The chicken rustica pizza impressed us with the amount of toppings and the quality — a medium pizza was loaded with fresh spinach, roma tomatoes, chicken, basil, feta and mozzarella cheeses and an olive oil and garlic sauce offered just enough flavor without overwhelming them. Chicken al pesto pasta was another success, a hearty bowl with a decadent sauce plus sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, grilled chicken and romano cheese. But it’s definitely too rich and large for one.
Nonna’s eggplant included two halves of an eggplant stuffed with Italian sausage, mushrooms and romano cheese baked in the coal-fired oven and served with a size of pasta. While we liked this dish, it didn’t wow us because it was salty and could have used a little more cheese on the top and more time in the oven.
We hope Russo’s finds its way to our neighborhood.
Russo’s Coal Fired Italian Kitchen, 14910 Pines Blvd., Pembroke Pines; 954-431-1131; www.russorestaurants.com; antipasti & salads $4.95-$10.95; pizzas $13.95-$22.95; sandwiches & calzones $8.95-$10.95; pastas $9.95-$12.95; entrees $12.95-$18.95.
In the strip shopping center next to IKEA, Giovanni’s Coal Fire Pizza is a step above your average neighborhood place. Its high ceilings, brick accents on the walls and an open kitchen are inviting. The multiple flat screen TVs, large bar area and two-for-one beer and wine specials all day make this a good spot for watching a game.
The focus on promotions and specials aims to attract a neighborhood and family-oriented crowd. You’ll find nightly deals such as $19.95 lasagna for two every Saturday, plus a wide selection of lunch specials for $5.99 to $8.95. There’s a mix of salads, roasted chicken wings, pizzas and traditional Italian homestyle favorites like shrimp scampi, chicken marsala and cheese ravioli. The menu includes a reminder that coal-fired pizza doesn’t include burnt edges.
Based on what we sampled, we would rule Giovanni’s a mixed bag, with pizzas the star. Momma’s homemade meatballs with ricotta cheese pizza was the best thing we tried and worth a return trip. Chicken ala vodka pizza lacked flavor and we couldn’t find any of the promised pancetta.
Baked ziti was loaded with cheese and a large enough portion for sharing, but it wasn’t anything we couldn’t easily duplicate at home. The best part was the giant meatball, worth the extra charge. We sent back a specialty of chicken Milanese because the chicken breast was greasy.
An extra charge for bread with entrees and a generic brand of fountain sodas is disappointing for a place trying to cultivate a loyal following.
Giovanni’s Coal Fire Pizza, 165 NW 136th Ave., Sunrise; 954-835-1499; www.giovanniscoalfirepizza.com; Starters $5.50-$15.95; salads $9.95-$11.95; pizzas $10.95-$19.95; pastas & entrees $9.95-$14.95.