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Mr. Pizza puts chains to shame

By KATHY SAUNDERS

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 27, 2000


ST. PETERSBURG -- Speed was the main thing on my mind when I ordered dinner from Mr. Pizza. My husband was on his way home from work and my child was approaching a major meltdown.

When I phoned to place my order the owner didn't make any promises about how long it would take. So, I was pretty surprised when I heard my doorbell ring exactly 25 minutes later.

The delivery boy was neat and friendly and the pizzas were piping hot.

The crust on both pizzas was really delicious. It was of medium thickness and pretty soft rather than crispy. Our 7-year-old son finished the crust as well as the pizza -- a first in our house.

The mozzarella on the cheese pizza ($6.95) was fresh and we liked the flavor of the tomato sauce. It tasted like it had been simmering in a pot rather than recently poured from a can.

The combination pizza ($11.50) included green peppers, red peppers, pepperoni, mushrooms and onions. All the vegetables were fresh and sliced in large chunks.

The side salad was large too. It came with onions, lots of tomato wedges, cucumber, hot peppers and parmesan cheese. The homemade oil and vinegar dressing was delicious -- with oregano, sage and other fresh herbs.

Dessert was a nice treat as well. The chocolate silk pie looked more like a brownie pie with whipped cream topping. It was thick, decadent and delicious.

Russell and Anna Gaeta have been operating Mr. Pizza in the same location since 1970. Today, they share the workload with their son Chuck, who makes most of the pizza while his father cooks the meatballs and lasagna. "Mama Gaeta" makes the pies.

Besides chocolate silk, she prepares chocolate cream, pecan, banana cream, peanut butter, apple, cherry, cheesecake and peanut butter chocolate pies. Pieces of pie cost $1.85 to $2.75. With a day's notice, Mama Gaeta will make pies to order.

She also is known for her specialty soups ($1.25 a cup and $2.75 for a bowl). Her favorites include 15 bean, spicy tomato, cream of broccoli and chicken and rice.

Mr. Pizza offers a long list of pizzas, including a special cheese-only bianco pie and those topped with everything from squash to pineapple.

Gaeta said he does a pretty large delivery business and works hard to get those meals out promptly.

"We don't monkey around, when we get the order I'm on it right away," he said.

The restaurant serves up a long list of pasta dinners as well. Lasagna ($6) is a house favorite along with Gaeta's special spaghetti ($6.25) prepared with sauteed onions, mushrooms, peppers and chicken strips.

The menu includes more than 30 pasta options with everything from stuffed shells ($5) to manicotti with alfredo sauce ($5.50) and ravioli ($5.50).

Mr. Pizza offers children's portions and half-orders of several of its pasta dishes.

Tomato, cucumber and onion salad ($1.50) antipasto salad ($4.50 small and $5.50 large) and Greek salad ($4.25 or $4.75) are among the appetizers offered. Cheese bread and garlic bread also are available.

The pasta menu is only slightly longer than the list of subs at Mr. Pizza. The restaurant serves a special with ham, cheese, fried salami, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise ($4), a hero with turkey, ham, roast beef, salami, lettuce, tomato, oil, peppers and onions ($4.25) and a meatball sub with cheese ($3.65).

A separate list of 14 "Torpedo Subs" offers tuna ($5.25), Italian ($4.50) and a chicken deluxe ($5.50).

Beer, wine and soft drinks are available.

According to the menu, the Gaeta family will host a private party in the restaurant or cater one elsewhere.

-- Do you have a favorite takeout restaurant? If so, tell us the name, and we may feature it in Pinellas to Go. Mail your nominations to Pinellas to Go, Taste Section, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or e-mail to floridian@sptimes.com.

Mr. Pizza & Pasta Too

Address: 7220 Central Ave., St. Petersburg

Phone: 343-3774

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Closed Sundays.

Consumers: Two adults and one child

What we got: One medium cheese pizza and one medium combination pizza, tossed salad and one slice of chocolate silk pie.

What it cost: $22.95

Time it took: 25 minutes

Pay with: cash

Delivery: yes

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