle. Eventually, Landau hopes to offer live musical entertainment of the calm, soothing variety. In addition to the Blue Lounge, the Moline restaurant has two private party rooms that can hold, respectively, 20-30 guests and 40-50 guests.

This will mark the third Brown Bottle for Dave and Gina Landau, who also own restaurants in Iowa City and North Liberty. His brothers, Jim and Chuck Landau, own the Cedar Falls and Waterloo restaurants. At one time, his parents had seven restaurants including one in East Moline. But when the farm crisis hit the midwest in the late 1980s, they consolidated into the four, he said.

Currently, [Landau] and his Iowa City general manager, Nick Zuehlke, are leading the Moline operation.

The restaurant has hired 30 people, but expects to be at about 50 employees when it is at full staff.
Welcome!! What took you so long??


At 11/30/2005 2:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

my wife and another couple went to eat here last saturday. they do indeed have some fine italian cusine. i had the ficily (sp?) with mushroom sauce. it was very tasty. I recommend this place.

At 11/30/2005 3:13 PM, Blogger diehard said...

I am NOT DRINKING F---ing Merlot!!!!

At 11/30/2005 5:21 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

I assume it's Night Train or nothing for you then? Or perhaps a nice Mad Dog 20/20 aged in transit? ;-)

At 11/30/2005 5:41 PM, Blogger diehard said...

I'm more of a scnapps drinker.
You know its what Dennis Leary refers to as alcohol's version of crack!

At 12/01/2005 10:54 PM, Blogger youngridemocrat said...

One word: outstanding.

I ate there tonight.

I'll be going again and again.

The Brown Bottle Italian dressing is tasty, the scallops are delicious, the wine is good.

See you at The Brown Bottle!

At 12/02/2005 12:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't wait to try it. I just have to say after reading all the other blog spots on this site that once again I have a small point.... Why did the Brown Bottle go to Moline and not East Moline. Is that because Moline has much more to offer???? can we say "YES!"

At 12/02/2005 12:38 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

If by "so much to offer" you mean acres of vacant business space in downtown that's going begging, Sure.

And the fact that among all that dusty, unused space was a vacant restaurant that investors spent millions on in the misguided belief that there's lot's of people in Moline who'd just love hyper-expensive "nouveau cuisine" served in a stark and sterile environment was helpful as well.


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