“Who’s up for Floridino’s?”
I hardly can begin to count the number of times over the years that one of my Tribune colleagues kick-started a group lunch with those words.
At least once a week, we’d all pile into an SUV (or two) and drive the eight or so miles to this friendly, neighborhood Italian restaurant in Chandler.
And why not? Since it opened in 1996, Floridino’s has combined two of the things we journalists (and most other people) appreciate: great food and cheap prices.
We’d usually whet our appetites with pizza muffins (pictured at right) — a basket of six ($3.59) or 12 ($6.29) — which actually are more like pastry rolls than muffins. We’d tear apart the warm rolls filled with sausage and other toppings and dunk the pieces in Floridino’s zesty pizza sauce.
The delicious pizzas — available in 7-, 10-, 12-, 14- and 18-inch sizes — have a soft, chewy crust that’s slightly more thin than thick. I love the fact the East Coast-style pizzas come not only with lots of cheese, but also lots of sauce and toppings.
Eight daily lunch specials include a seven-inch, one-topping pizza and a soft drink for just $3.99, one of the best bargains I know and one I’ve taken advantage of at least a couple hundred times.
Other lunch specials include a dish of spaghetti or ziti with bread and drink for $4.50, or an antipasto, Greek or chef’s salad for $4.99.
But the must-have item at Floridino’s is the calzone, a golden pastry as big as partially deflated footballs. Nearly as big as the plate it arrives on, a two-item calzone ($5.99 with drink at lunch, $6.89 other times) is a challenge for even the hungriest of diners.
Floridino’s also offers a variety of pasta dishes, from cheese-filled ravioli ($7.59) and manicotti ($7.59) to fettucini alfredo ($7.99) or vegetable lasagna ($7.75).
The pastas are not as rave-worthy as the calzones and pizzas, but I’ll order one when I’m craving the huge, fresh-baked slab of pizza-crust bread (with a side of sauce, of course) that comes with each dish.
For dessert, Floridino’s offers its take on the now-standard “pizza cookie” — a pan-baked chocolate chip cookie topped with ice cream, whipped cream and hot fudge ($4.99). It also does a brownie version.
Nowadays, most of my former arts and entertainment staff colleagues have gone on to other jobs. Every once in a while, though, we still get together for a lunch.
Who’s up for Floridino’s?
Where: 590 N. Alma School Road, Chandler (between Ray Road and Chandler Blvd.)
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Prices: Salads $1.99-$5.75, pizzas $6.50-$18.75, calzones $6.89-$7.79, pastas $5.50-$9.25
Info: (480) 812-8433 or floridinos.net
(Photos by Ralph Freso, East Valley Tribune)