Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2013, 10:11 am

Dine out in the Q-C: Restaurant Week continues through Saturday

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Sarah J. Gardner, sjgardner@qconline.com

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Photo: John Greenwood
Waitress Athena Elston serves a Clubhouse BLTB sandwich and crock of minestrone soup to Eric Timmons of The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus. The Quad Cities Restaurant Week lunch special at Johnny's Italian Steakhouse in Moline includes a half sandwich and choice of half salad or soup for each of two people for $15.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: John Greenwood
The Pick Two lunch special at Johnny's Italian Steakhouse in Moline includes a half sandwich and choice of half salad or soup for two people for $15.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: John Greenwood
The Pick Two lunch special at Johnny's Italian Steakhouse in Moline includes a half sandwich and choice of half salad or soup for two people for $15.
The sad fact is before this week I had never dined at Johnny's Italian Steakhouse, 1300 River Dr., Moline. I always have meant to try it. I know it's a signature dining experience in the Quad-Cities, and in the five years I've lived here, I've heard their food praised many times. But somehow I've never had quite the right occasion to splurge on a meal there.

Until, that is, the first Quad Cities Restaurant Week kicked off Feb. 24. For the event, more than 25 area restaurants have prepared mini-menus designed to showcase house specialties. For a set price--$15 for lunch for two or $25 for individual multi-course dinners (beverages, tax and gratuity excluded)--diners can enjoy a meal from the special menus.

Participating restaurants, maps to their locations and their restaurant week menus can all be found at qcrestaurantweek.com, making it easy to see exactly what's on offer and what eateries are participating near where you live or work.

In fact, that's exactly how I ended up having lunch at Johnny's Italian Steakhouse. It's not far from the office, and when I saw the words "roast turkey, brie and pear sandwich," listed as one of their special lunch offerings, I couldn't resist a little lunchtime adventure.

So, how was it? In a word, delectable. The sweetness of the pear paired nicely with the pungency of the brie, both sliced thinly enough as not to overpower the taste of the turkey, which was generously portioned and topped with a mix of fresh baby greens. The sandwich bread, soft and white, was thickly sliced.

The only difficulty I had in eating the sandwich, in fact, was finding a place to start--even though it was actually half a sandwich, it was heaped high and made for a hefty lunch offering.

As part of the special, I had my choice of two salads or two soups to go with the half sandwich. I chose the classic Caesar salad, which was dressed just a little heavily for my tastes but full of pert romaine lettuce and plentiful Parmesan cheese. It was entirely delicious.

Since the Quad Cities Restaurant Week lunch specials are two-for-one deals meant for two diners, I convinced my colleague, Eric Timmons, to join me. He ordered the half Clubhouse BLTB sandwich--the extra B signifies extra bacon--and a crock of minestrone soup.

The soup, he said, was "very filling," a hearty helping of various beans, vegetables and a little beef. The sandwich was served on toasted bread that looked buttery and delicious, with bacon Mr. Timmons described as "nicely crunchy" and fresh slices of tomato and lettuce. Taken together, he declared it a "very solid BLT."

Even though the lunch was indulgent for both of us, we found room to hunger for the dinner offering, which sounds as good if not better than the meal we enjoyed. The Quad Cities Restaurant Week menu listed a house salad garnished with a small sampling of betta bruschetta; pepper steak fettuccine gorgonzola (a special not regularly offered on Johnny's menu); and limoncello cake with raspberry preserves, fresh lemon custard and fresh berries as the dinner offering. That's quite a meal!

Jack A. Viviani, general manager of Johnny's Italian Steakhouse, said response to their participation in Quad Cities Restaurant Week has been very positive. In fact, he's been surprised by the number of phone calls the restaurant has received from diners asking about the specials and looking to make reservations.

That's true for other restaurants participating in Quad Cities Restaurant Week as well, according to Jessica Waytenick, public relations and marketing manager for the Quad Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau. She has been helping to promote the event.

The participating restaurants Ms. Waytenick has spoken with have said they have been seeing diners who haven't visited the restaurant previously, and the eateries have been getting calls from other customers interested in the specials they are offering. "So far it's been good. We're pleased," said Ms. Waytenick.

As for Mr. Viviani, he said he's been interested to go online and see the other restaurants that are participating. He's impressed with the range of places to eat. "What's been interesting is to see all the different restaurants from both sides of the river. It's every end, high end and otherwise, every price point," he said.

To my mind, the best part of Quad Cities Restaurant Week is that to take advantage of the specials there are no coupons to print out, passes to buy, or punch cards to pick up at participating eateries--you just show up hungry and ask for the restaurant week menu.

Which is exactly what I intend to keep doing. Quad Cities Restaurant Week continues through Saturday, March 2, and based on my lunchtime experience at Johnny's, I want to get out and try as many other eateries as I can.

For more information, and to see if your favorite restaurant is participating, visit qcrestaurantweek.com.