Who needs a smile when food is decent?

TAKEOUT

August 25, 2004|By Tom Waldron | Tom Waldron,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

For many years, Pepe's Pizza has been a reliable North Baltimore area eatery for all kinds - working men and women, professionals, high-school students and Little League teams.

The pizza is solid, if not spectacular, the cheese steaks are a marvel, and the cooks know what they are doing with the rest of the menu.

On a recent lunchtime visit, the parking lot at the corner of Falls Road and Lake Avenue was packed. Inside Pepe's, a half-dozen ceiling fans turned lazily, while several staffers scurried around behind the counter.

It must be said that Pepe's is not a warm and cuddly place. You want smiles, go to Disneyland; you want a meatball sub, with a side of snarl, try Pepe's.

Our order was ready quickly and, hey, who needs a thank-you for dropping in to buy lunch anyway?

As for the food, it wasn't bad.

A small cheese pizza ($8.90) had medium-thick crust and plenty of cheese. We weren't crazy about the cheese that Pepe's uses, but others might love it.

A fried-chicken platter ($7.95) had four well-cooked, meaty pieces, with a side order of slaw. We asked especially for the curly fries on the side, remembering how good they had been on a previous visit. This time, unfortunately, they were a bit on the stale side.

A tuna sub ($5.75) was a neatly wrapped package of basic tuna salad, enveloped in a fresh roll. And the aforementioned cheese steak ($5.75) was simply devoured by the official cheese-steak taster, leaving only telltale traces of ketchup and fried onions on his lips.

From a short list of pasta dishes, we tried spaghetti with meatballs ($6.50), which was quite good, particularly the slightly sweet meatballs. The spinach pie ($7.50) was a flaky concoction of spinach and feta cheese, baked golden-brown. The small Greek salad that came with it included black olives and feta crumbs.

Pepe's has a good assortment of desserts (including a well-stocked ice cream novelty case). We opted for a piece of chocolate cake ($3) - layers of moist cake surrounded by even more moist, buttery chocolate icing.

Pepe's also serves breakfast.

Pepe's Pizza

Food: **1/2

Service: **

Waiting area: ***

Parking: ***

Where: 6081 Falls Road

Phone: 410-377-3287

Hours: 6 a.m. to midnight Monday through Saturday; 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday

Prices: Soups, salads, subs, sandwiches, pasta, pizza and entrees, from $2.25 to $18.45; no credit cards

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

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