Dear Foodies,

Here are a few delicious recommendations for this week’s issue. Bon Appetit!

Cortino’s Italian Restaurant — Now that’s, amore! A dedication to authentic Italian cuisine makes Cortino’s a special place — believe me, it’s worth the drive. This family-owned eatery located between Weslaco and Mercedes has been pleasing customers since 1966 and continues to bring in the crowds.

I personally can’t resist ordering their linguine with white clam sauce which is a garlic lover’s dream ($12.25). Homemade pasta is served in a bowl with generous amounts of chopped clams dancing in a pool of buttery sauce consisting of wine, fresh garlic and herbs which is simply sensational! Their basket filled with crispy, roasted garlic bread and their famous tiramisu dessert is also an addiction.

So Foodies, if you’re in the mood for some baked lasagna $11.95 (layers of homemade pasta, meat and cheeses) or spaghetti noodles with big plush meatballs swimming in an ocean of spicy marinara sauce — this is the place for you. All of Cortino’s classic Italian family fare is served up in epic proportions at reasonable prices. $$ The décor at this cozy restaurant is simple, yet appealing. Go ahead and experience a little bit of Italy with your family — Buon Appetito! *Excellent lunch specials.

Location: 3812 E. Business Hwy. 83 Weslaco. Phone 956-565-2309.

Las Palmas Restaurant — I thank Shelly Villarreal the owner of this establishment for being so sweet and understanding when I mentioned that her phone number and address was not printed on the article when I wrote about her place (my fault — oops!). For those who have had a chance to indulge in her traditional Tex-Mex comfort food I must say — que bueno! Shelly and Larry (owners) and their son Omar (cook) have succeeded thanks to their honest dedication to home-cooked dishes and their budget pleasing menu. Recently, my father Belarmino Castellanos, who had just arrived from Mexico, knew Shelly had a special lunch waiting for him to enjoy at Las Palmas. We had her famous chicken fried chicken ($8 w/tea ) which is lightly battered (not greasy) and has creamy sinful brown gravy drizzled over the chicken (juicy white meat) and the buttery mash potatoes. This hearty platter is served with corn and a lot of affection. Yes, less is more.

Simple ingredients and a few delicious staple dishes is all you need — Shelly should know, she’s had her place for 28 years. Their traditional Tex - Mex cheese enchiladas with homemade chili and their juicy cheese burgers are a hit with the regulars. Before my father and I left, Shelly handed me one of her homemade chocolate cakes (mega moist-Yum-o) with vanilla frosting as a gift She remembered I ordered that same cake for my husband nine years ago (excellent memory). Muchas gracias! F.Y.I. Foodies, if you want to order a fantastic homemade Thanksgiving turkey dinner with all the traditional sides this year, call “Las Palmas.” Taste just like Mama’s cookin! $

Location: 4701 N. McColl Rd. McAllen. Phone: 956-624-9414.

Mucho Mexico Bakery & Restaurant — Have you driven down 23rd street (between Dove & Lark) lately and seen a man with a zarape and sombrero with a sign that says “Pan”? I have! When I noticed a local panaderia (bakery) I had to pop in and check it out. The smell, colors and the variety of shapes and textures pan dulce offers (Mexican sweet bread which is perfect for dipping into hot chocolate) is fascinating.

When I walked in I was thrilled to see there was a line forming with people holding bags full of bread for their morning breakfast or merienda (late supper). All of the delicious treats are baked in the store daily.

I also got to sample the carnitas (braised pork) which was tender and juicy. The succulent texture along with the carmelized crispness of the simmered pork was perfect. Foodies, why not purchase some carnitas, green salsa, and tortillas (add cilantro and diced onions if you like) at this establishment and enjoy an authentic and quick taquito at home? There’s pastries galore, tamales, and more! *Also family owned. $

Located at: 6101 N. 23rd St. McAllen. Phone: 956-664-2212.

Happy eating,

Madame Gourmand