Making the Grade: On the Road to LaGrange, Georgia

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PHOTOS BY MIKE WALLACE

By STACEY
PATTON WALLACE

August 1996 — I was about to begin my seventh year of teaching in LaGrange, Georgia, at a new school. However, I dearly loved teaching at Lee’s Crossing Middle School, my home away from home for six years and didn’t want to leave it. Unfortunately, I had no choice. The Troup County School System, for which I taught, was consolidating with the then LaGrange City School System. Lee’s Crossing was to become an elementary school, so I chose to teach at the newly constructed Long Cane Middle School.

At the time, I was in a very dark place and was being treated for depression. Also, my first year at Long Cane Middle School turned out to be the most difficult one of my 30-year teaching career. Many times, I wanted to quit; however, God didn’t want me to give up and helped me through the year. In addition, my wonderful, Christian friend Mary Jo Trask was my team leader that year, and her loving support kept me from walking out the door as well.

And God had a wonderful surprise in store for me that year: Shelly Burns, a 23-year-old first-year teacher who moved into the apartment beneath me in LaGrange. Shelly was from Tell City, Indiana, and had just graduated from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana; she was a voice major. Eager to leave the cold of the Midwest, Shelly accepted an offer to teach Pre-K through fifth grade music at Unity Elementary School in LaGrange.

 While her parents were helping her move into her apartment, I did what any correctly-raised Southern woman would do: I introduced myself and welcomed her to Georgia.

 Later that evening, I was going out to supper with my good friend Ashley Kuehl, who also taught at Long Cane Middle School. I told Ashley about meeting Shelly. She said, “Well, let’s go and ask her to eat out with us,” so we turned around and invited her to dine with us. The rest, as they say, is history. An old cliché but an apt one.

Shelly and I became great friends (as she also did with Ashley), even though I was 10 years older than she. In fact, when she wore her hair in a ponytail, she looked about 18 instead of 23.

Now, when I was a senior in high school, Shelly was in the second grade; therefore, we wouldn’t have been friends then, even if we had lived in the same city. However, when you are adults, 10 years don’t really matter. Friendship is ageless; I’m 59, and I’m blessed with friends whose ages range from their 20s to their 90s. It’s great how that works.

I introduced Shelly to Southern culture, and she taught me about the Midwest. For example, Shelly once said, “It gets so cold in Indiana, your nose hairs freeze.” That blew this Alabama girl’s mind. I pray that I am NEVER that cold. And that’s reason number 235 that I live in the South.

A while back, I met Shelly to celebrate her birthday. We chose to eat at Milano’s Pizza and Italian Grill. My husband and I frequently dined at Milano’s when we lived in LaGrange; it was our favorite restaurant in the area. Adam and Katina, the owners of Milano’s, obviously love their restaurant, and it shows. Mike and I loved talking to them whenever we ate there.

When I finally arrived at Milano’s, Shelly had been there a while. Unfortunately, punctuality is a weak area for me, but Shelly understands and loves me only as a true friend can.

Shanna, our waitress, was sweet, helpful and patient. She brought us fresh breadsticks and warm marinara sauce. As usual, they were delicious. Warming the marinara really adds to the taste, in my opinion.

Shelly chose the homemade lasagna for her entrée. I selected the souvlaki chicken wrap with onion rings. Oh, my two times. Only eating this amazing food slowed down our conversation just a little bit.

For dessert, we enjoyed the birthday cake I brought from the Kroger bakery at Tiger Town. Their bakery department always gets an A+ from me.

Milano’s Pizza and Italian Grill has a great selection of appetizers, salads and sandwiches.

In addition, the restaurant’s Italian classics are AMAZING. Besides Shelly’s delectable homemade lasagna, diners may choose from a large selection of dishes, some of which include:

Italian spaghetti with meat sauce, manicotti, penne with spinach and tomato shrimp, chicken parmesan and shrimp scampi.

Milano’s also offers classic dinners, some of which include: chopped sirloin, chicken strips, shishkabob, Greek-style chicken and Italian grilled sausage. All Italian classics and dinners are served with a garden salad and bread. Diners may upgrade to a Greek salad for $1.99; Mike and I always did this.

Milano’s also serves wings, calzones and pizzas. And believe me, you don’t want to miss those pizzas. Last, you don’t want to miss out on Milano’s awesome desserts. Their cakes and cheesecakes have to be eaten to be believed. Oh, my three times.

Milano’s is a terrific family-owned restaurant with a lot of fabulous food. It’s DEFINITELY worth the drive up I-85 North. Shelly, this review was for you. Love you bunches!

Milano’s is closed on Sunday. The restaurant is open on Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Eastern. (10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Central)

Milano’s Pizza and Italian Grill makes the grade with an A+ from this retired English teacher. Remember, “Pooh-sized” people NEVER lie about food. Enjoy!

Stacey Patton Wallace, who retired from teaching language arts for 30 years, is a professional diner. Her column, “Making the Grade,” will appear each week in The Observer. Stacey may be reached at retiredlangartsteacher2020@gmail.com

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