All the pizza you can eat -- and more

January 06, 2000|By David Richardson and Cameron Barry | David Richardson and Cameron Barry,Special to the Sun

Pisa Pizza Buffet is run with the precision of an Army platoon, and indeed, one member of the staff informed us, two of the owners are "ex-military." We have no doubt they kept their troops in line.

Pisa Pizza, open just three weeks when we visited, is clean and organized, and there is no slacking, which is important when you serve 25 different kinds of pizza at $3.99 for all you can eat ($2.99 for kids). No, we're not kidding. If you have children, and pizza is one of the food groups they acknowledge, run, do not walk, to this place.

We tried at least 15 types of pizza. The crusts, true to their Little Italy, bread-baking roots, are fresh and crisp, pleasantly toasty and brown, not at all like the many pizza-chain and frozen cardboard-textured disks. (Co-owner Joseph Impallaria is from the Italian-bread bakery family.)

Along with pizza, Pisa serves calzone, bread, salad, a pasta special and dessert -- dessert pizza, that is. As we chowed down, people glared at our apparent gluttony, but that's the price we have to pay to get the work done. And the pieces are small. In fact, tiny. Not that we're complaining. After all, you can eat as much as you like.

The pizzas are announced with fanfare as they are delivered to the buffet from the oven, which is good because it's hard to keep track.

We thought several were especially good, including plain (good crust, decent tomato sauce and just enough cheese), vegetarian (chopped tomato, green pepper, onion and broccoli) and Mexican (chopped lettuce, tomato, pepper, onion and cheese with very tangy hot sauce). There also are seafood (cheese and, well, seafood); Alfredo (cheese and "white" sauce), barbecue (meat and barbecue sauce), and aloha (ham and pineapple).

Isn't that enough for $3.99 ($5.48 with unlimited drink refills)? Well, if you're going cheap, you might as well act cheap: We want more! How about calzone, which we liked for its generously meat- and cheese-filled interior and superior crust? We also heard about a BLT version, but it never made an appearance. Something to anticipate next time?

But wait, there's more. The bread, no shocker here, is good with or without the garlic-cheese spread. Bread rounds are also made into little pizzas, in case you haven't had enough.

Diners at adjacent tables couldn't believe we had room to try the night's pasta special -- ziti with red sauce. (They must have thought we hadn't eaten in months.) The red sauce tasted suspiciously like pizza sauce, which we don't care for on our pasta, but you can skip that and not go hungry.

We refreshed our palates with salad from the salad bar. It consists of a large bowl of chopped lettuce with cabbage and carrots and a selection of dressings.

Of that dessert pizza, there's usually a selection of three. We tried the butterscotch, apple pie and s'more styles. Needless to say, we were full.

Pisa Pizza is decorated with large televisions scattered around the dining area. It also has a game room with numerous video games (none violent), plus air hockey, arcade-style games and a video-ski contraption.

The owners have also devised a clever way to divide the restaurant up to create party rooms. Garage-type doors lower for privacy and soundproofing, and you can show your own video on the overhead television during the party.

There's also a drive-through window for picking up pizza. Pisa Pizza won't deliver unless you're ordering 10 pies or more.

Pisa Pizza Buffet

2135 York Road, Timonium


Hours: Open daily for lunch and dinner

Credit cards: Accepted only for parties in the party rooms or for large deliveries

Prices: $3.99 for all-you-can-eat buffet. $2.99 for kids under 10. Kids 3 and under are free. $1.49 for drinks and unlimited refills

Food: **

Service: ***

Atmosphere: ***

Ratings system: Outstanding: ****; Good ***; Fair or uneven **; Poor *

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