Every neighborhood needs a restaurant like Pie-Tanza, a great place for kids, grandparents and everyone else in the family, easy parking, reasonable prices and consistently good food.
That’s not to say Pie-Tanza is a place for destination dining or rivals the area’s top gourmet eateries. It does not, but that’s not its attraction, for Pie-Tanza’s varied menu, with its mostly Italian offerings, has something that will, or should, please anyone.
When the first Pie-Tanza opened some six years ago in Arlington (2503 B North Harrison St.), the big attraction was its immense wood-fired oven and the incredible thin-crust pizzas it produced. The first venue was such a success that the second in Falls Church opened several years later. The fledgling chain now has a third location in Charleston, S.C.
The initial lure of Pie-Tanza was its selection of pizzas. The lure is still there, and Pie-Tanza’s pizzas hold their own among those produced by the ever-growing number of local pizza places.
Favorites include the white pizza topped with olive oil, creamy fontina cheese, garlic (ask for extra), black pepper and herbs; caramelized onion and Gorgonzola with mozzarella, fontina, cracked black pepper and nutmeg; and the antipasto with prosciutto, salami, pepperoni, olives, mozzarella and fontina.
Or, if none of the combinations on the menu appeal, you can concoct your own, working with a list of some 35 toppings. You also can opt for a calzone, especially the filling but delicious classic Neapolitan filled with ricotta, diced ham, tomatoes, fresh basil, shredded Parmesan and sliced mozzarella cheeses.
For most of us, a pizza or calzone makes a meal, but Pie-Tanza’s menu is far more extensive, with a number of Italian specialties, both as appetizers and entrees, and sinful desserts.
Some of the appetizers are predictable — tomato and bread soup, fried calamari, bruschetta, strips of fried mozzarella — but for something more unusual, order the fried stuffed olives. These large green olives are stuffed with tomato and Gorgonzola cheese, then lightly breaded and fried, dusted with Parmesan and served with tomato puree..
The entrees include a number of well-executed old favorites, especially the spaghetti and meatballs, a huge serving with plenty left to take home, the three-cheese baked ziti, and penne topped with a combination of hot and mild Italian sausage in a spicy sauce. Chicken Parmesan and a vegetable and a twice-baked meat lasagna round out the entree menu.
Looking for lighter fare? Turn to the list of meal-size salads. Caesar and an Italian chef salad are on the list, but some of the other combinations are far more enticing. The chicken and walnut salad, pieces of lettuce mixed with shreds of poached chicken breast, raisins, toasted walnuts, dressed with lemon juice and olive oil and topped with Parmesan, is a salad not to be missed, as is the Italian cobb with chicken, artichoke hearts, roasted red pepper, romaine lettuce and spinach, Kalamata olives and chopped egg.
The dessert list is replete with calorie-laden decadence. Try a double chocolate brownie sundae, an espresso soufflé sundae, or the espresso-laced tiramisu. Confronted with these and other waist-expanding choices, the trio of freshly stuffed mini cannolis provides a less-guilt-ridden alternative.