"Love," as Johnny Cash wrote, "is a burnin' thing." That is certainly true in the happy marriage that is Laurenzo's fajita burger, made from a half-pound of ground fajita beef (yes, I note redundancy) and topped with caramelized onions, a thick slice of asadero cheese, avocado slices, tongue-tickling poblano peppers and fiery chipotle mayonnaise. Plenty attempts at fusion fail, but this one succeeds for several reasons. First, the meat is not over-seasoned such that it distracts from the flavors of the other components that provide wonderful sweet, spicy and creamy notes. Second, Laurenzo's will upon request cook your burger "rare," so the sanguine excess seeks into the bun and toppings, thereby infusing the entire sandwich with bloody juiciness. Tip: Use the accompanying fries (or cheese grits, as I subbed in) to sop up the extra.
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The only good reason to pass on the fajita burger (or the house special prime rib) at Laurenzo's in September is to opportunity to try the restaurant's month-long special: Sunday Gravy. For the non-Italian-Americans in the house (or if you've managed never to watch an episode of The Sopranos), "gravy" is what we call pasta or marinara sauce.
Laurenzo's gravy is particularly special because of its old-school preparation — that is to say, it's made over multiple days with various intervals involving simmering, resting and browning of different meats. It's also an homage to Laurenzo's grandmother, Mama Ninfa, who would prepare her own very similar version nearly every Sunday for her extended family.
Available in adult ($12.99) as well as child ($6.99) portions, Laurenzo's Sunday gravy is served over house-made linguine and topped with meatballs. A salad and garlic bread accompany this dish but are easily overlooked after one fork twirl of pasta laced with a sauce whose layers of sweet, seasoned tomato and salty rich meat give rise to the Italian version of umami and make you long for the Italian neighborhoods of Brooklyn in the 1920s...even if that's technically impossible since you were born six decades later in Virginia.
Laurenzo's Sunday gravy is available every day through September, so there's still time to wax faux nostalgic.