Pizza Time/Coral Springs
By Judith Stocks
Don't let the name mislead you into thinking this is your average slice joint. Sure, you can order a pie if that's what it takes to satisfy your tomato-and-cheese-loving taste buds, but the menu offers other treats that make it easy to pass up the pizza. Well, OK, sort of easy.
11504 W. Sample Road, Coral Springs
Cost: inexpensive to moderate
Credit cards: all major
Hours: lunch, dinner daily
Reservations: accepted for six or more
Bar: beer, wine
Sound level: moderate to noisy
Smoking: outdoors only
Children's facilities: boosters, high chairs
Wheelchair accessible: yes
What makes it tricky, besides regular and Sicilian pizza, is the lure of 10 or so specialty gourmet pies -- oversized creations with hefty price tags ($25.95-$39.95) that read more like dinner on a pizza. There's one topped with chicken marsala, one with lobster and spinach bisque and one with chicken, shiitakes and hollandaise. After much deliberation, we resisted, delving further into the menu and drinking in the delightful ambience.
But first we elbowed our way through the rather hectic front area (passing trays of to-die-for-looking panini on homemade peasant bread in a refrigerated case) until reaching a series of small grottolike areas, each with just enough tables to keep the experience intimate. Factor in hanging arbors blooming with silk florals, trickling fountains, soft rope lights, a parade of woven baskets, pretty Italian ceramics, and it was mere seconds before we were totally caught up in Italian restaurant nirvana -- with a little help from some promptly delivered aromatic garlic rolls. They're nicely dense, not too oily, not too garlicky, dusted with parmesan, popped fresh from the oven at regular intervals.
Only the arrival of our first appetizer was glacially slow -- but worth any wait. While $9.95 a pop might seem pricey for a stuffed fresh artichoke, it's warranted. I loved the Old World preparation -- garlic-infused bread crumbs laboriously stuffed between each prickly leaf, pleasantly flavored with chicken stock, cooked until each appendage of this edible thistle pulled out with perfect resistance. The tender leaves interspersed with flavorful crisp crumbs easily placed this in the best-artichoke-I-ever-ate category.
We shared five jumbo shrimp in an entree of shrimp francaise ($16) as a first course -- savoring each delicately egg-battered, ideally sauteed shrimp and scooping up the lemon, butter and white wine sauce with gusto. That light touch with sauces extended to rigatoni alla vodka ($13.50), a toss of sauteed shallots, butter, vodka, marinara and a splash of cream with commendably al dente pasta. Penne ai funghi selvaggi ($14.50), slightly richer with components of shiitake and portobellos in demi-glace with pecorino cheese, is an absolute must for mushroom lovers.
So is chicken marsala ($15.25), large pieces of beautifully sauteed boneless chicken breast, with a few delicious twists. First, the sauce isn't overpowered by too much wine. Instead, it's a mellow melange of thickly sliced fresh mushrooms, sauteed onions and chopped prosciutto.
I also liked the simplicity of veal pizzaiola ($15.25), large portions of veal soft enough to cut with a fork, carefully sauteed and combined with marinara sauce infused with fragrant fresh basil. For an extra treat, order a side of excellent house-made Italian sweet sausage ($4.50), preferable over light, airy meatballs ($4.50) that didn't give the same satisfying chew as the really meaty kind.
Finish with a frothy cappuccino, iced or regular ($4), and don't miss the outrageous homemade blueberry cheesecake ($5). One bite and the ultra-creamy ingredients dissolve together in rich confectionary bliss, capped off by a cooked blueberry topping that isn't too sweet. Tiramisu ($5) and cannolis ($4) are also good, but the cheesecake steals the show at this cozy neighborhood trattoria that adds up to a rare treat in anybody's ZIP code.