The Dish: Does Lunch

Saucy Lunch

Oct 3, 2002 at 2:06 pm

Pizza's not the most innovative thing you can find for lunch downtown but, thanks to Paradise Pizza (413 Vine St.), there's a higher-end choice if you need a break from what the chains dish up. Now in the space at the base of the Carew Tower once occupied by Schlotzky's Deli, Paradise opened in August. They're still working on some of the finer points, but it's a welcome addition to the lunch scene.

For those who frequented Schlotzky's, Paradise Pizza looks like the owners dug into their leftover Parrothead party decorations: There's a plastic palm tree and some bamboo roll-up shades, and from the ceiling hang a few fold-out pineapples and parrots. Otherwise, the masculine décor of the former deli — solid wooden chairs and tables, plus dark green and red accents with yellow walls and dark wood trim — is unchanged. It's pretty clear the new owners moved in and started pushing pizzas, pastas and subs without fussing over new decor. You still have to walk all the way to the back of the space to order. You get your own drinks and grab a table, then wait for your order to be delivered.

Based on my outing with two friends, Paradise Pizza has the basics working pretty well. We tried a standard: A personal pizza (9-inch with pepperoni and mushrooms, $4.95) which had tangy sausage and a rich red sauce on a nice chewy crust.

It was a good, filling portion for one person. (Paradise offers only one style of crust.)

We also sampled one of the six specialty pizzas: The Paradise Islander (12-inch, $14.95) has sausage, pepperoni, onions, lots of green and black olives, mushrooms and a blend of cheeses. The toppings were plentiful, and the same red sauce tied it together nicely. This size — eight slices — would be a satisfying meal for two or three people. (It also comes in a 14-inch size, $19.95, and a 16-inch size, $22.95.)

Our only serious complaint was that both pizzas had cooled off a bit too much before they arrived at our table. We noticed this particularly because our third choice, Italian Sausage and Cheese Stuffed Pasta ($6.25), arrived steaming hot, five minutes ahead of the pizzas although they were all part of the same order.

The pasta was a combination of spaghettini, topped with four pasta dumplings, two filled with ricotta and two with sausage. The dish was smothered with "light marinara sauce" — actually the same red sauce used on the pizzas. The dish is a good concept and nicely filling with a warm, chewy breadstick, but it tended toward the bland.

Paradise menu includes several salads, five pasta dishes and a half-dozen sandwiches. Hours: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Phone: 513-241-2032. ©