Russo’s Pizza Kitchen
Meatballs – Marinara, Parmesan
Cheese Slice / Pepperoni Slice
Traditional Calzone – Ricotta, Mozzarella, Ham, Marinara
Zeppolis – Chocolate Sauce, Strawberry Sauce, Powdered Sugar
Planting its stakes on South Rainbow Boulevard long before the street’s recent rejuvenation as a dining corridor, the switch from Carmine’s Pizza Kitchen to Russo’s occurring somewhere around the start of this decade, it was after passing by the space several times that the decision was finally made to stop in for lunch on Friday, a recent change in ownership par for the course in a shopping complex that formerly housed Elements and launched four new Restaurants including Meraki in the last twelve months.
Best described as a New York Pizzeria, the checkered tablecloths, decorations including Grapes as well as oil paintings and Rat Pack soundtrack all creating the stereotyped environment of a place in Little Italy, guests entering Russo’s Pizza Kitchen will quickly be struck by the space’s intimate confines, a total of less than a dozen tables spread out in front of an open window and multi-tiered oven.
Unaware of the ownership change until afterwards, a look at the business’ Social Media including a post in October stating “Dear Friends, I am no longer at Russo’s Pizza Kitchen due to unforeseen circumstances that were out of my control. Sincerely, The Russo Family,” it was shortly after seating that a youthful female waitress approached the table with menu and a glass of Ice Water, an order previously arranged based on the website’s menu quickly derailed by the absence of Garlic Knots which led to a quick adjustment with some for now and the rest for later.
Allowing approximately 55 minutes for lunch exclusive of driving time, presumably plenty for a quick-service Restaurant with less than a ten total diners present and limited take-out or delivery volume as judged by the driver only leaving once with just two boxes, it was shortly after the order was placed that two Meatballs swimming in thin Marinara were delivered, the grind good and noticeably including Cheese at a good portion for just $3.95 though it would have admittedly been nice to have a slice of Bread or some Knots for dipping.
Taking an inordinate amount of time to warm two previously made slices, the cause for this audibly heard to be a mistake as the young waitress twice had to tell a white haired man behind the counter “One Cheese, one Pepperoni,” as she offered an extra slice of the latter to a regular guest gratis, it was nearly twenty minutes after seating that the $4.95 lunch combo arrive, the free Drink passed up as nothing in the aged Coke machine sounded appealing while the slices were warm and decent, though the Cheese was a bit too oily and clearly not high grade as judged by its consistency.
Eating the two slices fairly quickly, the serving temperature not so hot as to require any sort of cooling to avoid burning one’s mouth even though the thin crust did pick up a light bit of char, it was nearly ten minutes later that the waitress stated “Zeppoli will be ready in just a few minutes,” an actual total of seven seeing several varying sizes of fried Dough presented beneath a pile of powdered sugar with two bottled Sauces, the larger pieces nice and fluffy but the smaller ones bit too chewy and neither the portion nor the quality worth $8.95.
At this point pressed for time, the rest of the order ready and waiting, it was approaching the counter with a coupon that the situation suddenly turned from average to subpar, the waitress unaware of how to enter the order appropriately and thus provoking a lengthy call to an off-site owner who would not give her a password to adjust the price for unknown reasons, the Credit Card eventually dialed in by one of those old-school scanners (that the server dropped onto an exposed Pizza) and to-go items handed over, the luke-warm Calzone decent but compromised by watery Ham slices that made the Ricotta runny and messy while the Cheesecake actually turned out to be a highlight, the use of a bit of Gelatin rendering the texture smooth and creamy while sweetness was graciously restrained.
TWO AND A HALF STARS: Uncertain regarding the quality previously, though it would seem likely that service and billing issues were better under prior ownership, Russo’s Pizza Kitchen is a decent choice for those in the area, though considering the diversity of Las Vegas’ Pizza scene in general there are plenty of better options both nearby and throughout town.
RECOMMENDED: Meatballs, Cheesecake.
AVOID: Zeppoli, Calzone (might be better dine-in, or with added Pepperoni)
TIP: New ownership is clearly trying to make a go of it as Lunch specials, mailers, Groupons and Restaurant.com coupons are all currently being offered (and, after a while, accepted.)
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.