I loves me some pizza, as the kids like to say on the Facebook. So I was all about checking out the new Gavino's Pizzeria in Bearden. The Grub Spouse and I pulled in on a recent weeknight with our eyes on a pie and more.
The dining room, a mixture of tables and booths, was moderately busy that night but seemed more than adequately staffed by no fewer than three servers. The Spouse and I slid into a booth for two and dove right into the menu.
The Spouse was tempted by the hero sandwiches, which feature main ingredients like meatballs, sausage and eggplant. The Spouse got the grilled chicken hero, made with roasted peppers, fresh mozzarella and vinaigrette dressing. I thought the sandwich was pretty decent thanks to tender chicken chunks, fresh bread and a nice balsamic accent. It was a hefty sandwich, ingredients bursting from the bun.
I focused on pizza, however. Specialty pies include Grandma's Pizza (sauce and cheese only on thin crust) and Grandpa's Pizza (the same but on a thicker crust). There are also margherita, white and Buffalo chicken variations. All specialty pies are served as a whole pie (eight or nine slices) and by the slice.
Elsewhere, you can get the Neapolitan pizza (round, regular crust) or the Sicilian (rectangular, thick crust). Again, your choice is to get a whole pie or by the slice.
Based on our server's description of the slices as being "huge," I decided to try one slice of Sicilian pizza, adding mushroom and onions as my toppings, and a slice of another specialty, the stuffed meat pie, which comes with Italian sausage, pepperoni, ham and mozzarella between two pieces of dough. No sauce.
My slices came out a few minutes later, but it was nearly 15 more minutes before the hero sandwich was delivered. Our choice was for me to let my food get cold or let The Spouse watch me chow down. Meanwhile, our server made multiple apologies but also did not hesitate to throw the kitchen staff under the bus when it came to assigning blame. In her own words, the kitchen was "disorganized."
As for the food itself, both slices were smaller than I feel were advertised, but the meat pie was both tasty and satisfying. The single Sicilian slice, however, was dry and crusty. I understand that single slices often have to sit out awaiting a quick order, but even in this case, the toppings were skimpy. And we paid $1.50 to add two toppings to just this one $2.75 slice.
Speaking of prices, I feel that Gavino's is steep all around. Regular and specialty pies start at $15.95, and it costs $3 just to add one topping to a whole pizza. You can custom-make your own by adding three to five toppings for around $24, or pay as much as $31.95 for a whole meat pie.
Incidentally, the menu mentions four different kinds of dessert, but only cannolis were available that night. However, my main issue is with the service. In cases like ours, a free dessert or a comped item or even a free meal should have been a customer-service no-brainer. But no such offer was extended to us. We were only served excuses from the kitchen and verbal apologies.
And it wasn't just us. A friend of mine happened to be dining there that night as well, with a different server, and he later shared the same tale of woe when it came to the service.
I guess a combination of inconsistent food, high prices and indifferent service left Gavino's tasting a little flat.
Food: 3.5 stars (out of five)
Address: 5211 Kingston Pike
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays Beer and wine service only Kids' menu
Bottom Line: This new Italian eatery and pizzeria serves a wide range of classic Italian dishes.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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