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Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Monjunis Keeps It Casually Delicious


Eggplant parmesan

Dining is a friendly affair with great food, reasonable prices

Periodically, 318 Forum’s always-hungry reporter visits a different restaurant and tells you about the experience.

Until not long ago, Monjunis Italian Café & Grocery in Bossier City (2151 Airline Drive, Suite 100) had the area’s most attention-getting billboard.

“We serve the BIGGEST meat BALLS in town.”

Perhaps that memorable message caused me to think about Monjunis when I had a taste for Italian food on a recent Tuesday evening.

Even though there are three locations in Shreveport-Bossier, one in Benton and one in Baton Rouge, I don’t consider Monjunis a chain restaurant. They are not all under the same ownership. I’ve been to each of the three Shreveport-Bossier locations. The restaurants have similarities and subtle differences. It had been at least two years since I’d dined at the Airline Drive location, so I was eager to enjoy a taste of Italy in Bossier.

My friend and I arrived at 6 p.m. and had the choice of sitting at a table or a booth (we chose a table). Monjunis is not a large place, which lends to its somewhat intimate atmosphere. It’s also not a fancy place. The dress is casual, as is the case at most restaurants. But as I looked around, I got the feeling Monjunis doesn’t really know what it wants to be. Plastic grapes hung from the ceiling, which gave an Italian vibe. Yet, the walls were plastered with old signs, most of which had nothing to do with Italy or Italian food. And then there were the wacky, colorful globe lights above the seating areas.

And let’s talk about the music. First, it was way too loud. Someone must have said something because the volume was eventually turned down. Second, the music was everything but Italian. We heard everything from classic rock to Motown. Regardless of the food, it’s hard to imagine yourself in Italy when listening to what accompanied our meal.

Muffaletta pizza

Marinated artichoke hearts and olives

WARNING: It is easy to fill up on the bread and sauce Monjunis serves soon after you take your seat. I should have asked, but I assume the bread — not too crunchy and not too soft — was delicious by itself. But once you dip in that sweet sauce you only find at Monjunis, it’s game over. You will be too full to eat anything else if you don’t pace yourself.

My friend and I chose from 11 appetizers, all with an Italian theme. I love artichoke hearts, so we went with Marinated Artichoke Hearts ($9.50). The menu’s description promised they would be topped with creamy Italian dressing and grated Romano cheese. And they were. The menu did not mention that the plate would be half artichoke hearts and half black olives. I would have preferred the plate to have been full of artichoke hearts, but my friend and I both like olives. So, the appetizer wasn’t a complete disappointment. The artichoke hearts, and the olives were good.

You would be hardpressed to find an Italian dish Monjunis did not offer. The menu includes Italian specialties, Italian favorites, salads, muffalettas, pizzas and po’boys. Let me tell you something: I’m addicted to two kinds of food, and pizza is one of them. But it had been a while since I had eaten a pizza from anywhere other than the typical national pizza places.

Garlic bread and sauce

Italian cream cake

The decision of what kind of pizza to get was not easy. The veggie pizza, Italian sausage and muffaletta pizza all caught my eye. But it had been years since I’d had a muffaletta. So, I ended two droughts at once and ordered the muffaletta pizza.

My friend loves eggplant parmesan.

What do you know? There was eggplant parmesan — the second item under Italian specialties. As my friend read the menu’s description, I think I saw a touch of drool coming from her mouth. “Eggplant breaded in Italian breadcrumbs and fried, then baked in our original sauce with provolone and Romano cheeses served on a bed of angel hair pasta.”

Oh, my. If the eggplant parmesan turned out to be half as good as it sounded, then my friend would be happy.

It wasn’t 10 minutes after we ordered that Kenzye, a very nice young lady, brought us our entrees. Let’s start with my pizza. It wasn’t totally what I expected, but that turned out to be a good thing. There were four slices, which weren’t really slices. I would call them squares. They were well-topped with ham, salami, olive mix, (well-melted) mozzarella and tomato. The crust did not taste like a typical pizza crust. It tasted more like the pizza dough I use at home, which I handform and roll out.

The pizza tasted like a good muffaletta sandwich without the “sandwich” part.

After she took the first bite of her eggplant parmesan, I could tell my friend was a happy camper. She loved it. She described her dish as “piping hot and piled up high. The eggplant was a great combination of soft and crispy. The cheese was nice and melted.” She did say the eggplant and pasta could have used a little more sauce.

I don’t want to say the portions of veal and pasta were big, but my friend could only eat half. She took home the other half, which meant two meals for the price of one. That’s always a winner in my book!

For dessert, Monjunis offered five choices. However, we came to eat Italian food, so how could we pass up a slice of Italian cream cake ($5.95)? But we were in for a surprise. Just like my pizza, instead of a slice, the Italian cream cake was a big Italian cream cupcake with icing on top. Kenzye told us all of Monjunis’ desserts, except the cheesecake, are made in-house. The Italian cream (cupcake) sure tasted like it.

The cost of our meal, before taxes and tip, was $45.90. Although I always pay attention to prices when ordering, I was very pleased with the cost, especially considering the quality of the food.

I give Monjunis Italian Café & Grocery Three Forks. The atmosphere was relaxed, the food was very good, and the service was efficient. If the restaurant were a little more “Italian” with its music and wall décor, it would easily become a Four Forks place where I would go out of my way to dine.


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