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Belly Up


Timonium Buffet Offers Lots of Pizza for a Little Dough

Pisa Pizza Buffet

This location is closed

By Susan Fradkin | Posted 6/21/2000

It's a jungle out there. It's a jungle in here too, at Timonium's popular buffet, Pisa Pizza Buffet , where you can pig out for a pittance, please the small fry, and learn why pasta should never languish under a heat lamp.

The all-you-can-eat (mostly) pizza buffet goes for $3.99 ($2.99 for kids 10 and under, free for tots under 3). Add an endlessly renewable fountain beverage ($1.49 for adults, 99 cents for kids) and you've got dinner for a five-spot and change. At these prices, don't look for ambiance, the charms of Italy, or a wine list. Don't look for gourmet pizza either. Just grab the kids and go.

We grabbed C.C.'s niece Katie and nephew Robert. Their parents, Bobbie and Kevin, begged to come along, and C.C.'s mom joined us too--not out of a passion for pizza, but out of her desire not to miss anything. When we arrived at Pisa Pizza, it was early in the evening and the place was packed with kids. But as the the hours wore on more and more blue hairs ventured in, no doubt drawn by the prices, which look pretty attractive to those on fixed or otherwise limited incomes.

Unlike the Italian tower for which it is named, Pisa Pizza doesn't lean. It's a huge space with connecting rooms that can be separated or attached by means of garage-style doors. Nothing subtle in design here: The walls are canary yellow, the tables blue, the exposed ceiling fixtures bright orange, and wall-mounted televisions grace each room. There is a game room, that de rigeur element of kid-friendly restaurants, where the tykes can drop your quarters into slots--and possibly blow your plan for a cheap evening out. But for my money, sending the kids off with a sawbuck is a small price to pay for the privilege of having adult conversation. ("Bribery" is such an ugly word.)

The highlight of my meal was a plate of salad from the small but very fresh salad bar. The bread--good, crusty miniature loaves--is made by on the premises. (The Impallarias, co-owners of Pisa Pizza, owned and operated a bakery on Stiles Street in Little Italy for years.) Add a beverage and you have a light, healthy, and filling meal.

You'll probably be tempted to try the pasta or the one of the daily calzones offered. This would be a mistake. The ziti marinara had congealed under the warming lamp to become an unattractive still life. It tasted a tad better than it looked, but "lukewarm" is never an adjective you want applied to pasta. The calzone was similarly underheated, and too pork-heavy for me.

Pizza, naturally, is the main attraction here, and the buffet boasts more than 25 varieties. I can personally attest to the following: cheese, pepperoni, BLT, ham and bacon, black olive and green pepper, barbecue, mushroom, taco, pineapple and jalapeño, broccoli and mushroom, and white pizza with mushroom, sausage, green pepper and onion. Dessert pizzas included cherry, blueberry, chocolate, peach, and apple. As you stroll through, you have to guess what kind of pizza you're choosing--there are none of those handy identifying labels they have at other buffets. I suspect this is because the variety changes daily. Periodically, a new pizza takes its place in the line and a staff member calls out its name, but with the din of the large-screen TVs and the continuous dull roar of small consumers, nothing can be heard.

The pizzas aren't half bad, considering you can stuff yourself for four bucks. Those I tried featured a thin crust, although Pisa Pizza offers deep-dish pies as well. The vegetarian choices are numerous, and those were the ones that tasted freshest to me. A few combos didn't work: The BLT and the pineapple/jalapeño were less than inspired, and I really disliked the barbecue pizza, which substituted cheddar cheese for the usual mozzarella and barbecue sauce for tomato. What can I say? I have my limits. Kevin, on the other hand, loved the bizarre blends. Bobbie, whose tastes tend to be more conservative, liked the pepperoni and the veggie combos especially, but she bravely tried everything. The kids, of course, devoured the cheese and the pepperoni, running back and forth to refill their small plates. No one cared much for the fruit-pie pizzas (pizza crusts spread with pie filling), but Mom and the kids went nuts for the chocolate pizza, which was smeared with chocolate sauce and drizzled with marshmallow.

Look at it this way: If you're craving sun-dried tomatoes or roasted vegetables on your pie, or if your idea of pizza night is a quiet evening bathed in soft tones and subdued lighting, go somewhere else. But if you're toting a passel of small friends, or if you need to carb up in a hurry and can scavenge five bucks in change, lean in the direction of Pisa Pizza.

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