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, which brings me to my second tip: If you're watching the pennies, soda is not your friend. Tea and fountain drinks can run $1.50 and up. (But please don't be like a person I know who orders water and extra lemons so she can make her own lemonade using the sugar packets at the table.)
We were pleasantly full after the bread and pesto, but that didn't stop us from ordering Italian sausage pizza ($10.75) and Rigatoni Abbruzzi ($9.50).
Had we known the pizza was a 14-inch, eight slice deal, we'd have split it. I carted home half of the New York-style pie, which had a generous but not excessive amount of cheese, sauce and thin disks of sausage.
The rigatoni also was large enough to share. I appreciated the simplicity of this entree with its Italian sausage, roasted peppers, tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella. Once we mixed in the julienned basil that came atop the pasta, the entree truly sang.
Other entrees and appetizers that looked interesting were roasted pear salad ($7.95); angel hair pasta with meatballs ($7.95); stuffed eggplant Parmesan ($10.95); and sauteed spinach, artichoke and sun-dried tomato grilled pizza ($11.75).
Did I make budget? Almost. With tax and tip, our dinner for two cost $26.42.
Robin Domeier is owner of Nibbles Personal Chef: email@example.com
Tale of the tape
Italian sausage pizza: $10.75
Rigatoni Abbruzzi: $9.50