If you commit to making the evening-consuming trek (in my case, over 17 miles each way) down to Vito & Nick's Pizzeria (reviewed here), it's certainly not for anything coming out of their deep fryer. Why should it be when your stomach should be giving its undivided attention to their crackly thin crust sausage and giardiniera pizza? But let's say you make the rookie mistake of showing up with a party of seven at 6 p.m. on a Saturday night, only to be confronted with a packed house and a fifty minute wait time for your pizza. And say your friends are already cranky after forty stop-and-go blocks on Pulaski. Mutiny is imminent, and buck-fifty Old Style drafts alone aren't going to put smiles back on those faces. It's time to rouse the Combo Basket ($9.95) from its frozen slumber. It's the only chance you've got.
Admittedly, everything contained in this fried horn of plenty—breaded mushrooms, zucchini sticks, onion rings, jalapeño, AND broccoli cheddar poppers—comes from frozen. You could probably approximate a dead-on recreation after less than five minutes in your grocer's freezer aisle. But your baked version would be lacking the unmistakable deep-fried sheen that became this appetizer's saving grace. The beer and grease combo lulled my dining companions well past the point of contentment until our pizzas actually arrived. Crisis averted. And I wasn't the only one with this face-saving idea; looking around the grandparents' basement-esque dining room, I saw one of these adult pacifiers on almost every table in the place.