Happy St. Valentine’s Day to all who celebrate it. If you’re looking to go out with your sweetheart or you just want to stay in and enjoy a quiet lunch or dinner away from the crowds, some of the restaurants we review this month may strike your fancy. We ordered takeout meals from all four restaurants in this digest, but they’re all open for dine-in service, too.

Vallarta Grill

I went to Vallarta Grill in Martell (formerly El Mira Mar) to pick up lunch on January 19 to take advantage of the online coupon they posted on their Facebook profile page. The coupon promised 20 percent off for all purchases in January, so I called them to order chicken Caesar salad for my mother, a spinach enchilada meal for me, and tortilla chips for both of us.

Vallarta Grill Spinach Enchilada, Spanish rice, and beansWhen I paid for our lunch at the restaurant, though, the 20 percent off discount wasn’t applied. I alerted the cashier and she called the owner from the kitchen. The owner told me the coupon was only good for paper coupons. I showed him the coupon on my phone that was on the restaurant’s Facebook profile page. He asked me if I lived in Sutter Creek. I said I lived in Jackson.

He was quiet for a few seconds, which told me that he only sent out the paper coupon to people in Sutter Creek and didn’t expect to have someone try to redeem his online coupon. He said he would honor the online coupon…this time. And so the discount was applied, and all was well.

I had never before encountered a Mexican restaurant that served spinach enchiladas. The two enchiladas were covered in green sauce and shredded Monterey Jack cheese on top. To the side was a dollop of sour cream and pico de gallo. Separate compartments in the Styrofoam box held Spanish rice and refried beans with shredded Monterey Jack cheese on top.

The enchiladas tasted like vegetarian enchiladas, and the spinach was overwhelmed by everything—not just the toppings, sour cream, and pico de gallo outside, but also by the mushrooms, onions, and tomatoes inside. The Spanish rice was bland but still acceptable. I was pleasantly surprised to find the beans weren’t mush but actual beans, and I found them to be firm but not crunchy.

Vallarta Grill Chicken Caesar SaladMy mother was underwhelmed by the chicken Caesar salad. The romaine lettuce was topped with plenty of charbroiled chicken strips, tomato slices, and croutons along with grated parmesan cheese and Caesar dressing. She said everything tasted fresh and liked the chicken, but she expected more vegetables like onions and avocado. So, she described her meal as an enlarged side salad.

We found the tortilla chips to be crispy and salted properly, and Vallarta Grill gave us a large bag of chips that we enjoyed for over a week after our meal.

In sum, we give Vallarta Grill a flashing green light. If you see a coupon to make sure it’s good, contact the restaurant to make sure you can use it. And salads may be their weak spot.

We paid a little over $33 for our meal. You can view the Vallarta Grill menu and operating hours on their Facebook profile page. If you have questions and/or want to order for takeout, you can call them at 209-283-0099.

Paisano’s Pizzeria Part Two

Paisano's Pizzeria mini 49er Veggie pizzaWe wanted to go to Paisano’s Pizzeria in Jackson on Christmas Eve last year, but they were closed for the holiday. Then we wanted to order on January 26, but they were closed that day because they were hosting events at their restaurant every Wednesday in January.

So, on January 27 I called the restaurant and ordered a mini 49er Veggie pizza for herself, and a Veggie Paizone (the Paisano’s name for a calzone) for me. I also got a chocolate chip cookie to take back with me for our three-year-old daycare kid Huxley to enjoy.

My mother enjoyed her pizza and ate a little more than half of it. She saved the rest for lunch the next day, and she reported that her microwaved pizza was just as tasty.

The large Paizone was cut into four pieces and included a lidded cup of marinara sauce for dipping, which I appreciated. I only had half the Paizone for dinner and I found it had the same vegetables as my mother had on her pizza, and I was pleased the Paizone was easy to eat.

Paisano's Pizzeria Veggie PaizoneI reheated the Paizone in the microwave the next night to enjoy with a bowl of minestrone soup, but I found the crust a bit too soft. Next time, I’ll use the skillet.

Huxley thought the cookie was too sweet and he only ate a couple of bites. My mother said she would eat the rest of the cookie, and though she never commented about it, I never saw the cookie again.

As with our first review of a shared 49er Veggie, Paisano’s Pizzeria gets a green light for the mini 49er Veggie and the Paizone. The cost for our meal was a little over $25.

You can view the Paisano’s Pizzeria menu on their website or call them at 209-223-3050 (Jackson) or 209-274-6313 (Ione) for hours of operation and to ask any questions.

Perko’s

We last ate at Perko’s in February 2020, just before the pandemic. So, it was time for us to go there again on February 2, but I called first to find out if they offered takeout. They said they did, so I ordered a turkey melt with fries for my mother and an Ultimate Dip with turkey and onion rings for me. I also ordered a chocolate cream pie slice for myself. (My mother’s stomach can’t handle cream pies anymore.)

The turkey melt included plenty of turkey slices, bacon, avocado, tomato, and American cheese in between two slices of toasted garlic bread. Three slices of dill pickle were buried under the fries. My mother said the sandwich was thick and was glad that Perko’s cut the sandwich in half because she could only eat one half of it. She gave good marks for the medium-sized fries that were crispy and seasoned with garlic salt.

Perko's Turkey French Dip with onion ringsThe Ultimate Dip had a thick layer of turkey slices, grilled mushroom slices, and provolone cheese in between two slices of a French roll. I, too, was happy that the sandwich was cut in half because I could only eat one half of it. The sandwich held up just fine when I dipped it in the medium-sized plastic cup of au jus, and the sandwich itself was tasty with or without the dip.

The onion rings were disappointing. They weren’t fried long enough, so the breading was soft and the rings were a bit chewy. Worse, three dill pickle slices were buried under the onion rings. Where the pickles contacted the affected rings, the breading on those rings had nearly disintegrated.

The slice of chocolate cream pie nearly filled its plastic container and contained a lot of whipped cream and chocolate chips on top. The pie crust itself was simple and tasteless but was thick enough to give the pie a good, crunchy base. There was about 60 percent whipped cream and 40 percent chocolate cream. The chocolate cream itself was only slightly sweet because the whipped cream provided the sweetness. The semi-sweet chocolate chips also helped keep the sweetness from being overwhelming.

Perko's Chocolate Cream PieMy mother and I kept one-half of our sandwiches as a side with soup two nights later. My mother said her sandwich wasn’t as good as it was two days prior, but my sandwich held up. Overall, we enjoyed our meals, and we give Perko’s a green light with the caveat that their fries are a better side than their onion rings.

We paid a little over $33 for our meal. You can view Perko’s operating hours and menu on their website and call them at 209-223-4420 if you want to order a takeout meal.

Vinciguerra Ravioli

My mother last ate ravioli from Vinciguerra Ravioli in Jackson decades ago, and I had never eaten there, so it was time we pick up some ravioli for dinner on February 9. (The next day I learned that February 9 was National Pizza Day. I’ll remember that next year.)

I drove to Vinciguerra Ravioli on Highway 49 as my last errand of the day. At the takeout window, I ordered one package of 54 mushroom ravioli pieces and one pint of marinara sauce. The person who talked to me, who I believe is the owner, told me how to prepare the ravioli. The marinara sauce was frozen and kept in a medium-sized lidded plastic container.

Vinciguerra Ravioli mushroom ravioli with marinara sauceFortunately, the same instructions were printed on the box because my mother prepared the ravioli, not me. The ravioli comes in one sheet that you have to keep frozen and then break apart in between each other. Each ravioli piece is about half the size of ravioli pieces we’ve purchased at Raley’s and Safeway.

All the cooked ravioli pieces were flat, and we had a hard time identifying any mushrooms or other ingredients inside. I was able to taste mushrooms in a couple of pieces, but I had to work for it.

I found the marinara sauce had chunks of tomato but was otherwise neutral in taste. That makes sense, because if you make the sauce spicy then some people won’t like it—it’s better to spice up the ravioli yourself, which I did with some black pepper. My mother liked the sauce and wondered if you can buy it separately, and that’s one reason why Vinciguerra Ravioli has their sauce as a separate menu item.

We ate the first 27 pieces of the ravioli last week, and we’ll eat the other 27 this week. Based on our first meal, we give Vinciguerra Ravioli a green light, and I’ll have an update on the Ticker Facebook media page after we have our second helping.

The only place I could find a photo of the actual menu was on the Restaurantji website, but be aware that the menu prices in that photo are outdated. The price for the ravioli and the marinara sauce was $18—$11.50 for the ravioli and $6.50 for the pint of marinara sauce.

Vinciguerra Ravioli is open Wednesdays through Saturdays from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. You can view their Facebook profile page to get general information, and you can call them if you have questions at 209-223-7654.

Amador Business Ticker food reviews are adventures in local dining with Editor Eric Butow and his mom.