I arrived early at the Fazoli's on Shallowford Road and took a booth in the sunlight. While I waited to meet with Director of Operations Ken Szostek, I glanced around the dining area, silently willing the breadstick lady over to my table. At the booth behind mine sat a woman in scrubs. At the table next to mine was a woman in a fur coat and heavy makeup. Across the room, a young mother fed her daughter bites of baked spaghetti. At the table next to her was of Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke.
A few minutes later, I saw - heard, rather - Ken walk in.
"Do we have any soup today?" his resonant voice called out from behind the counter.
"Well, we knew you were coming today, Ken!" answered one of his employees. Shortly afterward, Ken came around the corner carrying his lunch, a small pepperoni and onion pizza and a bowl of soup. During my last visit I learned that Ken is particularly fond of Fazoli's seasonal soups: chicken bowtie and Italian Wedding.
"What are you going to do when the soups offered?" I wanted to know.
"I just don't know," he said, smiling and shaking his head slowly. My guess is he'll quickly find a new favorite. Perhaps one of Fazoli's new Parmesan dishes.
For a limited time you too can try the three new dishes. There's chicken-basil Parmigiano, made with bow-tie pasta, creamy basil-infused sauce, crispy chicken, broccoli, bacon, and Parmesan cheese. The chicken Parmigiano is made with spaghetti, marinara sauce, crispy chicken, mozzarella and provolone cheese. And there's the chicken mushroom Parmigiano, made with fettuccine, Alfredo sauce, crispy chicken, mushrooms and Parmesan cheese.
Or, if Ken - or you - is in the mood for something lighter, Fazoli's Skinny Menu features dishes with 550 calories or less. There is a variety of pasta dishes and flatbread pizzas. I hear the chopped salads are quite good too.
"Hey, Ken! How are you?" a man's voice boomed from behind me. "I didn't know there were soups! I would have tried one if I'd known. I had the salad with chicken and cherries in it. It was very good," the man told us, referring to the cherry-apple-almond salad. The man, who was at Fazoli's with his wife, is an acquaintance of Ken's, I learned. Upon learning who I was, the man became even more enthusiastic.
"Me and my wife eat here twice a week," he said, excitedly. "I promise this isn't a setup. We didn't know you were from the paper. We just love eating here. Want to take down my name?"
I started to ask for the spelling but got distracted by the breadstick lady. "Breadstick?" she asked, pausing at our table.
Fazoli's seasonal and limited-time promotions may keep the menu new and exciting, but the soft, buttery breadsticks are one familiar flavor on which you can always rely.
LOCATIONS: 3016 Battlefield Parkway, Fort Oglethorpe, Ga.; 4550 N. Lee Highway, Cleveland, Tenn.; and 2332 Shallowford Village Drive
PHONE: Fort Oglethorpe at 706-861-7989, Cleveland at 423-339-2822 and East Brainerd at 499- 5155
HOURS: Sunday-Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday-Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.