If you are here to find out the results of my last Foodie Pen Pals post LIKE I PROMISED, I stink and it’s not here.  The Father-in-Law sent me a surprise post yesterday and I decided it was too good not to publish right away.  I will share the results of my nutty spiced chicken with chocolate BBQ sauce over coconuty pineapply rice this week yet . . . probably after you have all stopped caring.  This post is better anyway.  You’re welcome.  So, please enjoy a guest post by the Father-in-Law entitled “The Way We Were” . . .  the story is all him, but the pictures and snippets underneath are all me of course.

– Joanna

Here I am again dear readers, my third attempt at a post worthy of Joanna’s blog.  Since this is a foodie blog, my first post kinda sorta was on topic.  My second caught me in a senior moment mood, lamenting how the general public could improve things if they were only more normal – like me?

Yes, this picture is “normal” for the Father-in-Law.  I’ll have to explain later.

Since this one is entitled “The Way We Were”, you’re probably hoping that I don’t have an audio clip included harmonizing with Barbara Streisand singing her famous song of the same name.  Fear not, I’m now in a nostalgic mood wishing for a simpler, less corporate time, with a bit of reminiscing about a local eatery that’s no longer in business.

See, it’s skirting the food theme again!

Joanna’s recent post mentioned that her and The Husband were going to visit with family for a couple of days. The family in question happened to be us, good old mom and dad-in-law.  It’s always great to see them and get to spend time with our little grandson.

This is a picture of Sweetey Petey and it’s even from this specific visit. Score one for relevancy!

The money we charge them to rent out her husband’s old room comes in handy too!

Anyway, one of my often requested culinary feats happens to be an old recipe for a GARLIC salad dressing that was made famous by a local Italian gentleman, Larry Dinolfo, in his little restaurant/house. He passed on several years ago and so did his type of business plan.

To call Larry “colorful” would be like describing a peacock as “grayish”.

Fun side note –  I own this original silk painted peacock.  I am going to hang it in the guestroom at the new house.  It used to hang in our bedroom, but The Husband made me take it down because it creeped him out.

He was the son of Italian immigrants who ran a local speakeasy/restaurant from the twenties through the fifties.  He always delighted in telling the stories of seeing nationally famous gangsters enter his parents establishment through the back door while a henchman stood watch out front with a Tommy gun.

No, that’s not a Tommy gun and I HIGHLY doubt the Father-in-Law is nostalgic for that particular time in his life.  But it’s a cool picture and you have to admit the FIL looks pretty hot there.

He was a local football hero during his high school days and stayed in tremendous shape into his senior years.  I once saw him win a bet by beating a twenty-year old in a footrace out in front of his restaurant when he was FIFTY-FIVE!

I think I’ve established a tiny bit about his character, but how do I know all of this stuff?  Because he welcomed his friends/customers into his tiny kitchen while he was cooking your order.  He sang, he danced, he regaled us with stories – and if he really liked you he would let you help him in the kitchen.  I’ve done prep work, handed him ingredients, run over to his attached living quarters to retrieve a prized memento for him to show folks (sometimes it would be a special gun or trophy).

My children and their friends eventually got introduced to him and his wonderful cooking and yet another generation got to experience his food and warmth.  My son has told me stories of taking different high school girlfriends out on dates to his kitchen where he would always sing to them and make them feel special.

This video showcases Larry’s magical singing voice.  The Husband was absolutely giddy when The FIL emailed him the link earlier this year. He couldn’t believe it existed!  The wonders of YouTube!

I’ve recently learned that before my son went off to college “Uncle Larry” had some off-color advice for him on how to deal with all of the college girls he would meet. Not that Larry ever went to college.

Unfortunately no YouTube videos of these advisory counsels exist.

His menu consisted of three items.  Pizza, spaghetti, and GARLIC salad.  Oh, and there really wasn’t a printed menu.  He didn’t advertise and he did NOT like for strangers to come into his restaurant. The only times I ever saw him get really upset was when a group of people from “SOMEWHERE ELSE” came in and “WANTED TO EAT!”

He never changed the cold dishwater in his rusty little sink. He also had no screens on his windows (never any air conditioning in that establishment either) so in the summer insects would fly into his kitchen, get stunned by the light bulbs above his counter and fall into the food.  Later, when you opened your take-out container at home or at one of his six tables they would revive and fly out of your food. Just part of the charm!

He never took a vacation or even a day off in over fifty years.  He would say, “Where would I go?  All of my friends come in here!”  He was open seven days a week from when he felt like it to when he felt like it.  Your bill was never the same and his prices would reflect his mood that day.  He had no cash register except for his left front trouser pocket which would be bulging by the end of the night.  His taxes and health code inspections were left to local speculation.

So THAT’S the way we were.

This isn’t an old picture of the way it was, but it looks old and I needed an excuse to post it.  So let’s pretend it was thirty years instead of three years.  Great, thanks.

Olive Garden claims “when you’re here, you’re family”.  Not even close, but that’s the story behind my GARLIC salad dressing.


– Father-in-Law

P.S.  The Husband wants to know if you are interested in a post with the salad dressing recipe.  This is the same dressing that inspired my recipe for The Husband’s Favorite Salad Burger.

P.P.S. The Garlic Salad Dressing has now been posted!  You can find it HERE.

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  1. I often think of the good times spend in Dinolfo’s kitchen. Yes, it was a great place to hang out with friends once we could drive there, but more important are the memories with family. Special memories.

    Maybe someday when my son is about to embark to college we’ll share a GARLIC salad over cigars and I’ll enlighten him about the wonders of doughnut factories.

    And by the way, that freaking peacock is huge. You have no idea. I awoke each morning chilled to my soul due to its hollow eyes boring into me while I slept… Good riddance.

    • The big question here is how did Jim become a friend in the first place? Was it a mutual love of MSG or Tommy guns? I think this needs to be elaborated on.

  2. This was a fun post! I love traditions and stories from our elders, as things were so much simpler and somewhat “better” in certain ways back then.

    And hello? Anything with garlic is bound to be stellar. Well, not anything, but a majority of things are made exponentially awesomer by the addition of the stinking rose.
    Abby recently posted…A Silver LiningMy Profile

    • I often find myself waxing nostalgiac for simpler times, either from my childhood, or from what I imagine times were like “back in the day” I never experienced. It can be hard to find the balance between positively recreating that and focusing on the here and now.

      Anyway, sorry for the divergence.

      Dad, I think Abby called you old. “Elder”. Hehe.

    • Thanks Abby, No offense taken with the elder comment, I’ll be 39 next month. Oh, and that jungle picture of me wasn’t really Vietnam – I’m much too young for that – it was taken at one of those dress up booths at a county fair.

  3. Me again – It should also be noted that Dad has perfected the GARLIC salad dressing over many years. Thank goodness he retired from his day job so he could focus on his research. It’s gone through several evolutions and is absolutely spot on now. You won’t be disappointed…. if you want to learn it.

    • Unfortunately he has perfected it a dozen times now. They all tasted GREAT but they all tasted the same. Which, like I said, was great.

  4. I will second that FIL’s recipe is exact! The times in Larry’s kitchen have always been such great memories. Perhaps the fact that we still ate the food after seeing the dishwater and the bugs and baked in hairs was warranted by Larry’s fantastic singing skills (which were almost as good as those kids with their signing valentines!) Who knows, but those memories will never die…just a few of the many with this family! :). Thanks for the post, Big Guy! BTW…love the video!!!

    • Hey Britt, It’s good to hear from you. I can’t believe you have two minutes to read my drivel, what with that new bundle of joy you have. Have a great Christmas!

  5. I will only consume the dressing if it contains MSG. 🙂
    Heather @ What Does She Do All Day? recently posted…Peanut Butter Chip Ice CreamMy Profile

  6. I would love to see the recipe. I have never made my own salad dressing, although my mom would make some occasionally. And if it has garlic, then definitely!!!

    As for the peacock, I have sympathy for you. My husband won’t let me hang a picture of a frog (present from a friend about friendship) because “it’s looking at him”. I’m hoping to eventually find a good place for it. It was in my hallway at my house and I loved it!

    Larry sounds like a character, but great for his friends.
    Aly recently posted…Dutch Oven Fluffy BreadMy Profile

  7. The whole post I kept telling myself, the recipe for the GARLIC dressing is going to be at the end…so I was saddened when it was not. That is a long way of saying YES I would be very interested in the recipe for said dressing. I love dressing and I pretty much detest all store bought ones. I only like restaurant dressings and I find they are even better from places where you take the flies home with you!

    Oh and on that last photo you should have used sepia…would have looked like 50 years old then for surezies. 😉
    Cinnamon @ eatpraytri recently posted…#dogshamingMy Profile

    • The only problem I have with this recipe is my FIL wants you to use the EXACT brand of oil and the EXACT brand of red wine vinegar.

      I am a sepia fan. I look way better in sepia. Sigh. If only everyone wore sepia colored glasses.

  8. Well then maybe the FIL needs to host a giveaway for the oil and vinegar. That way he will be certain that at least ONE person will make it right. 😉 I think I look way better in instagram. I need everyone to wear instagram glasses.
    Cinnamon @ eatpraytri recently posted…Random, Doppelganger and what’s coming…My Profile

    • No problem Cinnamon, The oil is Balbo vegetable oil and the vinegar is Muro wine vinegar. I’m not sure if they’re available nationwide or just here in the midwest. I’ll let Joanna post the exact garlic powder and oil and vinegar quantities. You’ll have to add your own stunned insects!


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  11. I would love to receive a copy of your garlic salad dressing recipe. I love garlicky salads! Thanks in advance.

    • Hi Maureen! If you love garlic this is the recipe for you. Joanna asked me to post up this recipe sometime this coming week, so I hope you’ll stop back.

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