December 13, 2012

Romio's Pizza and Pasta (Review)

Have you ever been to a restaurant, and after you finished eating your first instinct was to tell everyone you know exactly how much you loved it?  That's exactly how I felt after dining at Romio's Pizza and Pasta (8125 W. Fairview Ave, Boise, ID 83704 (208) 658-1550.)  
Fairview is where I always turn up when I'm being naughty.  I try to eat locally whenever I can, but sometimes I just cave under the desire for some fast food, and Fairview is home to two of my favorites--the superior inferior Mexican food of Taco Time, and the spicy, oily bites of heaven that are Popeye's Chicken--and each time I pass by Romio's, which sits almost evenly between them at the edge of a strip mall.  Truth be told, with their unassuming storefront, I was unlikely to stop in for something to eat.  Their location borders the entrance to the Town Square Mall, and there are many dining options everywhere you look.  Local chain Idaho Pizza Company make's Wife's favorite pizza.  Franchise or not, Mongolian Grill cries out to my primal urges of gluttony.  Prior to stepping into their doors, Romio's had one thing going for it.  A sign out front, one of those nasty black sandwich boards with neon letters.  "Boise's best gyro," it proclaimed.  This seemed like crazy talk.  After all, the issue was already settled.  But it sounded like a challenge worth accepting.  When Wife and I found ourselves in the area trying to wrap up our Christmas shopping for the kids, I finally bit.

The first thing that struck me when I walked inside was how nice the place was.  I expected it to be a bit more casual, but despite the two TVs in the corners--one showing predictable sports, the other C-Span--I felt like I could go on a date here.  Which isn't to say that I felt under-dressed in a t-shirt and jeans either.  Romio's perfectly straddles the line between the two worlds, and I like that.  A hand-decorated chalk board announced the specials, and we immediately keyed in on the "Beer of the Month."  They had both domestic and import BotM's, for $1.50 and $3.00, respectively.  Considering how stressful shopping can be, Wife was keen to give this a go.  We were quickly seated, and given a menu.  Oh, what a menu.

I wasn't expecting this many choices.  It is clear from the signage that Romio's has an identity crisis, not knowing if it is a Greek (gyros, hummus, dolmades, baklava) or Italian (pizza, spaghetti, mozzarella sticks, tiramisu) place, but since in my head I'd been preparing to compare it to the Gyro Shack, which sells nothing but gyros and variations on gyros, I was suddenly overwhelmed.  We quickly decided that Wife would have the Black Butte Porter and I would have Diet Dr. Pepper (hooray for another restaurant having a diet option besides cola,) but after that we just stared at the menu.  Would we share a personal pizza and an appetizer plate?  Would we get two different calzones?  In the end, I knew I had to go with what brought me in the door.  A gyro, and since their lunch specials extend to Saturday I was able to get it with a side salad.  Wife also bit on the lunch deal, getting the meatball parmesan with one of the day's two soups--lemon chicken with rice.  Our waitress was a bundle of energy, and always kept our drinks full.  Our first course arrived before we could blink.
Just a salad....or is it?
 The salad I ordered was just your simple side salad.  Tomatoes, cucumbers, mozzarella cheese, croutons, olives, and red cabbage covered a small pile of lettuce.  This wouldn't be notable if it weren't for the dressing.  In addition to the usual suspects, Romio's has a ginger vinaigrette.  It is fantastic.  Lick the bottom of the bowl fantastic.  Both subtle and immensely flavorful, it made every bite something to look forward to without being overpowering or (my worry) clashing with the cheese.  I loved it.   
Wife was also enamored with her soup.  She doesn't typically like chicken soups that choose rice over noodles--really, the only reason she ordered it here is because the other special was clam chowder, which I am allergic to--but she ate this one up quickly after I took my token "blogger bite."  Two things stand out about this soup.  The first is how hearty it is.  It's definitely real chicken that was cooked specifically for this soup, and Romio's either makes their own stock or buys the good stuff and knows how to dress it up.  The second thing is the lemon.  It balanced the richness of the other ingredients, keeping it just a bit light and fresh.

The rival gyro in it's native environment. 
 We'd barely finished round one when our sandwiches arrived.  (Actually a shame in this case, as we were trying to map out which presents we still needed to buy and where.)  In the closest thing to a negative I have to say in this entire review, the gyro itself was not quite as good as the one from Gyro Shack.  The soft pita was piled high with toppings, the gyro meat was tender and flavorful, it oozed tzatziki.  It was wonderful.  Unfortunately, Gyro Shack's gyros are wonderful and a half, with a more assertively flavored tzatziki and a crunch to the pita that I missed.  But this isn't even a complaint.  I still loved it.  And may I say yet again that Gyro Shack just makes gyros?  Because something would be wrong if they didn't do it better.  The important thing here, the thing that really stole the show, was the potato chips.  I don't like potato chips.  They bore me.  They are oily, over-salted, and useless.  Well, I guess what I'm trying to say is that Lays, Ruffles, and the like meet that description.  Romio's makes their own chips to order.  Crispy on the outside, but with the occasional soft patch in the middle hinting at baked potatoes, not oily at all, lightly seasoned....they were so good that when I finished my food I began to steal Wife's chips too.  While I don't care for bagged potato chips, I would drive all the way to Romio's just for these chips.
 And then there was the meatball parmesan.  When we ordered our food, the initial plan was to split the food 50-50.  Then Wife took one bite of the sub and shook her head.  She had claimed it.  I still got my bite, of course, and I could see why she did.  The meatballs were so tender and juicy, they put my pork meatballs to shame.  More importantly, they were served with melty cheese and flavorful marinara on good bread, and they were still the star of the show.  So many meatball sandwiches let the meat simply be a delivery vehicle for sauce, but that wasn't the case.

When it came time to be done, I really wanted to try the tiramisu for you readers.  (Yes, only for you.)  But I was stuffed.  Wife was stuffed.  We were both extremely satisfied.  I even signed up for the rewards card, which I never do.  We're definitely going back soon, it's only been five days and I'm surprised we haven't been back already.  I can see myself going broke off of this place.  There is still so much more to try--pizza, pasta, dolmades (stuffed grape leaves,) and of course the tiramisu.  When the only negative I can find about a place is that one of the things I ate there was merely fantastic and not "the best I've ever had," you know I'll be back.

Romio's Pizza & Pasta on Urbanspoon

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