Dennis Cassinelli: Chinese noodles in Nevada
Being from an Italian family, I’ve always been fond of pasta dishes. My nickname on the ranch where I grew up was “spaghetti.” As I traveled around Nevada extensively when working for the Nevada Department of Transportation, there were not many Italian restaurants to choose from in the smaller towns where I visited and often stayed. Sometimes the closest I could come to pasta was Chinese noodles from one of the many Chinese restaurants throughout the state.
Interesting enough, there has always been a substantial population of Asians, and Chinese in particular, in Nevada since the mid-1800s. These people were attracted to Nevada by the mining activity and later by the opportunities to work on the Central Pacific Railroad and on the Virginia and Truckee Railroad.
When the railroads were completed and mining activity waned, enterprising Chinese opened up restaurants and other businesses to earn a living. As I traveled the state, I was fortunate enough to find several of these restaurants to satisfy my taste for pasta, even if it was with Chinese noodles. A garnish of chopped green onions and a few dashes of soy sauce and a beer often made my day after working all day out in the desert. Most Nevada towns have Chinese restaurants, and I will tell about a few of them I have visited. There are as many different types of Chinese noodles as there are Chinese restaurants. I’ve seldom been disappointed at any of them.
In Tonopah, there was a Chinese restaurant where I often stopped for lunch next to the Tonopah Club. As I started to enter the place one day, the waste management truck pulled up to collect the garbage. The proprietor of the restaurant came running out with his trash cans while I waited on the sidewalk. When he passed by me, I asked him, “Are they picking up or delivering?” We both had a good laugh and I went inside for my Chinese noodles.
Las Vegas, where I often worked for weeks at a time, had more different Chinese restaurants than I can begin to describe, so I’m sure you can find an abundance of these places on your own if you ask around.
When I stayed in Fernley one year, there was an excellent Chinese buffet and another Chinese restaurant in a strip mall I often frequented. In Sparks when I was a kid, Mom and Dad often took me to the Chinese Pagoda, where I first took a liking to Chinese noodles. There are several new Chinese restaurants in Reno and Sparks I’ve not yet tried. Winnemucca has two Chinese restaurants, Ely has several, including an excellent Chinese buffet south of town.
While working on finishing a construction project in Carlin for resident engineer Albert Aguirre in the 1970s, I frequented a nice Chinese restaurant that served great Chinese noodles. A week or two later, when I returned to Carlin to finish the project, the restaurant was closed. When I asked Albert why the place wasn’t open, he told me there had been a murder involving a cleaver and family members and the place was unlikely to ever open again. For different reasons, all good things just seem to come to an end.
One thing I might add about Chinese noodles is the fact they’re made from rice flour and, therefore, are gluten-free, which is a concern to some members of my own family.
This article is by Dayton author and historian Dennis Cassinelli, who can be contacted on his blog at denniscassinelli.com. All Cassinelli’s books sold through this publication will be at a discount plus $3 for each shipment for postage and packaging.