Teresa's, Sunday dinner still shines
Sierra Lodestar 10/02/13
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Foothill Flavors

Sunday dinner at Teresa’s family table
by Antoinette May

Sunday dinners are special, family ones, at least. Oh, the memories! We all have them, unique to each of us, yet common to us all . . . Aunt Rose’s fried chicken . . . Grandma’s savory soup . . . Uncle John carving the roast . . . Grandpa pouring the wine.

My mother recited poetry, my uncles told jokes. We all sang a little and I talked way too much.

Remember your first glass of wine (perhaps not quite as good as you’d anticipated) the first time you invited someone special to join the family bastion (maybe a “darling” guy or girl). I remember the first time I tried cooking Sunday dinner on my own (a disaster).

It seems safe to assume that we’re all on the same page here, agreeing that Sunday dinners are special, at least the family ones. I imagine that many of you are busy creating new memories in your own kitchens and dining rooms every week. Lucky you. Even luckier— your family!

But for the rest of us—and for you as well, on perhaps a busman’s holiday—there’s Teresa’s Place in Jackson. Believe me, they not only serve great food, but they’ve got the family ambience bit down cold. Why shouldn’t they, Teresa’s Place has been open since 1921. It was then and remains a true family restaurant.

It all began exactly 100 years ago when the Giurlani matriarch, the original Teresa, then 16, immigrated from Italy with her husband. Giurlani worked as a miner for $2.50 a day. That wasn’t much even

then, so Teresa augmented their income by cooking. Her wages were room and board for her husband and herself.

A marriage made in heaven it was not. Teresa, a “peasant girl,” who could neither read nor write—Italian or English—believed in standing up for herself. She left her husband and retuned to Italy with their two children. “I’ll never go back,” she adamantly proclaimed.

Never say, never. An earthquake leveled her town. Miraculously Teresa and her children survived but there was no longer a there there. They returned to Jackson. Teresa got another cooking job. Within a year she’d saved $400 and was eager to be her own boss. Teresa opened a boarding house. But with the food on her table so good, could a restaurant be far behind?

The restaurant known asTeresa’s Place opened in 1921 and has existed in the same spot ever since. It continues to be run by the Giurlani family. Is that a family saga or what?

It’s always fun to eat at Teresa’s. Not surprisingly, Charles and I go there once or twice a month. “Mother” Teresa’s early boarding house days survive in the shared family style presentation. We enjoy serving the crisp green salads to each other and ladling the rich, hearty soup into multiple bowls.

There’s a lively speakeasy feel to the bar at night. Frank Sinatra favorites play in background: the always romantic “Fly Me to the Moon,” the whimsical, “Something Stupid,” and the signature, “My Way.” Also, Steve Hoover is a great bartender. Try one of his martinis.

I guarantee you’ll want another soon.

But my favorite agenda at Teresa’s Place is Sunday dinner and these Indian summer days are specially precious. It’s a delight to sit out in Teresa’s “backyard,” a tangled thicket of grapevines, fragrant jasmine, plump, red tomatoes and saucy peppers.

On a recent Sunday afternoon I chose melenzana ala parmigiana, fresh eggplant picked from the garden, then sliced and layered with tomatoes, cheese and herbs. ($16.95) The menu said baked to bubbly perfection and I totally agreed.

Charles chose seafood cannelloni, a rich concoction of bay shrimp and crabmeat combined with scallions, herbs and creamy cheese. ($18.99)

These entrees came with a crisp green salad and rich, thick homemade minestrone soup.

Our server was Teresa Ferrucci, the granddaughter of the first Teresa. When a fly fluttered around her hand, Teresa laughed. “That’s my grandmother,” explained. “Grandma told me she’d keep coming back to check on things and there she is.”

The indomitable Teresa Giurlani.

VITALS: Teresa’s Place, 1235 Jacson Gate Rd., Jackson. Phone: 223-1786. Open Sundays from 2 p.m. until 8; Monday and Tuesday from 5 p.m. until 8:30; open for lunch Friday from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. and Friday night from 5 to 9. Open Saturday from 5 p.m. until 8:30. Closed Wednesdays and Thursdays. Credit cards accepted.

Pictures Teresa Ferrucci serves a great cannelloni

Teresa’s backyard is a delightful place to dine