* Where: Stevarino's Italian Eatery and Pub, 238 S. Cedar Avenue, South Pittsburg, Tenn.
* Phone: 423-837-5420.
* Website: www.stevarinos.com.
* Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday.
* Price range: $5 (kids spaghetti)-$19 (large chicken alfredo pizza).
Sometimes a small drive can make a big difference. The quiet charm of South Pittsburg, Tenn., about 30 minutes west of Chattanooga, shines in the quaint downtown off Interstate 24. Nestled among the stores and offices along the main drag is Stevarino's Italian Eatery and Pub. It might not impress the die-hard foodie, but Stevarino's wins over patrons with a huge menu, large food portions and just plain good food.
After cracking open the menu, diners can all agree on one thing very quickly. There's a lot to choose from at Stevarino's. Whether you're in the mood for salads, hoagies, pizza, pasta or seafood, there are enough options to please everyone in your party. Highlights include the Chicken Parmesan Hoagie ($7), Parmesan Encrusted Tilapia ($11), Eggplant Rollatini ($13), Baked Lasagna ($10) and Taco Pizza (small $9), as well as daily lunch and dinner specials.
Even with lots of options, I was drawn to a dish that's always a favorite for me. I had to try Stevarino's Cajun Pasta ($14) to see how it stacked up against other restaurants' dishes I've tried in the past. Served with andouille sausage, blackened chicken, blackened shrimp and ziti pasta, all tossed in a creamy sauce, the Cajun Pasta doesn't disappoint. The dish is incredibly creamy with just the right kick of spices to heat up the dish.
My wife chose the Prime Rib Hoagie ($8), which consisted of slow-roasted prime rib and caramelized peppers and onions baked together with provolone cheese. The high point of the dish, she said, was undoubtedly Stevarino's homemade hoagie bread.
Adding a salad for a small fee as an appetizer, the dinner portions left us full. But, if you're like us, the waitress's recommendation of Mascarpone Cheesecake ($4) couldn't be ignored. We had to order it to go. The sweet, spongy cake topped with powered sugar was delightful. The taste was less cheesecake and more lemon square, but nonetheless the light consistency definitely makes it a dish worth recommending.
Upon our arrival on a Monday evening, we were greeted by our server and shown to our table immediately. Our server was prompt with our drinks and refills. When my wife inquired about the Chicken Pot Pie special ($10), it was refreshing that our server was more than happy to offer to bring a sample of the dish. The restaurant was moderately busy for a weekday, with guests mixed between the bar and dining room.
The decor at Stevarino's is a blend of a sports bar and a sit-down restaurant. There's a large piano and music area up front, along with guitars on the walls and sports memorabilia throughout. White butcher paper and crayons adorn the tables for children to draw. A cross between the elegant and the contemporary makes for a welcoming atmosphere.
Take a short drive and and enjoy South Pittsburg's picturesque downtown. While you're there, you can take in a football game or visit the Lodge Factory Store or one of the many unique businesses downtown. And plan enough time to stop and try Stevarino's. With a second location in Scottsboro, Ala., the Italian eatery has created a buzz for itself in two states.
Contact Patrick Smith at FindIt@ChattanoogaNow.com or 423-757-6281.