Friday, July 8, 2011

Palatiano's Family Restaurant, Benson, Arizona

We were on a mission. The whole family went out to the Wilcox Dry Lake in Arizona to scatter some of my dad's ashes. Why there? Why that middle of nowhere, big, dry mud flat that stretches mile after bleak mile? Because he loved it, loved to photograph it, loved the "reticulated" mud as he called it. We climbed up to the train track that runs through the vast expanse, and after a train rumbled by, we took a moment, offered him to the earth and sky in English and Cherokee (thank you, Susan!), and threw his remains to the whistling wind.

On our way back to Tucson, hunger decreed that we stop for lunch. My mom suggested a place in this little cow-town called Benson, though she could neither remember the name of it nor its exact location - just that it was "Italian sounding." No problem - there's only one main street in Benson. We were about two blocks along that thoroughfare, when we saw a sign for Palatianos Family Restaurant, Italian, Greek and American Food. That had to be it.

You never know what you're going to find in an "international" diner in the wilds of southeastern Arizona. But what we did find was a modest little place that accommodated all fourteen of us without question. Our  smiling, good-humored young waitress patiently took our orders, adhering to all requirements of food allergies and separate checks, and in less than ten minutes served us our chicken fried steak, green chile cheeseburgers, etc., in huge portions. Everything was exceptional, and what we found lacking, like mustard or an extra pickle, the waitress retrieved in a blink.

We didn't try the Greek or Italian specialties, 'cause when you're in a place that isn't exactly known for its ethnic food, it may be best to steer clear. But based on the bite I had of my niece's plain linguini with meatballs, you probably wouldn't be sorry if you did. And just as you'd expect in the middle of nowhere, the prices were cheap!

New York City diners, you've got nothing on Palatianos! (except maybe location). I'm sure dad would be tickled to echo that sentiment.

Evaluation: Extraordinarily sincere!
601 West 4th Street
Benson, AZ


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