July 22, 2010

Bernardi's in Washington

By Eric Shangraw

July 22, 2010 Updated Aug 29, 2010 at 1:58 PM CDT

Bernardi's in Washington is a sure bet when you want a real meal. Celebrating 9-years in Tazewell County, it is one of five restaurants owned by the Bernardi family in Central Illinois.

Intimate casual setting. Fine wine list. Chicken and pasta recipes that go back three generations. The big "B" gets an "A" for providing every element needed to guarantee almost a religious experience when breaking bread with family or friends.

"My wife Jodi and I eat out here probably once a week. Sometimes twice a week. And we like the hometown feel. It is very family. Very comfortable place to be," said customer Greg Peine.

"The food is great. The wine is good. And it just feels like we have friends here," said customer Marilyn Bates.

"Ribs are good. Chicken is good. We have that. And pasta. I really haven't had anything I don't like actually," said customer Bill Bates.

It is serious business in the kitchen. This cook is whipping up a chicken batter first developed in the 1930's. Obviously the secret ingredients are important, but so is the consistency. To thin, and the batter will not stick to the chicken.

Each piece of poultry is bathed in the Bernardi batter.

Each morsel of the coated bird is dropped into a hot fryer. During the 18 minute submersion, the excess batter is scooped out. The chicken stirred with an aluminum paddle. As the meat cooks, it is turned and twisted until golden brown.

We start with some Bernardi's oil. It's an amazing infused dipping lubricant. Delicious on bread, pizza, salad, veggies and probably even a McDonald's double cheeseburger.

Photographer Warren Brinager selected Individual family style chicken, 2 pieces. It came with Italian green beans, and a plate of spaghetti and tortellini, the half and half pasta plate. He dug in fingers first. The piece was so hot and juicy at first, Warren switched over to a fork to find the inside of the white meat.

His green beans are doped-up on minced garlic, other seasoning, and wedged tomatoes. He reeled in the pasta as if landing a big catch.

I ran after full rack of ribs. Eighteen inches of succulent tender goodness. They fall off the bone with just a slight touch. You could be toothless and still succeed chewing on these Bernardi bones.

Our bill with salads and drinks, 34-dollars plus tip. Whether you are a party of two or twelve, Bernardi's delivers like you're the only one here.

And I had plenty of leftovers to take home.

Bernardi's is on Washington Road in Washington. They are open six days a week. Closed on Mondays.

2137 Washington Rd.

Olio & Vino
4603 N. Prospect
Peoria Heights
Monday-Wednesday 10am-7pm
Thursday-Saturday 10am-8pm

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