Benevento Pizza Cafe on Freemans Bridge Road across from Lowes is a great place to get pizza or an impromptu sit-down lunch on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
We didn’t plan to go to Benevento, but ended up there after we discovered our original destination was closed. It turned out to be a serendipitous detour. The place has an extensive menu from which we sampled liberally, and the food is much better than I expected to find at a pizza place.
If you go, make sure you get some of their warm garlic bread — brown and crispy from the oven, redolent of fresh garlic, olive oil and butter. It was the best garlic bread we’ve tasted in a long time. Beverly asked about the bread and our server volunteered that they bake it fresh daily.
Benevento Pizza Cafe
WHERE: 80 Freemans Bridge Road, Glenville. 952-4101, www.beneventopizzeria.com
WHEN: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; noon-8 p.m. Sunday
OTHER INFO: All major credit cards accepted; delivery available for $1
A word about the cost of our meal. We chose to order more than we might ordinarily so that we could get a better idea about the quality of the food, but at least half of it went home in take-out cartons.
The menu features a pasta e fagioli, but they also had a soup of the day — a Chicken Tortellini (for $3.50) which called to us. Our instincts were good. It turned out to be a rich and savory chicken broth full of plump pasta, fresh vegetables and chunks of chicken, served with that heavenly garlic bread. (The soup and bread would make a great lunch, perhaps with one of the house salads.)
Beverly ordered the Antipasto Salad ($7.95), which was easily enough for two people — a generous assortment of crispy iceberg lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, black olives, red onions, roasted red peppers, Provolone, Cappicola, salami and pepperoni with the house Italian dressing on the side. At her request, our server also provided a side of the balsamic vinaigrette.
We chose two entrées, with Beverly selecting the Margherita pizza ($9.50), a 14-inch, six-cut pie adorned simply with tomato slices, mozzarella and fresh basil leaves.
It was a treat — the crust baked to a crispy golden brown, the fresh tomatoes and cheese baked together and then topped with the fresh basil for a classic and delicious combination. (We ate only a single slice each and took the rest home to our resident college student).
The pièce de résistance of our visit, in my view, was a dish under the Macaroni Dinners section of the menu that immediately got our attention. The Fried Macaroni ($9.95) consists of al dente rigatoni in a mild marinara sauce. The pasta is pan fried in olive oil and then topped with Romana cheese. It sounded both decadent and alluring and I promptly ordered it.
It’s not something I would eat on any kind of regular basis but as an indulgence, it was a guilty pleasure kind of dish, enhanced by the red pepper flakes we sprinkled over the top, and it arrived at the table with another hunk of that garlic bread.
It’s something you might expect chef Paula Deen to feature on her TV show or college students to order after a night of hard studying. We didn’t even put a dent in it at the cafe but it made a great lunch the following day.
Benevento is a small but pleasant operation, opened about a year and a half ago by Ross Grasso. There are six tables for dining in and a view of Lowes across the highway. While we were there, a couple of patrons came for takeout but otherwise we had the place to ourselves.
Just about anything you might expect to find at a pizza and sub shop is here — a variety of pizzas and specialty ones like Baked Rigatoni Pizza and Eggplant Parmigiana Pizza, with prices ranging from $8.95 for a six-cut to $28.99 for a 24-cut square sheet.
There are also cold subs, hot subs (including another collegian’s dream meal, a Pepperoni Sub with sauce and mozzarella for $7.50 and Nicholas’ Steak and Salad Sub for $7.95), tossed house salad, crispy chicken and grilled chicken salads (each for $7.95) and the usual selection of appetizers. (They include a “full order of garlic bread” with a side of sauce for $3 or, with cheese, $3.50).
You can also get crispy chicken wings here — in plain, garlic, Parmesan, mild, medium and hot, barbecue or Southwest rub, and boneless chicken wings with the same dressings. Benevento also offers combination deals — like 30 wings, a 24-cut cheese pizza and a two-liter soda for $36.95.
Our server, who turned out to be Benevento’s manager, Ken Kessler, was first-rate, equably answering all our questions and double-checking with us to make sure we had everything we wanted.
Our tab, for soup, antipasto, pizza, fried pasta and soft drinks came to $40.59 with tax and tip.
Like many places that specialize in takeout, Benevento doesn’t offer all the amenities for dine-in patrons. Expect to eat from paper or takeout containers with plastic utensils and paper napkins. The food is good enough that you won’t mind at all.