When it comes to comfort food, the Italians may have a leg up on the competition. It is hard to beat a plate of pasta with warm marinara or rich Alfredo sauce. Add an infusion of cheese with it and it becomes feel good, filled up satisfaction. That said, the tendency of Italian-American cuisine, particularly in smaller venues without large ethnic contingencies, is toward burying everything under too much, too sweet and too rich sauce.


Nevertheless, faced with a bright but chilly day, some Italian comfort seemed in order, so a friend and I headed for Palio’s Pizza Café in the Sherman Town Center in search of something not necessarily pizza. A look at Palio’s menu on the Web suggested that they offered a nice variety of choices besides pizza, with pasta, salad and sandwiches with an Italian turn.


My friend went for a chicken pesto sandwich on the lunch special and added a small Greek salad (Caesar, Garden, Greek or Hawaiian are the choices) and a drink for $8.99. I was still thinking pasta and decided on the Chicken il Palio with the same lunch special choices. Palio’s is a semi-do-it-yourself cafe; you order and pay up front at the counter (I don’t like the pay first eat later idea), get your own drink (I do like that), and a server delivers the order to your table.


The salads came first — good service — and were more than enough for a starter. I had picked the Hawaiian version which in American English generally means chunks of pineapple in among the lettuce. So be it with Palio’s, but the addition of raisins, cashews and pieces of sun-dried tomatoes, kicked things up a lot. With the raspberry-walnut dressing I had ordered, it was an excellent start to the meal. My friend said much the same about his Greek version which added Kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes and Feta cheese to the greenery.


My Chicken il Palio was essentially chicken Alfredo with the addition of artichoke hearts and mushrooms. It was warm and creamy, smooth and tasty and filled my comfort needs, and my appetite to a T. It came with two big pieces of toasted Italian bread with garlic and cheese. Pretty good, though next time I will ask if they can 86 the garlic rub. While the lunch special portion was said to be smaller than the regular order, it proved just a little more than I could finish and that is just about where portions ought to be.


Across the table, my friend looked down on a large sandwich on toasted, but still soft bread, which held goodly slices of roast chicken, house-pesto, lettuce tomatoes, melted cheese, and served with a slightly sweet, creamy Italian dressing on the side and a big handful of potato chips in the center of the basket. Not a big eater, my friend took half his lunch home for dinner.


There are several desserts on the menu, but despite the title of these musings, I did not leave room for dessert. The next time I will come hungrier.


Palio’s Pizza Cafe will go on my list of go-back-there-again spots in the area, and you can never have too many of those on your list.


Notes on this and that: I had an interesting cup of chicken noodle soup at Cheddar’s the other day. It was made with crispy fried chicken and chocked with vegetables. Next time I’ll make it a bowl. I’ve been on a soup search for the last few weeks, and can recommend the potato soup at Kathleen’s Kitchen, the clam chowder and chili at Cellarman’s, the beef Florentine at Nick’s Family Restaurant, and the coconut soup at Crazy Thai as great ways to warm up the day. I am still on the hunt, so suggestions are welcome.


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