Food & Drink

Italia Eatery a less-than-stellar experience

Italia Eatery

3419 Toringdon Way, Suite 100. 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; until 10 p.m. Saturday, closed Sunday. Prices: $2.75 (garlic bread with marinara sauce) to $16.50 (16-inch three-topping pizza). Credit cards accepted. No web site. 704-543-0098.

Like every restaurant I visit, I hoped Italia Eatery would have great food and reasonable prices. I suppose one out of two is better than nothing. I came in under my $25 budget, but the pizza and calzone we tried were anything but memorable.

Italia is off Toringdon Way in a Ballantyne-area strip mall. I could take the full measure of the dining room because on the Tuesday evening we visited, there was only one other customer. Italia is quick-casual – you order at the counter and someone brings the food to the table. Given that the pizzas and calzones are made to order, the wait (less than 15 minutes) wasn't bad.

I'll say this for Italia: The menu is extensive. There are seven categories, each with at least five choices. The mussels and marinara ($9.95), Italian sub ($6.95) and Caprese pizza ($12.25 for a small; $16.50 for a large) caught my eye. But I figure what makes (or breaks) a pizza joint is how the place pulls off a simple cheese pizza.

Italia's pies are New York in style, so when I picked up the first slice, I figured it would droop a little, forcing me to fold the slice inward. This wasn't the case. The slice stuck straight out, stiff as a board. The crust had no definite flavor and was more crunchy than crisp. The sauce was plain. For kicks, I got pepperoni on one half, and that jazzed the things up a bit.

The kitchen was generous about stuffing toppings into the calzone. If you opt for one of these, select toppings (artichoke hearts, anchovies and sausage are good picks) that are strong in flavor. I chose grilled chicken, pepperoni and mushrooms and the only thing I truly tasted was the pepperoni.

The one good thing about Italia is you can get out without spending a whole lot. With tax and tip, the bill came in at $23.15