Diner’s Notebook Dishes that’ll kill you, and a new place to love

Hold the fries.

Michael Jacobson (no relation, and if he were, I wouldn’t claim him) founded the Center for Science in the Public Interest in 1971, and ever since he’s been like the chief of police to the foodie world.

I hate to bite the hand that feeds me, but his message does deserve attention. CBS News recently reported the nine worst dishes in seven American chains, and the news is sobering. Based on a diet of 2,000 calories a day, which is considered healthy, people should eat no more than 20 grams of saturated fat per day.

Now consider the numbers. Double combo pan-fried noodles at P.F. Chang’s has 1,820 calories. The pasta carbonara with chicken at the Cheesecake Factory has 2,500 calories and 85 grams of saturated fat.

New Zealand rack of lamb at Outback, without the sides, has 1,300 calories and 60 grams of saturated fat plus 1,340 milligrams of sodium—56 percent of the recommended daily allowance. Ouch.

“One might think chains like Outback and Cheesecake Factory would lighten their meals now that calories are required on menus, courtesy of a health care reform law signed in March,” the other Jacobson says. “But the chains don’t promote moderation, and are helping to make modern-day Americans the most obese people ever to walk the Earth.”

Double winner Cheesecake Factory’s chocolate tower truffle cake comes in at 1,670 calories and 48 grams of saturated fat per slice. I’m planning to tread lightly around my slice. What about you?

But this won’t deter me from eating heartily at Chef Marc’s Pastavino, the latest effort from well-trodden local chef Marc Ritz. Perhaps some of you remember Marc’s World Cuisine, or his later involvement with the Mezzo Bistro Italiano. Well, now the ex-boxer, Sinatra lover and native of Utica, N.Y., is doing what he loves at his new Summerlin location, which doubles as a deli and sandwich shop during lunches.

He’s making his own pastas, plus charred octopus, delicious fried meatballs in Sunday gravy and a host of specials during the evening. He’s even offering a $50 per person Chef’s Tasting, a multicourse extravaganza, which he likes to serve on the sofas he has placed in the room’s dead middle.

The front of the restaurant is a small market, and the display case is filled with salumi, cheeses and gaudy cakes that he has made for his restaurant. Ritz is a talented chef, passionate advocate for Italian cooking and all-around good guy. Pastavino is at 7591 W. Washington Ave. Call 233-6272 for reservations, or go to parmabychefmarc.com for info.

Hungry, yet?

Follow Max Jacobson’s latest epicurean observations, reviews and tips at foodwinekitchen.com.

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