A restaurant called Italia. Brings up a lot of memories in my life, since the time I was a child. Long before the Fairview Center was what it is now it was still a bustling shopping center but was much different in design and stores when I was growing up. Instead of OSH you had Builder’s Emporium. Instead of places like the Santa Barbara Chicken Ranch and Panda Express you had the great steakhouse called Jasper’s Saloon and Anna’s Fairview Bakery as well as Penguin’s frozen yogurt. Vons was still Vons as well as Radio Shack but there was also TG&Y, Captain Video, Fairview Auto Parts and later Tempo Music and Video long before there was Bed, Bath and Beyond. And then there was a pizzeria right between Radio Shack and Jasper’s called Italia Pizzeria.
At the time, it had rivals all over town in Rusty’s, Straw Hat, Domino’s, Petrini’s (which later became Luigi’s Pizza) and even for a time Pizza Hut (a delivery outlet location more than a full sit down restaurant) but Italia still made the best pizza in town until the Center was remodeled fully into what it was today in early 2000’s and Italia was gone. Over time, I tried to find a pizza as good as Italia’s with the distinct flavor and taste that those pizza’s had. Even went as far as Papa John’s in Ventura and while it was outstanding, it was never the same. Then, about 15-18 months ago in a flash and with almost no rumored announcement…Italia returned! Now called Italia Pizza and Pasta in that same Fairview Center where it originally made its name the place returned to the location where it once made its name.
I remember the first time I saw it. A few friends of mine were in Fairview on a weekend back then looking for something to eat. Saw Panda, saw Chicken Ranch and then saw Italia and did a double take. I thought when first seeing it open (they hadn’t even gone through their grand opening at the time) I remembered the pizza I ate from there when I was younger that once was and thought, “maybe, they brought back the pizza I used to know.” They were under new management and many of the employees didn’t have the memory I had of the old place. Plus they had a more expanded menu then the Italia of the past (they do pasta as well of course).
I guess my first commentary on the food has to start with the star of the show: the pizza. And it truly shines. They are made to order of course and the pizzas are hand tossed. In fact, you can actually watch the employees show off their hand tossing skills right in the restaurant behind the counter! I usually get my favorite from them: Pepperoni, Italian Sausage and American Bacon. It always comes out great. They use just enough sauce and cheese to not let one dominate the other on the pizza pie. The ingredients are very fresh and their recipe has changed slightly in terms of toppings arrangement on the pizza over the time they’ve been open but it’s always been excellent all the same.
There’s also a lot of variety with their pizzas as they have not just the create your own option but also specialty pizzas. Many of them themed off of local themes. The pizza’s range in price from $8.95 for a mini cheese pizza to $21.45 for a three topping extra large pizza. Calzone’s are also available.
I’ve also sampled the pastas. Their pastas are reasonably good as well for the price you pay. With other Pizza and Pasta places around town (Petrini’s and Gina’s) they rank number 2 behind Petrini’s but that’s not a slight. Because while Petrini’s does have the better pasta (at least for lasagna, eggplant parmesan and fettuccine dishes) you do pay a premium money-wise to get better from Petrini’s. The Lasagna, eggplant parmesan and fettuccine dishes at Italia are better in the sense that for the money you spend you do get good quality food with prices ranging from $8.95 (for lunch) and $11.99 for dinner. They also have really good garlic and garlic cheese bread price at $3.25 and $4.25. About the only thing I’ve tried from them I didn’t like was the mozzarella sticks. I’ve had good mozzarella sticks (from Presto Pasta) and with Presto Pasta’s you can tell they are hand-made, made to order and extremely good. These came right out of a box of mozzarella sticks you get at a grocery store.
So final word for Italia, for the money you spend you aren’t going to find many Italian food places better. The pizza is top notch and the pastas are good as well and you can’t forget the garlic bread and garlic cheese bread. That’s where this place really hits the spot. To compare it to the old place, the pizza compares to the original Italia Pizzaria and the new place doesn’t let the old down at all based on the legacy it had for pizza. Also, the pasta is actually better too. This is Kris Palmer signing off and until next time I am out!