When you work in downtown Erie, you’re always on the lookout for good places to eat within a (relatively) short distance. We give props to our neighboring restaurants on Briggs Street, but variety is the spice of life—and one needs the spice of variety.
So I was excited to try Pinocchio’s in Lafayette, just a short drive from our office, and one of four Pinocchio’s locations throughout the area. My husband met me there for dinner on a cold, snowy night, and we were glad for the warmth—both literal and figurative—of the ambience. The requisite red and white checkered tablecloths complimented butter-yellow walls and managed to feel cozy and homey with the addition of low lights, light music and kitschy trinkets, like
mismatched salt and pepper shakers on every table.
We took our time perusing the menu, which offers a wide array of Italian-American dishes, including pastas, meats, calzones, pizzas and toasted sandwiches. Our server was more than happy to make suggestions based on her favorites, showing an unbridled passion for the food. The wine list was not extensive, but we enjoyed our selections as our first course, a toasted ravioli appetizer, arrived. I was impressed with the rich flavor of the cheese filling, the perfect bite of the pasta and the gorgeous, slightly spicy sundried tomato cream sauce that accompanied.
Our salads arrived quickly. I opted for the spinach salad, which was elevated with a warm bacon dressing. My husband’s antipasto salad looked a little disappointing, with cubes of what looked like deli meat and shredded mozzarella, but he enjoyed it immensely, liking the presentation as a salad rather than a plate of nibbles. Curly twists of breadsticks—probably the same dough as their pizza dough—were a nice addition, chewy and warm.
My husband went with our server’s recommendation for his main course and ordered spaghetti with meatballs and spicy sausage—a good basic test of any Italian restaurant. The red sauce was fresh and flavorful and not too sweet, which can be the kiss of death. The meatballs were standard, but the spicy sausage was a delight, adding depth of flavor to the dish.
I chose something a bit more exotic, opting for the archobellino piatto, “unique to Pinocchio’s!” as proclaimed by the menu. The dish had a lovely light balsamic sauce over sautéed chicken, roasted red peppers and sundried tomatoes with radiatorre pasta. The pasta was perfectly al dente, another basic test on which Pinocchio’s scored well.
The portions for both dishes were huge, so we asked our extremely attentive server to box up our leftovers to save room for dessert. Pinocchio’s makes a great deal of their homemade desserts, but the Italian lemon cake we ordered underwhelmed. The glaze was pleasantly tart and fresh, but the cake itself seemed to lack flavor.
For a casual night out in Lafayette, Pinocchio’s fits the bill, feeling neither too fancy nor too much like a chain Italian eatery. We can’t wait to head back there for a hearty workday lunch.
Locations in Lafayette, Longmont, Brighton and Greeley
Bottom Line: Comfortable Italian-American fare.