A plate of tortellini topped with meat sauce, peas and mushrooms from Gino's Cafe in Shillington

Review: Gino’s Cafe

A view of the front window of Gino's Cafe from the parking lot

In October 2017,  we made a visit to Gino’s Grille just outside Shillington. The restaurant had just opened two months prior, giving Gino’s a second restaurant. The original – Gino’s Cafe – continued to operate a few blocks away.

(Editor’s Note: Gino’s Grille is now closed. Viva Mexico now occupies the spot).

Despite what appeared to be creating its own competition, Gino’s Cafe is still going strong. A few weeks ago, we made our first visit to the flagship restaurant in Gino’s portfolio.

Unlike Gino’s Grille which sits right along Lancaster Pike, the Cafe is located off the main drag in a strip mall on Broad Street, across the street from Geoff Penske Buick GMC.

Tables along a wall decorated with generic images of Italy at Gino's Cafe in Shillington

Taking up just one storefront in the strip, Gino’s certainly doesn’t have the largest dining room in Berks County but the tables are packed in, and they needed everyone of them when we visited on a recent Saturday night. We arrived early – Julie, Jakob and I. It was around 4:30, and the Cafe was already busy. It only got busier. By the time we left, there wasn’t a seat left.

Our waitress arrived fairly quickly to take our orders and we had our salads within 10 minutes of sitting down.

A salad plate with lettuce, red onion, cucumber, two cherry tomatoes and a disposable cup of ranch dressing from Gino's Cafe in Shillington

The salads are simple with lettuce, some tomatoes, a slice of cucumber and red onion that was sliced paper thin. It wasn’t anything special, but it served its purpose.

We had a much longer wait after the salads. Twenty minutes went past and instead of food being delivered to our table, we received a basket of garlic bread that we assume was meant to be delivered with the salad, if not before. “I think this is for your table,” I heard our waitress say.

A basket of thin-sliced garlic bread from Gino's Cafe in Shillington

In the cramped confines of the Cafe, the waitresses had nowhere to hide their frustration – and sometimes, confusion. We were seated in the first row of tables, right in front of the counter and the soda fountain where drinks were refilled. I heard the waitresses trying to figure out who should take the next table that arrived. I heard confusion in the take-out area about order numbers.

It’s the type of confusion and controlled chaos that probably happens at a lot of places. But here, with no place to hide, I could see and hear it all unfolding in front of me.

The good news is that our meals were delivered right after the bread. I should also note that the garlic bread was very good. The bread was sliced thin and every piece was very buttery with just enough garlic to give it a nice flavor. I could have eaten them as a snack.

For my entree selection, I had a hard time deciding. For a small restaurant, the menu is disproportionately large. There are more than 25 options in the pasta section of the menu, and that doesn’t include another 25 or so dinners that are served with pasta on the side (not to mention the subs, burgers, pizza, salads and wraps).

A plate of tortellini topped with meat sauce, peas and mushrooms from Gino's Cafe in Shillington

Eventually I settled on the “Chef Tortellini” which had tortellini pasta with Bolognese sauce, peas and mushrooms. I always enjoy tortellini, and I’ve had it plenty of times before on the blog, but I’ve never had it with Bolognese.

I enjoyed the combination of the tortellini with the flavorful meat sauce. I thought it went very well together. The Bolognese had a nice, meaty flavor to it. But I didn’t think the mushrooms and peas added much to the overall dish. I certainly didn’t mind them being there, but neither flavor really stood out against the strong sauce.

It was also a heavy dish. I had to take half of it home with me when the meal was done.

A plate of baked ziti topped with mozzarella cheese from Gino's Cafe in Shillington

The same was true for Julie with her baked ziti. It was your typical baked ziti with a sweet marinara sauce topped with mozzarella. The addition of a little ricotta cheese gave the dish a bit of creaminess and a little different texture from other baked ziti dishes we’ve tried. It was very good, but like my own, half of it came home with us at the end of the meal.

Gino’s has a decent kids menu, mostly pasta with a few sandwiches thrown in (and pizza, of course). We ordered Jakob the kids’ ravioli. The pockets of pasta were smothered in a mound of mozzarella cheese. The full-size raviolis were good, but Jakob probably would have been happy just eating all that cheese.

A mound of mozzarella covers an order of kids lasagna at Gino's Cafe in Shillington

(At one point I gave him one of my tortellini and he kept asking for more of my food instead of eating his own).

Our final bill at the end of the night was right around $40. It’s a fair price, especially for the hearty portions. And other than the garlic bread arriving late to the party, our service was good. What I saw and heard just seemed like the staff wasn’t exactly working like a well-oiled machine, at least during our visit.

Still, we found Gino’s worth a visit. Maybe next time I’ll request a table by the window, at the far end of the dining room, away from the commotion.

BCE Rating
Food: Good
Service: Good
Ambiance: Good
Price: Reasonable

Ginos’ Cafe
400 W. Broad St
Shillington, PA 19607

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bowl of baked ziti

Review: Calabria Italian Restaurant

sign that reads "calabria restaurant home made food"

There’s always an anticipation around a new restaurant opening. Sometimes there’s a lot of hype; sometimes there’s only a little. But there’s always people who are anxious to try it and anxious to taste it.

When the restaurant is reopening, that anticipation is even greater. A loyal customer base is waiting to return. And the longer the wait, it seems, the larger that customer base becomes as word spreads.

Calabria Italian Restaurant built up two-and-a-half years of anticipation for its reopening.

Exterior of Calabria Restaurant in Wernersville highlighting the stone facade

In December 2015, a fire broke out in the restaurant. It seemed like a small fire and that clean up and repairs wouldn’t take too long.

But days turned to weeks, weeks turned to months, and months turned to years. Instead of repairing the building, it had to be torn down and rebuilt from scratch. Driving between Wernersville and Robesonia on Route 422, we could watch the painfully slow progress that was being made.

In late April of this year, we drove past and for the first time in 29 months, the parking lot was filled with customers and not construction equipment. Calabria was back.

black tables and chairs with white linens in the dining room of Calabria

Fast forward to June, and we paid our first ever visit to Calabria. Despite growing up in Robesonia, I had never stepped foot in the old Calabria. I remember the building looking more like a dive, but the rebuilt restaurant is a thing of beauty. The outside is clean and modern with large curved windows and a hint of Old World in the brick facade.

a TV on a stone wall above a fireplace at Calabria

Inside, the bar and dining area are much nicer than I would have imagined. The black tablecloths with white disposable covers make it feel like a premium dining experience. While the blue uplighting at the ceiling and around the bar make it feel cool.

Julie, Jakob and I were joined by our friends Matt and Tori. Matt is a lifetime resident of Wernersville, and like me, had never eaten at the old Calabria.

It was a Wednesday evening, and the parking lot was packed. We didn’t have reservations, but we only had to wait a minute or two for a table to be cleared before we were seated.

basket of garlic bread

Our meals started with a basket of garlic bread, complimentary with the purchase of an entree. The bread was sliced small so the slices were easily snackable. Though not toasted to a total crisp, there was plenty of garlic and butter flavor throughout. We ate through them quickly and almost finished the entire second basket that came during our dinner.

basic salad with cucumbers and tomatoes and a cup of ranch dressing

Entrees were also served with a simple house salad or Caesar. The house salad came with mixed greens, two large slices of tomato and cucumber – the usual. It was topped with shredded mozzarella, a nice touch, and served with your choice of dressing. There were no complaints at all from the table about the salads.

Our entrees arrived relatively quickly. Each of us ordered a different Italian pasta dinner. For me, it was the tortellini in vodka sauce.

tortellini in a vodka sauce topped with herbs and cheese

Vodka sauce (a creamy tomato sauce infused with vodka) is not something that I normally order when I dine out, but it caught my eye and I had to give it a try.

It was a good dish. The tortellini (I choose meat instead of cheese) was small so it looked like I ate more than I actually did. The sauce was good and very creamy. There wasn’t a lot of herbiness to it, but it was still a good dish, overall.

baked ziti covered in melted mozzarella

Julie ordered her favorite Italian meal: baked ziti. This was different than most versions of the dish that she has tried. Normally, it’s a lot of the traditional red sauce with cheese on top. This version was cheesier with a mix of red sauce and ricotta that gave it a different texture and a slightly different flavor.

It was a good change of pace, something that definitely stood out. She wouldn’t call it her favorite version, but it was good.

manicotti stuffed with cheese and covered in red sauce

Matt’s manicotti was loaded with both ricotta and red sauce. The oversized stuffed pasta was a hit. I got to try a bite. I thought the red sauce was good, nothing outstanding, but the dish overall was good.

chicken cutlet topped with red sauce and cheese on a plate with fettucine with red sauce

Tori also enjoyed her chicken Parmesan. There was more than enough chicken – plenty of it went home – and the rest of the plate was filled with pasta. As far as our party was concerned, we had four meals, and four winners.

For Julie and I, our total bill came to about $35, average for what a similar meal would cost at Italian restaurants across Berks County.

I have to say, Calabria made a great first impression on us. The food was very good. The service was great. And the building, itself, just seemed to enhance the experience.

And judging by the parking lot every time we drive past, it’s made a good impression on a lot of others, too.

BCE Rating
Food: Very Good
Service: Great
Ambiance: Great
Value: Reasonable

Calabria Italian Restaurant
6646 Penn Ave
Wernersville, PA 19565

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Review: Sophia’s Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria

Sophia's Restaurant & Pizzeria is located in a former gas station just east of Reading, Pa.

Every October, Berks County Eats celebrates #NationalPizzaMonth by enjoying as many of our region’s best pizza places as possible.

I look forward to it every year, but I also dread it. Not because I expect to find bad pizza. On the contrary. I dread it because there will be at least one restaurant that impresses me so much that I wish we had enjoyed a full meal.

That’s what we found on our recent visit to Sophia’s Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria in St. Lawerence.

Sophia’s gets great reviews online for everything, but we tempered expectations before arriving. I mean, the location is a former gas station. It’s not like there was a legacy of culinary excellence before Sophia’s arrived.

The exterior gives away the building’s history. The large glass windows are unmistakably gas station.

Inside Sophia's Restaurant & Pizzeria, Reading, PA.

Inside, it’s a completely different story. The left half of the building has been transformed into a take-out counter and kitchen. The right half is a surprisingly spacious seating area dotted with more tables than I would have thought could fit inside the building. (And it’s much cleaner than any gas station I have ever seen).

The owners obviously put a lot of time and effort into transforming the space. Sitting down at a booth along the wall, it didn’t feel like a converted space. It felt like a nice Italian restaurant.

It was a busy Friday night, and while the booths were mostly full, there was still plenty of seating at the tables in the center of the room. A few other couples had arrived just before us so there was a brief wait before our waitress stopped at the table. On the plus side, we had plenty of time to decide what we wanted so we could place our food and drink orders at the same time.

Guests can choose from a menu of 17 pizzas (plus Stromboli, subs, paninis, Italian dinners and more), and it was a tough choice for me as I debated in my head, finally deciding on a personal-sized grandma pizza.

Grandma Pizza from Sophia's Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria, Reading, PA.

Grandma pizza is one of my favorites though it’s not available at every pizza place in the county. Sophia’s version features garlic, mozzarella cheese, black pepper, dried hot pepper and a light tomato sauce. When done right, it’s everything that’s great about pizza but in better proportions.

And this was done right.

The sauce was delicious, and every bite with it was sweet and delightful. Those bites without the sauce were like eating the best garlic bread. And every now and then, the red pepper snuck up and surprised me.

I was really impressed and very happy with my decision.

The Spanako pizza from Sophia's Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria, Reading, Pa.

For her 10-inch pie, Julie went with the spanako, a white pizza with distinct Greek influences. It included your basic white pizza ingredients: mozzarella cheese, garlic, spinach and tomato. But what took this to another level was the last two toppings: feta cheese and Kalamata olive.

I’m used to white pizza with ricotta, but the feta was a great choice. The softer cheese gives the pie a different texture than the mozzarella.

We were both a little skeptical about the olives. Neither of us are a fan of the more familiar black olives that are used on pizza. But the Kalamata olives were on a different level. They burst with a mild vinegar flavor that brought the whole dish together. I still wouldn’t order black olives on a pizza, but we both agree that we would get this again.

Of course I can never go out for pizza and not order a side. Wanting something that worked as both an appetizer and a snack, I ordered the Old Bay fries.

Old Bay fries from Sophia's Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria, Reading, Pa.

They are exactly what they sound like – fresh cut (I had the option of fresh cut or “regular”) fries loaded with Old Bay. The fries arrived about 15 minutes before the pizzas so I had to restrain myself from eating the entire basket. It wasn’t easy because the fries were super addictive. They may have had little too much Old Bay, but I’d rather that than not enough.

Side salad from Sophia's Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria, Reading, Pa.

Julie also needed a little something to hold her over until our pizzas, but she was more health conscious than I was and ordered a side salad. It was nothing exciting – just lettuce, cucumber and tomato with a packet of Ken’s ranch dressing – but it hit the spot.

Garlic bread from Sophia's Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria, Reading, PA.

On top of everything else, our waitress also dropped off a basket of garlic bread. I would love to talk about them, but I can’t. While they looked great, and we wanted to eat them, we decided to abstain knowing the pizza was yet to come. So we brought them home with us, but we have not, as of this writing, had a chance to eat them yet.

Large inflatable Halloween decoration guards the entrance of Sophia's in Mt Penn
Can you tell it was October?

Along with the garlic bread, we also brought home three slices of pizza and a little less than half of the fries. So for our $26, we each got more than a couple meals.

Those meals were impressive, too. Sophia’s delivered in a way that we did not expect.

It’s not going to be hard to go back again, but it’s going to be hard to not get the same thing again next time.

BCE Rating
Food: Very Good
Service: Good
Ambiance: Very Good
Price: Reasonable

Sophia’s Restaurant & Pizzeria
3150 St. Lawrence Ave
Reading, PA 19606

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Review: Sebastiano’s Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria

illuminated sign above a small door reads "Sebastiano's"

You could divide all of the restaurants in Berks County into two categories: those that strive to attract out-of-towners and those that cater to the locals.

My goal with Berks County Eats is to find the best of both. And one place that kept popping up as a local favorite is Sebastiano’s in Reiffton, a small Italian restaurant in a strip mall along Perkiomen Avenue.

I had heard good things about Sebastiano’s, but had also heard about the limited parking and seating. The parking lot was almost full when we arrived, but there was spaces.

There were no tables, however, but thankfully there was only one other group ahead of us. Because of the lack of space, there’s no hostess stand. Instead, a clipboard hung on the wall with a sign above that said “sign in.”

This was a first.

wall with a sign that says "Sebastiano's" and a gallery of assorted family photos

It honestly didn’t take long to be seated, only a few minutes before we were sat at one of about 15 tables.

Sebastiano’s could not fit another table in the room as space was tight between myself and the gentleman sitting at the table behind me.

Our waitress took our orders and offered us either a cup of soup or the salad bar with our meals. We both went salad bar (New Year’s resolutions).

salad bar with lettuce and various toppings

Salad bars feel like they belong more in a diner than an Italian restaurant, but I rolled with it. There was a nice selection, not overwhelming that included all the standards plus a few surprises like roasted red peppers.

While Julie and I worked through our salads, our waitress dropped off our garlic bread – six small slices of an Italian roll (the Conshohocken Italian Bakery boxes gave away the source). One of the slices was a little burnt, but the rest were good.

basket of garlic bread from Sebastiano's

Our wait to be seated hadn’t been long, but the wait for our food felt like an eternity for two hungry eaters. It was about 45 minutes from the time that we ordered until our entrees arrived.

In that time, we watched several tables empty and fill up and countless people come through to pick up their takeout orders. (Our waitress had stopped by once to top off our drinks).

When they did arrive, they were piping hot (a relief because for a brief moment we were afraid our dinners were just sitting on a table in the back waiting for someone to find them).

white bowl with rigatoni topped with a light red meat sauce with mushrooms

For my entree, I chose rigatoni with sauce ala Sebastiano’s, a red sauce with ground beef, bacon, mushrooms and cream.

I liked it, but I think it would have been better with a little more bacon. Every bite with the bacon had a nice smoky flavor that I thought really added to the dish. Without it, it was good, but essentially a rosé sauce with a few add-ins.

two large meatballs in a small white dish from Sebastiano's

Not wanting to stop there, I had also ordered a side of Sebastiano’s “famous” meatballs. This was easily the best thing that either of us ate. The meatballs were well seasoned and cooked perfectly. I wouldn’t say they were the best that I have ever had, but I would definitely get them again.

yellow plate with a crock of eggplant topped with cheese aside a pile of angel hair pasta with red sauce

For her meal, Julie opted for eggplant Parmesan with angel hair pasta. The eggplant was very good and very tender. It was sliced lengthwise so as to create long slices and instead of smaller, rounder ones.

The red sauce, the same as what used on the meatballs, was good – better with a little Parmesan cheese.

One thing that I have to say, Sebastiano’s does not skimp on the portions. Our meals left no room for dessert, and we each took half of our dinners home with us. And our total bill was only $25.

Sebastiano’s definitely has a loyal following among locals. There were many times when the waitress or the counter workers stopped talked to customers like family. Customers greeted each other as long-time friends, too.

They were friendly to us as well and served us a good meal. It’s not high-end Italian, but that’s not really the point. It’s a local pizza place and Italian restaurant with good food.

And that’s all it needs to be.

BCE Rating
Food: Good
Service: Fair
Ambiance: Good
Price: Very Reasonable

Sebastiano’s Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria
3227 Perkiomen Ave
Reading, PA 19606

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Georgio’s Pizzeria – CLOSED

exterior of Georgio's Pizzeria in West Reading, PA

Editor’s Note: Georgio’s Pizza is now closed and has been replaced by a new restaurant, Michelangelo’s, which has a location in Downingtown, PA.

Last week, I asked my Facebook fans where to go for some great pizza to close out National Pizza Month 2016.

I got some great suggestions including Paradise by the Slice (visited in 2014) and Mama’s in Wyomissing (visited the Spring Township location last year).

And then there were some fervent supporters of Georgio’s Pizzeria in West Reading.

With an unseasonably warm weekend, a walk to West Reading sounded like a great idea.

Georgio’s sits on the corner of Fifth and Penn Avenues at the eastern end of West Reading’s busiest block.

This weekend, everyone had their outdoor seating open so after we placed our order at the counter, we grabbed a table on the sidewalk outside and waited for our lunch.

It didn’t take long for our two slices and garlic knots to be delivered.

slice of white pizza with tomato and broccoli from Georgio's

For my slice, I went with the Capri pizza. It’s a white pizza with one of my favorite topping combinations: ricotta and mozzarella cheeses with spinach, tomato, broccoli, red onion and basil.

I love ricotta on pizza and the cheese blend here was perfect. And I have never figured out why, but broccoli just goes perfect with white pizza. Add on some fresh tomatoes and just a hint of onion, and this was one good slice.

The crust was crispy from the second trip through the oven, but I was happy to have a cup of marinara sauce from our garlic knots to use for dipping.

garlic knots with tomato sauce for dipping

The garlic knots themselves had more garlic than any others that I have tried. The bottom of our aluminum foil was still lined with minced garlic when we were finished with our order of four.

I love garlic. If you don’t, I’d suggest finding another app or side.

stuffed cheesesteak pizza with a swirl of cheese whiz on top

Julie’s slice of stuffed cheesesteak pizza had a Philly flair to it with a yellow streak of Cheez Whiz across the top.

Inside, it was filled with lots of delicious steak meat and a little mozzarella.

a fork folds open the stuffed cheesesteak pizza slice to reveal the meat inside

With the stuffed pizza comes the thick, fancy crust. Unfortunately Julie left that behind.

Note: the pizza was not on our paper menu or on the website. In fact, there are no stuffed pizzas listed so this may have been a special for today.

Like all great pizzerias, Georgio’s was fast and reasonably priced. For two slices, four garlic knots and two Icy Teas, our total was just $14.

There are a lot of places to get a good pizza in West Reading, and Georgio’s is certainly near the top of the list.

And I’m definitely glad to our Facebook fans for the reminder.

A special thank-you to Facebook fans Paul Bender and Noralee Morales for the suggestion.

BCE Rating
Food: Very Good
Service: Very Good
Ambiance: Good
Price: Very Reasonable

Georgio’s Pizzeria
500 Penn Ave
West Reading, PA 19611

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Review: Romano’s Chicago Style Pizza & Grill

logo of Romano's Pizza & Grill in Reading, PA

October is National Pizza Month, and Berks County Eats is celebrating by visiting some of our area’s best pizzerias all month long.

Four years ago, I took my first trip to Chicago. It was a chance to enjoy another rich culinary scene, but more importantly, a chance to try some authentic deep dish pizza.

It’s a regional favorite that you just don’t find very often around here (we had an UNO Chicago Grill at one time, but that’s like saying we have authentic Tex-Mex food because we have a Moe’s Southwest Grill).

But a good deep dish pizza isn’t as hard to find as I thought. In fact, it’s the specialty of the house at Romano’s Chicago Style Pizza Grill.

Romano’s doesn’t have the best location in town. It sits on the corner of Lancaster Ave. and Grace St., south of the Bingaman St. Bridge, with no parking lot of its own. There are private parking lots all around it, but just a handful of spaces along the curb that are readily available for Romano’s customers.

On a rainy Tuesday night, that wasn’t a problem. We found a spot along Grace St. and rushed inside.

It was a slow night for Romano’s. Only the counter service area was lit up. The small dining room was shut down, the lights were out and the TV was turned off. But they fired everything back up for us so we had our own private dining area for the night.

Picture of the Brooklyn Bridge hangs on the wall of the dining area of Romano's in Reading

The decor is simple, just a couple of pictures hanging on the walls and a flat-screen in the corner. We made ourselves at home at one of the half-dozen tables in the room while we waited.

At the front counter, there were a few tired looking slices waiting to be claimed, but we ordered a whole pie so we knew ours would be fresh but would take time (25 minutes). To tie us over until it arrived, we ordered a few garlic knots to share.

aluminum foil pan with four garlic knots and a cup of marinara

The garlic knots were also sitting on the counter in a big bowl, but we were less concerned with the way they would heat up than the pizza. They turned out pretty well — maybe just a little chewy — but the flavor was good, especially with the marinara dipping sauce.

We ordered light on the appetizer because we knew we had a daunting meal ahead of us in the form of a 14″ Chicago deep dish pizza.

It was quite a sight to behold, a true pie with a tall crust, a thick layer of cheese, a light layer of tomato sauce and a dusting of Parmesan on top.

Deep dish Chicago-style pizza cut into six slices on a pizza tray

The pie was cut in six big slices. I grabbed my first slice and was surprised to find that I didn’t need a fork and knife. Instead, I was able to pick it up and eat it like any other pizza.

But this was not like any other pizza. The tomato sauce was sweeter; the cheese gooier. And the dusting of cheese on top added a nice saltiness to the dish and helped bring it all together.

When eating a more traditional pizza, I can usually force four slices if it’s good. This was great, but I could only manage two. It was too robust and filling to pack away any more. Julie struggled even more, making it through one-and-a-half slices before calling for a box.

We took what was left of our meal up to the front counter and had it packed up before moving on to the cash register to pay our bill. With two bottles of water thrown in, our bill was a little under $25, not a bad price considering the pizza could have comfortably fed four people.

Romano’s brought a fresh flavor to Reading when they opened for business in January. There are dozens of pizza places across the county, but only Romano’s is bringing the taste of Chicago to Berks County.

And it has certainly been a welcome addition.

BCE Rating
Food: Very Good
Service: Very Good
Ambiance: Fair
Price: Reasonable

Romano’s Chicago Style Pizza
501 Lancaster Ave
Reading, PA 19611

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Review: Tosco Pizza & Italian Restaurant

Lighted sign that reads "Tosco Pizza & Italian Restaurant"

When you see an Italian restaurant in a strip mall, it’s easy to dismiss it as just another pizza shop.

We have been conditioned to believe that sit down restaurants are found in stand-alone buildings while strip malls are nothing more than take-out counters, a place to grab dinner on the way home, not to pull up a chair and enjoy a nice meal.

But if you discount these restaurants all together, you are missing out.

When Tosco Pizza & Italian Restaurant opened up between Robesonia and Wernersville (it has a Wernersville address, but is barely outside the Robesonia borough limits), it looked to be just another pizza shop.

Prior to Tosco’s arrival in 2011, the space housed a Chinese restaurant, and before that, a sandwich shop. Both were standard, non-descript restaurants offering nothing but counter service.

mural on a wall depicting a coastal town in Italy in the 18th century

Tosco took a different approach. Renting out the adjacent space, the restaurant created a connected dining room.  Paintings of the Italian coast adorn the walls above the wooden booths. It’s a rustic feel throughout, except for out-of-place flat screen TV on the back wall.

In addition to pizza, the menu includes a wide range of pastas as well as wings, cheesesteaks, hot and cold sandwiches, burgers and an entire line-up of sandwiches served atop garlic bread.

basket of garlic knots

While garlic bread is reserved for sandwiches, each meal is served with a basket of fresh-baked garlic knots. These little beauties are exactly what they sound like: knots of dough that are slathered in butter and minced garlic. If only they were served with a side of marinara, I could make these delicious bites into a meal.

Catching my eye on the way in was the daily special, written on a chalkboard at the entrance to the dining room.

tri-color tortellini topped with a light red sauce

The tri-color cheese tortellini was tossed with chicken and rapini in a creamy tomato sauce. I tried to get a little bit of everything, but there wasn’t room on the fork for much more than the little pasta pockets. Still, the tortellini were small enough that the cheese filling did not overpower the pasta. As I dug in to the seemingly endless bowl, each bite was better than the last as the tortellini soaked up the rich flavors of the sauce.

Along with the garlic knots, each meal also comes with a starter salad. With as large as the bowl of pasta was, I almost wish they would skip the salad because the last thing I needed was something to fill up on before my tortellini arrived.

But if you are craving salad for dinner, Tosco’s specialty salads are perfectly sized for a hearty meal.

In the mood for something  “healthy,” Julie opted for a cheesesteak salad, one of nearly 20 salad options on the menu.

salad topped with steak meat and cheese

The base salad was similar to mine, a bed of lettuce topped with shredded carrots and ribbons of onions. The difference is the pile of shredded beef and melted American cheese on top, which turned this from an oversized appetizer into a legitimate main course.

With large menus comes a wide range of prices. Our meal came in around $25, but you can easily spend less if you are willing to split a large sandwich, or a little more if you are looking only at entrees.

If you were driving past Tosco, you probably wouldn’t even guess that entrees were an option. From the outside, it looks like a typical pizza and sandwich shop.

But looks can be deceiving. A strip mall is an unlikely place for a real Italian restaurant, but sometimes you find great things in unexpected places.

BCE Rating
Food: Good
Service: Good
Ambiance: Good
Price: Reasonable

Tosco Pizza & Italian Restaurant
6889 Penn Ave
Wernersville, PA 19565

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