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The atmosphere at gusto! trattoria was more than pleasant for the crew Tuesday night. (Photo:

Spoor Blog: Italian food in England not as scary as it sounds

Print News's Mark Spoor was wary when he found out that dinner Tuesday night called for Italian. But he soon found out it's no coincidence that Italy is closer to England than it is the United States.

By Mark Spoor, Coordinating Producer

SOUTHPORT, England -- I have to be honest. When I was told we were going for Italian food last night, my first instinct was a little bit of trepidation. To be honest, I'm not really sure why. After all, England is a whole lot closer to Italy than the United States is.

Still, to me, it just seemed a little bit like going to a Chinese restaurant and ordering a hamburger.

I shouldn't have been worried.

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The name of the place was appropriate -- "gusto! trattoria." It was nestled in the middle of downtown Southport, amidst many old, tall, weathered brick buildings. It felt kind of like a cross between an old-style pizza place and a trendy place that someone like me has absolutely no business going into.

On the far end of the restaurant is an open kitchen filled with pizza ovens and the like, but the rest of the place is very open, with floor-to-ceiling windows that made you feel a little bit like an exhibit. Black tables, black chairs, plates that aren't circular. You get it.

It was during this dinner that I had my first real meeting with Brian Katrek. As many of you know, Brian co-hosts our "Opening Shot" video show on Wednesdays. He also does a lot of work with the PGA TOUR Network on XM and he also does a weekly golf show for one of the sports-talk radio stations in Atlanta.

He's a real slacker.

Anyway, we're ordering appetizers and we come across something called "Al Fermaggio." Basically it's garlic foccacia bread. Katrek says, completely deadpanned, "I think Al Fermaggio used to pitch for the Dodgers, didn't he?"

The entire time we're eating the appetizer. I, like the thief I am, try to piggy-back on Brian's joke, saying things like, "Al's a real game-day player" and "Al rocks."

Swinnnng and a miss. Oh, well.

Later, the discussion turns to who we all thing will win this week. You really saw Katrek light up here, talking about the course and which players could win (a long list, by the way). It's clear that Katrek loves the game of golf dearly and is doing exactly what he was born to do.

After enjoying some spectacular penne and meatballs, I perused the desserts. While most at the table were going safe with just coffees, vanilla ice cream and lemon sorbets, I went for the, well, gusto. I clear my throat and order something called the Crepe al Cioccolato. It's a chocolate pancake filled with mascarpone cream drizzled with raspberry sauce.

Jeremy Friedman, one of our video producers, talked tough, saying he was going to order it, as well. However, when push came to shove, he bailed, opting for the tiramisu.


Anyhow, let's just say that if you ever have the chance, go for the chocolate pancake.

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