Joe’s Pizza and Pasta in Sulphur is neat, clean and unprepossessing on the outside and comfortably casual on the inside with a full Italian menu, plain and fancy.
There are many chicken and seafood selections, along with meat, including veal. The building was first opened as an ice cream parlor and later housed Chula Vista, a California-style Mexican eatery, for a number of years. Other incarnations appeared in the intervening years.
My friend Marsha was early and waiting for me when I arrived at the appointed time, afraid she might get lost in the intricacies of metro Sulphur traffic.
Hey, Lake Charles, it’s easy to reach, straight north on Ruth Street from Interstate 10, across from Brookshire Brothers supermarket. In fact, one of the owners told us that a fair number of Lake Charlesians find it worth the easy trip. Some were fans of the Joe’s that operated in a jinxed location in Lake Charles for a time, and some are just discovering the original in Sulphur.
I was cheerfully welcomed to the table by a smiling and personable server and presented with delicious Parmesan-dusted warm rolls and plenty of butter. As a lover of good bread, that would have been a sufficient meal for me, if only they were carb-free. The bread went well with the spinach, artichoke and shrimp appetizer we had ordered. I love spinach-artichoke dip, and the shrimp harmonizes with it.
Marsha enjoyed the eggplant Parmesan, and I had lasagna. My favorite on the menu is Chicken Carchofini, sautéed chicken breast with artichoke hearts in a white wine cream sauce. But for variety, I decided to change it up.
The marinara sauce was well-balanced, not like some served at other restaurants where “more is better” seems to be the philosophy: Load it up with oregano and thyme and it will be superior. Joe’s is a milder, less acidic sauce, more like the increasingly popular pink sauce, a hybrid of marinara and Alfredo.
The pasta in my lasagna was light and tender — on the lighter side of al dente. It was meaty and with the cheeses that one expects.
My guest picked angel hair to accompany her eggplant dish from the usual selection of pastas available with entrees. She also complimented the sauce, the eggplant and the pasta.
The lunch began with a crisp garden salad with the usual selection of commercial dressings or, as Marsha chose, oil and vinegar.
On a return trip I had pizza with Italian sausage, bell peppers, black olives and fresh tomatoes. It was loaded with toppings, including delightfully stringy mozzarella. The crust was golden brown around the rim and on bottom but a little soft in the middle, maybe from my selection of moistening vegetables. Half of a 10-inch made a satisfying lunch with part of dinner left over.
The owners of this family-operated restaurant are proud natives of Palermo, Sicily, as the map of the island behind the cashier counter indicates, and they bring a taste of their homeland to Sulphur.
• Joe’s Pizza and Pasta (and subs) is at 1601 Ruth St., Sulphur. Phone: 528-2560.
• Hours are 11 a.m.-9 p.m. seven days a week.
• Lunch specials range from $6.95 to $7.99, and dinners start at $9.95 and top out at $13.95 for Veal Marsala. Be sure to see the Specialita della Casa on the back of the menu for such delicacies as Chicken and Shrimp dello Chef and Linguini del Mar. A recent Saturday-night off-the-menu special was an 8-ounce filet mignon with a mushroom sauce and trimmings for $21.95.
• Cocktails, a good selection of wines by the glass and beer.