A homemade pasta and pizza specialist continues to do what has made it a neighborhood favorite for three decades
I thought I'd move past all the new year hoopla by visiting someplace old that brazenly flaunts an old-school bent, too: Enrico's Pizza & Restaurant. Here's how old-school Enrico's is: The only beer offered on tap is Bud Light, and it's $8.50 a pitcher.
Tucked away in the inevitable suburban strip mall, Enrico's — which has been in the homemade pasta and pizza business for 30 years — is the kind of idiosyncratic, family-run establishment that seems to be getting more rare by the day. Good thing a steady stream of Dublin-area locals keeps the little place routinely bustling.
Patrons picking up food to go often outnumber those dining in, but tables can still be hard to come by, especially on expect-a-wait weekends. Customers who choose to eat inside are treated to an ambience as unremarkable as it is unforgettable.
They'll be greeted by sometimes visible whiffs of smoke from hard-working ovens. Then, they'll get an up-close-and-personal view of the hard-working staff in the busy, informal open kitchen of a multigenerational mom-and-pop operation. Diners can also glance at wood-paneled walls decorated with faded travelogue posters and photographs of Italy that look like they might've been around since the restaurant opened in the 1980s.
Enrico's Dinner Salad ($3.45) looks like it's from the '80s, too. It's a visually drab assembly of mostly iceberg lettuce salvaged by a bright and perfectly salty house vinaigrette. Diners with an appetite for nostalgia will enjoy the salad, which is included in any pasta dinner order along with a small, warm loaf of sesame-seeded bread from Auddino's Italian Bakery.
That duo makes a fitting preamble to the Homemade Lasagna ($13.50). Unlike lasagnas that revel in meat and cheese, this dish showcases silky-yet-firm sheets of pasta lightly accented with ground beef and gooey cheese. The modest-sized portion is livened by an ample dousing of simple house tomato sauce that's oil-enriched yet just-tart.
A similar homey charm accompanies the deeply comforting if pricey Homemade Ravioli ($17). Four thick al dente dumplings shaped and sized like hand pies arrive ladled with red sauce and filled with either a ground beef or ricotta cheese blend. Both styles are good, and “FOMO” customers can opt for a half-and-half order.
The precisely named Homemade Spaghetti with One Meatball entree ($10.50) delivers comparable, old-fashioned pleasures: a large plate of properly cooked, thick and sturdy spaghetti; tomato sauce, and a straightforward, pliable meatball.
Nice as these classic Italian-American-style pastas are — they're even nicer with a bottle of Peroni Italian beer served in a frosted glass ($4.15) — Enrico's standout pizzas are the main reason for the shop's longevity.
Their distinct crust offers a hint of smoke, and it snaps with an audible crunch at the edge, which is medium-thick, golden-brown and recalls Italian grissini. Toward the center, the crust is pleasantly thin-and-crisp. Good sauce and cheese are applied generously, the latter arriving attractively browned in spots.
Two-topping pies are $14.35 for a medium (feeds about two people), and $17.25 for a large (feeds about four people). Along with the usual suspects, toppings include capicola, “cupped” and crisp pepperoni discs and slices of mild homemade sausage.
A plump link of seared homemade sausage lends distinction to the somewhat humble Homemade Sausage sandwich ($7.50). Also on the well-toasted Auddino's roll: plenty of house red sauce and loads of melted provolone cheese.
Although missing its hot peppers and rather meagerly assembled, my Hot Italian Sub ($7.25) — good toasted roll, capicola, pepperoni, salami, provolone, lettuce, tomato and house dressing — was above average. It isn't what will bring me back here; that would be the old-school pizzas, pastas and oddly endearing ambience.