Armed with a budget of $25 for dinner for two, I headed for Zio, a half-jog off Providence Road in Myers Park.
Before I hopped in the car, I hopped on the Internet to get an idea of Zio's prices.
My first tip: If you're on a budget, don't walk into a place without knowing how much it costs. With prices from $2.95-$12.95, Zio looked like a safe bet.
Our meal started with complimentary hunks of crusty bread paired with a naturally sweet roasted tomato pesto. We drank water with lemon. If you're watching the pennies, soda is not your friend. Tea and fountain drinks can run $1.50 and up.
We were pleasantly full after the bread and pesto but still ordered Italian sausage pizza ($10.75) and rigatoni Abbruzzi ($9.50).
The 14-inch New York-style pie, which had a generous but not excessive amount of cheese, sauce and thin disks of sausage.
I appreciated the simplicity of the rigatoni with its Italian sausage, roasted peppers, tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella. Once we mixed in the julienned basil that came atop the pasta, the entrée sang.