Dining review: Burbank's Prizzi's is food with a mom-and-pop heart

According to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, independent restaurants are struggling. Since the start of the recession, American consumers increased their patronage of larger chain restaurants and decreased the number of meals at mom-and-pop businesses, forcing more than 7,000 independent eateries to close since fall of 2008. One can only speculate on the reasons for this, but I think most people would agree it’s a shame.

Happily, some maverick independent restaurants actually expanded. Take Prizzi’s, for example. This six-table pizza joint in Hollywood’s Franklin Village recently moved to a larger space in Burbank’s Media District. All signs point to success because they’ve got the right formula: a restaurant with a mom-and-pop heart but a big-business mentality.

At Prizzi’s you’ll find comforting Italian food at reasonable prices in a space that’s bustling enough to feel like a hot spot but not so loud it precludes business dealings.

Phrases like “green-lighted” and “network promo” drift by one’s ears just as the scents of garlic and lemon waft under one’s nose. The big, noisy, square room mimics the rectangular plates laden with gutsy pastas and colorful salads that travel to and fro in the hands of white-shirted waiters.

The lunch specials are popular with crowds of co-workers. The quality of food is close to executive level, but at middle-management prices. For a mere $7 to $11, items like chicken pesto panini and skirt steak sandwiches come with your choice of a peppery verdure mista salad or a side of undeniably addictive garlic Parmesan fries. The pizza combo even includes a beverage. Pizza slices come topped with pepperoni or vegetables and sport a well-balanced homemade sauce and a thin crust reminiscent of ciabatta.

To sample Prizzi’s claim to fame, their Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, you’ll have to spring for the whole mountain-bike tire-sized pie ($17 and up). Adam’s Special is particularly awe-inspiring with its ground sausage, pepperoni, tomatoes and fresh garlic.

The dinner menu is significantly more expensive, but is worth checking out. The penne al forno ($17) is baked in a ceramic skillet and harbors flavors of earthy mushroom, sweet onion and grilled chicken. Like the pizza, this dish is covered in a tangy secret cheese blend. Is there Fontina? Pecorino? Definitely there’s Parmesan and gooey mozzarella. But the award for best use of Parmesan has to go to the kale salad ($6 and $10). Like a plate of Easter grass, the curly kale, cut chiffonade-style, is evenly coated with a spicy lemon vinaigrette then piled high and dusted with finely grated cheese. Tiny cubes of pistachio add crunchy, nutty interest. An order of this and Prizzi’s fabulous pane all’aglio (garlic sticks) could be all you need.

The service at Prizzi’s is adequate — not overly accommodating, but speedy. The food presentation is always pleasing. Low-calorie and low-carb options are available. They have a full bar and an intriguing wine and beer list. Plus they have nightly Happy Hour specials and no corkage fee on Mondays if you b.y.o.b. Parking is easy and free with validation in the Disney Channel building lot.

LISA DUPUY has written about food, travel and entertainment for over 25 years. She can be reached at LDupuy@aol.com.

What: Prizzi’s

Where: 3821 W. Riverside Dr., Burbank

When: Monday to Thursday, 11:30 a.m. - 10 p.m.; Friday, 11:30 a.m. - 12 a.m.; Saturday, 4:30 p.m. - 12 a.m.; Sunday, 4 p.m. - 9 p.m.

Prices: Lunch specials $7 to $11, pizzas $12 to $27, pastas and meat entrees $14 to $29.

Contact: (818) 641-5900; www.prizzis.com

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