Rita Connelly is author of Lost Restaurants of Tucson (History Press) and a former contributor to Tucson Weekly and Gayot.
With Relish: 5 questions, 5-ish answers
What’s your favorite dish to cook on a personal level and why?
I don’t cook much anymore but my favorites are still pastas. I love a good red sauce, but these days I make different sauces. Cacio de pepe is a fave, as is carbonara with a great bacon.
What’s the best or most memorable meal you have eaten lately? What makes it special?
That’s a tough one. I crave the chicken shawarma at Za’atar. The seasoning is fantastic and it’s perfectly grilled.
But the tacos we had at Pico de Gallo on South Sixth Avenue awhile back were truly memorable. The tortillas are made as you order them and they are outstandingly fresh and tasty.
As far as upscale goes the Bolognese at Tavolino when my brother was in town was top-notch.
What’s your favorite food city? Why?
I don’t travel as often as I used to but I loved dining in Chicago. The diversity is outstanding. High-brow eats, sandwich shops…all good stuff. They take food seriously but with a bit of sass.
I think Tucson is pretty damn good though, especially in recent years. We’re usually a little behind the curve, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get great food.
A good meal is not complete without …
The first thing that comes to mind is salt. It may sound weird but if a dish is properly salted – I guess you could say seasoned – when it’s being prepared, no other salt or seasoning is necessary. People argue the other way saying that restaurants use too much salt in their food, but if something is too salty, it hasn’t been properly seasoned. Salt brings out the flavors in food; it shouldn’t dominate a dish but at the same time, if I have to put salt on at the table the kitchen hasn’t done its job.
Name 3 of your favorite local restaurants:
Rita will be at the Tucson Festival of Book’s Culinary stage on Saturday March 12 starting at 11:30 AM. She’ll be talking, Donna Nordin (Café Terra Cotta) will be cooking and Michael Luria (Café Terra Cotta) will be moderating.
“Not to blow my own horn, but the feedback I’m getting from Lost Restaurants of Tucson has been exciting,” says Rita. “People tell me it’s a “good read” and that’s what I always want my writing to be. Others have said that the book provoked great conversations, great memories. All that is very validating.”
While not fulfilling author duties, Rita looks forward to Elvira’s opening downtown and what Janos and Devon are doing at the Carriage House with classes and dim sum and more should prove to be exciting and fun. Janos, again, will challenge everyone else to kick it up.
Karyn Zoldan: Rita has been a long-time friend having met when we both freelanced for Tucson Weekly. We, along with Edie Jarolim, have shared many laughs, cocktails and great food. I was blown away by all the research Rita did for Lost Restaurants.
You can follow Rita via her Well Fed Foodie blog.