Femme de Joie came late to the less-is-more approach to pizza. For years she enjoyed goopy pile-it-all-on combinations with pounds of cheese, layers of salty meats, a token mushroom to make it healthy, and thick bready crust. Heart attack on a pizza pan. Gradually her tastes changes and she now seeks out minimalist pizza – perfectly made thin crust with a smear of sauce, flecks of oregano, scatterlings of cheese, perhaps one or two other tidbits accenting but not obscuring the purity and simple goodness. That kind of pizza is pretty darn hard to find in Redding. But it turns out that Fasolini’s makes New York style pizza – the kind you can fold in half and walk with.
Llocated at the east end of that odd little breezeway between downtown Shasta College and Pine Street, Fasolini is facing an alley. Splashy with bright red paint, sharp black and white tiles, and racing car motifs, it’s clean, bright, and pleasant inside with tables and booths. Order and pay at the window; they’ll bring your food to you.
Fasolini’s has one of those serve-yourself all-you-can-eat lunch deals: pizza, salad, soft drink for $6.95, and it seems like a pretty good deal. The salad bar is fairly extensive for a pizza place, with not any too fresh iceberg lettuce and assorted toppings – beets, baby corn, peas, etc. with fresh chopped tomatoes, broccoli, cucumber, egg, and the standard dressings. On the day M. de Joie visited, there were 4 slices of sausage and pepperoni pizza left on the warmer. After taking one slice, she watched other patrons take the rest. By her watch it was 15 minutes before more pizza appeared – quite a wait considering there were numerous lunch deal customers staring at the warmer like coyotes circling a tethered sheep.
The sausage and pepperoni pizza had good flavor but was excessively salty. Bit floppy, too. There was a doughy taste to the crust, which explains the cooper’s droop. It needed to be baked longer.
Cheese pizza was the second to appear. It was much less salty, with sauce tasting of actual tomatoes and a pleasant herby oregano seasoning.
Fasolini’s serves sandwiches and pasta in addition to pizza, and the hot pastrami was surprisingly good, a smear of mustard on a crusty roll with hot juicy pastrami atop. Normally sandwiches come with a side of pasta salad, but this day they were out so it came with the salad bar.
Ziti with alfredo sauce and chicken was a special pasta of the day for $7.69, drink and salad bar included. Actually it should have been spaghetti with alfredo sauce, but Fasolini’s was out of spaghetti. The ziti was cooked perfectly and the diced chicken atop was excellent with a toasty browned crust and juicy interior. Unfortunately the alfredo sauce reminded M. de Joie of a deadful morning after back in the intemperate 1980s when she and a friend, nursing savage hangovers, made pasta for breakfast and poured much too much salt in it, rendering it virtually inedible.There was no other taste in this alfredo sauce but salt though there were visible flecks of red pepper and a sprinkling of grated cheese. M. de Joie gave up after half a portion.
Though there are noticable flaws in the cooking, Fasolini’s is on the right track. While not authentically New York, their pizza is good though it needs more baking time to firm up the crust. The pasta and chicken was cooked beautifully, as was the sandwich. But food is being sent out without anyone checking seasonings, and you could spend much of your lunch hour waiting for pizza to appear on the lunch special. A little more care in the kitchen could work wonders here.
Fasolini’s Pizza and Espresso, 1419 Market Street, Redding, CA 96001, (530) 243-8892. Open 7:00 am – 6:30 pm, Monday-Friday; also open Saturdays (but call first to check). Cards, no checks. Mall parking. Vegetarian and vegan options.
Femme de Joie’s first culinary masterpiece was at age 4, when she made the perfect fried bologna sandwich on white bread. Since then she has dined on horse Bourguignon in France, stir-fried eel in London, and mystery meat in her college cafeteria, but firmly draws the line at eating rattlesnake, peppermint and Hamburger Helper. She lives in Shasta County at her country estate, Butterscotch Acres West. She is nearly always hungry. Visit MenuPlease for more or send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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