Where: 422 Main St., Avoca
Credit cards? Yes
Handicapped accessible? Yes
Menu highlights: Pasta is plentiful and done right. And you can do it on a budget. A ravioli carbonara ($10.95) was as easy on the eyes as on the palate. Carbonara, for newbies, generally involves a rich — and, yeah, heavily guilt-inducing — cream sauce that includes diced bacon or ham, and we all know everything is better with bacon. No exception here. But choosing ravioli as the centerpiece pasta is something you don’t see every day. We’re used to spaghetti carbonara or tortellini carbonara, but ravioli carbonara? Not so much. It works though.
From the sandwich section, a sausage sub ($6.50) was a standout, with major props for the homemade sausage, alive with fennel. We had ours with the works — American cheese, hot peppers and sweet peppers — and ooh la la, or whatever the Italian equivalent of that is. This is a can’t-go-wrong creation, and the bun gets bonus points for freshness, too.
And if it’s more of a main plate you seek, more of a main plate you also can get. Try a traditional chicken parmigiana for $11.99. Oddly enough, if you order it over pasta, the noodles are free. If you order the pasta on the side, you pay extra. Just as oddly, our taster went with the free option then took pains to explain why it would have been better to order the pasta on the side. Apparently he believes chicken sitting on the bed of noodles loses its crispness and tends to get soggy, something he’ll note for next time. Other than that, no complaints. And he had this to say: Measure an Italian restaurant by how it handles a classic chicken parmigiana. If it can’t do this …
Other offerings: Pizza is large and in charge here. By large, we mean we ordered a medium ($8.99), and it came in at a size most places, with straight faces, call large. Pretty much your basic round pie here, but the proportions — cheese to sauce and such — are perfect. The sauce has a hint of sweetness and the whole thing just a touch of the sloppiness we appreciate.
Outside the basics box, pizzas can get pretty darn creative here. Artisan, if you will. We couldn’t resist ordering up the most unusual one on the menu, and that would be a Macaroni and Cheese Pizza ($13), with broccoli or bacon. We paid 80 cents times two to have each choice on half the pie, and it was a good, though also guilty, decision. Or, we should say, at least the bacon was. The broccoli certainly mitigated the unchecked wealth of oozing cheese on this baby. You’ll get cheese on your pizza, of course, but then you’ll get cheese on your macaroni as well. And the cheese on the latter is completely separate from the cheese on the former, making for a festival of contrasting cheeses that’s quite delicious. Just plan to go hungry. And ask for boxes. Special note: On reheats, this fun pizza was even more phenomenal. We’ll assume the flavors had time to practice their teamwork.
Service: Friendly but curious. And what does that mean? Our server was sweet and kind but didn’t seem to know the menu. She asked us what macaroni-and-cheese pizza was. Oh well, no deal-breaker, we suppose.
Overall impression: Lovely place, outside and in. Well-maintained, well-decorated and spotlessly clean. And you will not, we repeat, break your bank. The food is fairly and manageably priced, and the atmosphere is great for families. We’d go again. In a heartbeat. Especially if we haven’t eaten all day. See above.