Have you ever suddenly discovered that an old friend has moved back to town? Italian food lovers are getting that feeling when they realize that the family that ran Sali’s Italian Restaurant on Austin Street for many years are back in business. The old Sali’s on South Austin is still in operation with the old name but new and unrelated management.
The new venture the original owners of Sali’s are operating is Lili’s Pizza and Pasta, located in a cubbyhole on West Morton Street next to a doughnut shop. The restaurant has been open for a couple years, so I guess I’m out of the loop or something.
The good news is the pizza and pasta are as good as ever; the bad news — well, not all that bad actually — is that they are a carryout and delivery place only. My friend and I did not know that when we pulled up around noon for lunch. There was one table in the tiny room and that was all. I asked Lili if we could sit there as we had not planned on carrying out; she smiled and said sure.
I had already checked the menu on Lili’s Facebook page and decided to try the meat ravioli with marinara sauce. After a study, my friend went with the eggplant parmigiana. Both dishes came with a small salad and fresh made rolls. I added a single slice of cheese pizza to the order just to see what it was like.
The salad was not large, but considering the rest of the order, it was enough. The slice of pizza was huge. I ate half and saved the rest to leave room for the ravioli, and I was glad I did. Large, well-stuffed pastas came out in an aluminum carryout plate, hot and steaming and smothered in marinara sauce and mozzarella. It was excellent, and the big puffy rolls were perfect for scooping up the extra sauce. Half of the order filled me up, and I took the rest home for the next day’s lunch.
Across the table, my friend, whose Italian experience doesn’t seem to go much beyond Chef Boyardee, could not stop talking about the eggplant in between reaching for another piece of a roll to dip in the sauce. I had a few bites and agreed with his assessment.
Italian food is by nature comfort food. It is hard to fault meat, cheese, tomatoes and the rest, and the lunch at Lili’s was as comforting as anything I have had in a while. But I suspect that the ravioli and the eggplant are just the start of a new Italian adventure. The menu also includes Stromboli, calzones, cannelloni, manicotti, classic spaghetti and tomato sauce, chicken dishes and more. I wish there was regular seating, but that is the way it is — an inconvenience, but a minor one considering the rewards.
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