If Diners, Drive-ins & Dives Was On In The 70’s

The Fresno Internets recently entertained conversation about where the popular show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives would go when and if it brought its roadshow to the Fresno area.  The discussion found here on our favorite local hive (hurry back Mike) lead to a very lengthy discussion between me and my father, who are both long winded Italians.  After much debate about what good food is and isn’t and after hearing stories (the same one’s I’ve heard a dozen times) about how good food used to be back in the day, I thought it would be interesting to get an older folks perspective of who Guy would visit if he around back in the 60’s/70’s.  So, I asked if my dad would write a piece for FresnoBites.

So here it is in all its winded glory, unedited per his request, I present to you OldManBites (he prefers BigDogBites but sorry Dad you have to get your own blog for that one):

“When FresnoBites first asked me to do a guest feature article I thought, what could I really contribute to the already endless opinions of food in our area? Then I read an article in the Fresno Bee encouraging readers to write in their suggestions for food deserving to be highlighted on the television program, Diners, Drive-ins & Dives. Now I have to admit, I watch this program regularly, am familiar with some of the places mentioned, and would love to see Fresno featured on this program and so I began to think. What in our town could be so special that they could include it in one of their programs? I came to the unfortunate realization that, most of the really good food I have eaten through the many years I have lived in Fresno, is long gone.

Had Guy Fieri come to town a number of years ago however, let me share with you where I would have taken him. In no particular order I would have started with cocktails at Nicola’s. Piti was the only bartender that could handle three deep and six across while putting on a show, always remembering the last drink you had, even if he hadn’t seen you in a year. Now that we’re relaxed, we would have ordered the famous, Stuffed Steak as well as the Chicken Dino and Steak Sinatra. Too many other dishes to mention ……., well ok, the Calamari Casserole and Eggplant Parmigiana, which by the way was added to the menu when Nick closed his restaurant, O Sole Mio at Cedar & Shields. To this day, nobody knows how to cook eggplant like that. This was Italian at it’s very best.

I would have followed this with more Italian at Rossi’s in the old Farmers Market. The pizza had a special toasted buttery cheese flavor that made it dance on your taste buds. If you were daring, you could add roasted Fresno chiles for a one of a kind experience. The King at Rossi’s however, was the Calzone. Sitting at the redwood tables in the open air with a cold beer and a Calzone, wow! By the way, we ate them with no sauce, yes they were that good. If you walked across the breezeway, you could watch them cooking on an open flame, some great chicken dinners at Round Up BBQ. Your choice of sides were beans and a salad with a very unique oil & vinegar dressing. The sandwiches were always the highlight, whether you wanted roast beef, pork or ham, the special BBQ sauce with the soft sweet roll. Um, perfect every time. I know, some of you are saying, you can still get it at First & Bullard. While I respect the family that now attempts to continue the tradition, and have sampled the menu, I would prefer to allow the memory to prevail. Long live Round Up BBQ and on to other meals.

I have to place in this same category of great sandwiches, the Annie Laurie Candy Shop in the Manchester Shopping Center ( Now your saying, this guy must be really old). Yes, John used to welcome his customers as if you were THE most special person on earth. He and his wife were always smiling and why not. His candy store grew to offer various treats such as, chocolate ice cream sodas and banana splits that made everyone smile. He took special pride in serving you, his outstanding potato salad to go along with his sandwiches that came from freshly sliced, daily cooked, ham, turkey and roast beef, in an au jus style feast. We miss you John.

Speaking of beef, I will just say that when the Karras family owned Angelo’s Drive-In, you were hard pressed to find a better burger. I know, I know, you’re already thinking of all the burgers you like better, but these are my taste buds talking. The mustard/ ketchup/sliced dill pickle style burger that McDonald’s made famous, was the standard burger at Angelo’s. If you ordered the deluxe it came with lettuce, and mayo. We learned early on how to order this food just the right way. What kind of statement is that you say? If you ordered from the outside window, or to go, the french fries were extra. Did I mention that the fries were like the fudge on a hot fudge sundae? These fries were so good, the grease that made them cling together, made you feel as though you were eating a life saving prescription your doctor had ordered. They knew you would love them that much, so they included them in the basket when you ordered inside. If you ordered two burgers, guess what? Order in separate baskets you would get DOUBLE the fries. I just gained 3 pounds writing that.

I will give you one more thought. French Burger. If anyone of you can provide me with the exact recipe, including the bread used, to make the French Burger from the Cafe Midi, there could be a large reward involved. Nothing on this planet like it since.

My thoughts would not be complete if I didn’t pay great respect to the Eagle Cafe for the chicken fried steak and it’s secret, french dressing salad recipe. Custer’s Last Sandwich Stand.  A very brief existence of Pizza Inn with their burgers and 35 cent baskets of garlic bread. Last but not least, Potter Drug’s hot dog’s, mustard and ketchup please and I’ll have three to go. Yes go, that’s what I must do now. My wife says I’m writing something no one will read. I really don’t live in the past but……….it all tasted great one more time and Guy would have enjoyed it as much as I did. Maybe I’ll have the opportunity next to share all the new food I’ve found through my travels. Until then, watch out for……..


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14 Responses to If Diners, Drive-ins & Dives Was On In The 70’s

  1. Fresno's Finest says:

    I have to agree, nothing in Fresno could be on DDD’s. Not sure anyone has a variety of fresh, home made food worthy of that show. Fresno is littered with mediocre food, not fresh and not interesting. If you want good food, eat at home. I’ve read Mike Oz’s article and some of the comments are ridiculous. Lunas in Clovis was probably the most laughable, an institution of trash, not good anything. I’d have to go back and read it again to continue the bashing but I’ll save it for later. Wait, Irenes in tower sucks, fresh burger my butt. How about a 10 dollar dry and microwaved travesty. I wish some of these restaurants mentioned above were still around because they all sound good. Long live Fresno that was.

  2. Brian says:

    I only remember Nicolas. It was always a treat when we went to dinner there with my grandparents. Lot’s of great memories. Great guest post!

  3. Kay Lukerkay says:

    Old Man Bites, left out one of the best burger places in Fresno in the 70’s, was the Jet Drive In, there was nothing like a Jet Burger and fries!!!

  4. JohnnyG says:

    I think the Mediterranean Grill & Cafe downtown would be great on DDD. Also the short ribs, spaghetti and green salad (with their oil and vinegar dressing) lunch at Rossi’s was incredible. Everything just blended together on that plate just so well.

    • fresnobites says:

      I can remember being a kid going to Rossi’s at Farmer’s Market. We went there nearly every Friday. Either we were there or the Peppermill on Shaw and Blackstone.

  5. Pingback: Classic Burger at Triangle Drive In | Fresno Bites

  6. jackie says:

    Can make French burger.not actual but taste bud memory.good French bread sandwich roll.I prefer Basque.slather with French dressing (not creamy) sprinkle with parmesan cheese..I sprinkle a little garlic salt.on top.broil like parmesan toast.use curly leaf lettuce.I sometimes mix a little pram.cheese and French dressing in burger sometimes just grill good burger.hard to find good hamburger.always .tweaking.think it is close.would love to have actual recipe. Try.

  7. Liz Hernandez says:

    I do recall Rossi’s was the best! Rushing over there at lunchtime from work with the girls, Gloria, Rosalie, and myself. It was simply the best! Also, The Old Fresno Hoffbrau was great. Ice cold beer and ooh the Margaritas! To go back ! What great memories!

  8. Keith Carpenter says:

    I was just barbequing burgers and thought about Café Midi’s French burger. I remember it well, Shaw and Maroa, 1971. I wish I knew the recipe too. I have never had a better burger either (but I can still picture and taste the perfection!)

    • John says:

      Yes Nicola’s was the best, the abalone was to die for ! The best burger I have ever eaten in my life was the French Burger at café Midi, Shaw and Maroa. My wife had the beauty salon and boutique next door and I was a regular….Jack wished you had left your recipe somewhere….

  9. Wendy says:

    You forgot about the old Angelo’s drive in…. which was AWESOME! On Olive Ave… it was recently town down..sigh One day it was there…. then it was gonzo… Great memories of that place with the family during the 1970’s. Also the old farmer’s market downtown was awesome!! Rossi’s had those amazing Calzone ~~ wish I had some photos of that place… Nobody seems to.

  10. Wendy says:

    Oops… “torn” down… ugh! Typo ~~ sorry folks!

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