Show off your holiday lights and you could win an iPad! Enter your photo by December 13. Winner will be selected by popular vote.
The chefs could work on some basic dishes, but pull off many others quite well.
SAM DEAN | The Roanoke Times
Picaso's Italian Grill in downtown Roanoke.
SAM DEAN | The Roanoke Times
Picaso's Italian Grill in downtown Roanoke features Italian fare, such as spaghetti.
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
When I reviewed Picaso’s Italian Grill the first time in 2004, the small restaurant was tucked among the shops at Lakeside Plaza in Salem. Owner Richard Bong later moved his restaurant to Plantation Road, but since November 2011, Picaso’s has been located at its new digs next to Awful Arthur’s Seafood Company on Campbell Avenue in downtown Roanoke.
The simple style, spare decor and immaculate cleanliness of the interior evoke a similarity to the original restaurant. For the most part, the menu sticks to the dishes Picaso’s became known for at the previous locations.
The five-page, fold-out menu categorizes different courses and dishes, many of which are typical of casual pizzeria food. These include routine appetizers such as garlic bread with cheese, mozzarella sticks, fried calamari and bruschetta. There are baked pasta dishes, spaghetti offerings, meat or vegetable Parmigiana, an assortment of subs and several different pizzas. The latter are highlights of Picaso’s kitchen. An array of calzones and strombolis are listed, also.
Six dinner specials are reminiscent of 1950s Italian restaurant dishes that remain popular today. They include chicken prepared in the styles of piccata , saltimbocca and Marsala . Two additional retro dishes — shrimp scampi and steak with grilled shrimp — are also listed . A children’s menu and desserts, including delicious cheesecake and tiramisu, conclude the menu.
For lunch, I took great pleasure in devouring a plateful of exceptionally tender, perfectly fried calamari rings served with a side dish of marinara sauce ($6.50). These rings were so perfectly prepared they did not need the dip . I followed this with a casserole of large, round, plump cheese ravioli ($8.95) with chewy, sometimes hard edges, smothered in an unseasoned tomato sauce and topped with melted mozzarella cheese .
We each followed this with a slice of thin-crust cheese and pepperoni pizza. The bendy crusts complemented the toppings, but the surprise was that one slice had much more cheese on top than the other.
My partner was disappointed with his entree on two counts . The plateful of mushy, overcooked spaghetti contained fat links of cold Italian sausage. However, when the server became aware of this, he quickly brought a plateful of hot sausages.
The side salad of fresh, crunchy lettuce with a paper-thin half-slice of fresh tomato was topped with a delicious vinaigrette that was good enough for bread dipping. It proved to be a satisfying old favorite combination.
On another occasion, homemade lasagna described on the menu as “layer upon layer of pasta and ground beef topped with plain tomato sauce and melted cheese” was not what I received. The lasagna, served to me in an au gratin casserole dish, was put together willy-nilly. A thick topping of melted mozzarella harbored a few small, broken noodle pieces and two clumps of beef.
Another guest really liked the veal Parmigiana and pasta ($11.95) served in separate casseroles. One dish featured a tender breaded veal cutlet while the other contained the accompanying baked pasta . He described these dishes as “quite good” and appreciated that the food did not run together on a single plate. Chicken piccata ($11.95) received rave reviews for its tenderness and flavorful sauce.
Not to be picky, but …
A restaurant’s popularity depends largely on the chefs’ skill . It takes little time to prepare a pot of appropriately seasoned tomato sauce, which would enhance the offerings. The chefs in Picaso’s kitchen require instruction on constructing dishes that will live up to the menu’s descriptions.
The bottom line
Service is fast and prices are reasonable at Picaso’s. By selecting carefully from the menu, it is possible to enjoy a filling American-Italian meal without spending a fortune.
Weather JournalWarmth next 2 days hits icy wall