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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Christopher's: Keeping it real in Beaverdale – Italian-American style – for over 50 years.

Before Cup O’ Kryptonite closed its doors in Beaverdale and became Capes Kafé at the Des Moines Social Club at 9th & Mulberry, I was loitering with pal Sara - of the pop-culture influenced Etsy shop The Sara Initiative – who was staffing the store. Feeling peckish I ordered up pizza and an appetizer for carryout from nearby Christopher’s at 2816 Beaver Ave.

Christopher’s is one of a number of decades-old family-run Italian-American restaurants that Des Moines has been blessed with. Christopher’s – operated by the Giudicessi family since 1963 – is a relative youngster compared to older neighborhood fixtures like Noah’s Ark [see blog post] and The Latin King.

For our appetizer the Boursin Mushrooms were epic! The sautéed caps stuffed with Boursin cheese, baked, then sprinkled with Parmesan and herbs were equal parts meaty, cheesy, juicy, and 100 percent delicious. A side of melted garlic butter was redundant, but came in handy for dipping with crispy rinds of pizza crust.

As for the pizza, it too was equally impressive. The Joe with Italian sausage, roasted bell and hot peppers, plus freshly chopped basil was a delight with a sumptuous mélange of simple flavors, piled onto a tasty brown and crisp crust.

I wouldn’t get the opportunity to return to Christopher’s until after the fire at the old Younkers Building downtown. In homage to the famous Tea Room restaurant that Younkers operated in the part of the building that didn’t burn down, Christopher’s released a limited menu of Tea Room classics featuring the Younkers Chicken Salad on a bed of lettuce or as a sandwich, a Chicken Finger Basket, and the legendary Younkers Rarebit Burger. Being a fan of rarebits I couldn’t pass up on the burger with a side salad, and a taste of my dining companion’s onion rings.

The onion rings were appropriately thin and crispy, a style that’s par for the course in these parts. Drowning them in ketchup would be a sin, though the odd dip is acceptable. The Creamy Italian dressing on my side salad is one of the best house dressings in town, IMHO. So velvety! As for the Rarebit it was delicious! The burger was juicy with some hints of pink. The sauce was excellent; snappy, thick and rich, I’d pour it over everything. The low lighting in the dining area paired with not wanting to use the flash on my iPhone gave me some fits on adjusting the color and brightness on my Rarebit porn. The end result looks pretty garish.

A few weeks later I got a chance to revisit Christopher's for pizza. I also exploited the spotlights up at the bar to resolve my lighting issues. The Meat'za with pepperoni, meatballs, Italian sausage, prosciutto, and bacon on a spicy sauce is a hearty build. Surprisingly not overburdened with all the meats offered, I could appreciate the tastes of the various components. A drizzle of sriracha sauce hints of the spiciness underneath the cheese; it does not disappoint. I took the leftovers to Capes Kafé to share with the baristas. Sadly, Sara wasn’t working that night and missed out on the repast.

On my most recent visit I tried The Foxy. With ground beef, black olive, onion, and mushroom, the flavors are well-defined. The pizza as a whole is very cheesy, piled on top of Christopher’s thin, delicious crust. Once again I brought leftovers back downtown to Capes Kafé, but this time Sara was able to enjoy some slices. Remaining slices the next morning were not as crisp as the night before, heated less than optimally in a microwave, but nonetheless gratifying.

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