We trooped in to Gianni Mazia’s past dads waiting for pizzas, to our table set for seven: five children, mostly teenagers, and two adults. It’s a family place that starts with a bright, high-ceilinged front room with a small bar, then a dining area leading to more rooms in the back. ¶ When you’re settled in with a big table of juvenile malcontents, looking at the broccoli zombie and other crayon pictures taped to the wall, it seems homestyle indeed. ¶ The menu reads standard red-sauce Italian, pasta, pizza, sandwiches and salads, with a few unusual pitches. There’s pizza from the wood-fired brick oven, 12-inch rounds with thin, handsomely scorched bases and crispy edges ($12.95 and up), as well as a “famous ranchburger” ($5.75), a hamburger-cheeseburger combo with special sauce.
We were there for pizza and pasta, though. We ordered stuffed peppers ($7.95) and an antipasto salad ($10.95 large) to increase the total vegetable intake, as though it would make up for the carbfest we had planned, starting with a half-loaf of garlic bread with mozzarella ($2.50).
We asked for two wood-fired pizzas, the pesto provolone ($13.75) and the Desperate Housewife ($16.74), which is listed under traditional pizzas, with grilled chicken, hot peppers and spinach. When our server asked if we wanted it wood-fired too, I said yes.
For pastas, we wanted gnocchi parm ($10.95), “Tony’s homemade” lasagna ($12.95) and the variety pasta, including manicotti, ravioli and tortellini ($11.95).
The antipasto was a generous helping of chopped salami and capicola, sliced provolone, green and California black olives and house-made croutons atop a bowl of iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and pepperoncini.
The stuffed peppers had been baked long enough to soften the chiles to fork-tenderness, giving them a wrinkly appearance. The stuffing had a higher breadcrumb content than many cheesier versions, but it was still tasty. The filling stayed put instead of leaking out, making them easier to eat.
Garlic bread was crusty Italian, toasty brown at the edges, covered with mozzarella and a pinch of oregano. It was served with a small bowl of semisweet tomato sauce.
Service was mainly attentive and responsive. Servers didn’t remove the first round of empty dishes before showing up with their hands full of pizzas, however, resulting in a bit of plate juggling.
The arrival of pizza added a cloud of basil aroma, courtesy of the pesto provolone that packed artichoke hearts and fresh tomatoes on the thin crust. The herbal flavor on the pesto-brushed crust stood out against mild provolone and meek tomatoes.
The Desperate Housewife pizza had peppers on half, as ordered. I thought the people who didn’t want zingy banana pepper rings on their slices lost out, as they added piquancy to the chicken and spinach combination. We could have gotten bigger helpings of traditional pizza for the price of the wood-fired versions, but we were happy with our choices.
The variety pasta was decent, with ricotta-stuffed manicotti and standard cheese-filled ravioli and tortellini, all covered in tomato sauce and melted mozzarella. The huge hunk of lasagna was enough to give four people a small helping of pasta, ground beef, cheese and sauce. The hunk’s downside was that it was lukewarm in the middle when it arrived at the table. Which stopped no one from eating it.
The gnocchi parm also needed more time in the oven. The pillowy dumplings were tender and hearty, under a layer of tomato sauce. But the cheese melted onto it was not browned at all, which is an outlier for Buffalo-style “parmed” dishes.
For dessert, there’s an ice cream stand outside called Lou-Lu’s open May to September. But it was raining, so we asked for fried Oreos (2 for $2.95) and fried dough ($3.95), because obviously we needed more starch.
The Oreos, wrapped in a thin sheet of pizza dough and fried, weren’t as decadent a treat as the batter-coated versions.
The fried dough, though, dusted with powdered sugar and cinnamon, had children making quiet pleasant noises until it was all gone. If I thought the spell could hold, I would have ordered a second batch for the ride home.
Gianni Mazia’s aims to make your family happy with tried-and-true classics, and in our case, it succeeded.
Satisfy your family’s need for homey Italian with pizzas and traditional red-sauce classics.
WHERE: 10325 Main St., Clarence (759-2803, giannimazias.com)
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
PRICE RANGE: Appetizers and salads, $1.95 - $10.95; pizzas, $9.70 - $24.49; pastas, $9.95 - $12.95.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes.