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Take-Out for the Evolved Diner

Megyeri's raises the stakes on take-home Italian meals



Evolution. First you could get take out, and it was good. Sure, the food wasn't always piping hot, but you could sit around in your underwear watching television without other diners looking askance at you.

Then came delivery, and it was better. You picked up the phone, dialed the number, and these people would bring ... well, still not piping hot, but it was delivered right to your door. You could make all your dinner decisions in your bathrobe, and eat the same way as well.

Then came take-and-bake pizza. You watched the pizza being put together before your very eyes, gazing in wide wonder at the 412 slices of pepperoni and the pounds and pounds of cheese. They wrapped it up and sent it home with you, where you popped your pizza in the oven and never had to worry about cold crusts or cheese sticking to the box again. Washing up was minimal, since you could throw away the cooking pan.

Now the take-and-bake concept has matured. Megyeri's Take-n-Bake Pizza & Pasta serves up the same wonderful fare you can get at Bambino's, but you get to eat it piping hot in the comfort of your own home. How is it different than other take-and-bake places? It's a full realization of a wonderfully practical concept.

To start with, there's a choice of seven appetizers on the antipasti menu. From $1.95 for garlic butter- and parmesan-laden breadsticks to $4.95 for a hot spinach dip with cheese, artichoke hearts and bacon, it's hard to go wrong. Or you can get a salad -- Caesar, garden or Greek, ranging from $2.25 for a small to $4.95 for a large (plenty for two). The Greek is especially nice, with fresh greens (including spinach), plenty of tangy olives, tomatoes, fresh paper-thin slices of red onion and lots of feta cheese.

Then you get to the heart of the matter. You could choose a Meatball or Italian Sub panino ($4.50), each made on French bread, loaded with fresh marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese. Or try the stromboli, a combo of thinly sliced ham with Jack and mozzarella cheeses and onions if you want them. Pizzas and calzones are just incredible, probably because the thick, rich marinara sauce that Megyeri's uses tastes like someone's Grandma has been standing at your kitchen stove all day, making sure the balance is just right between the tomatoes and the spices.

One thing I love is the 7-inch "baby" pizza. It's perfect for lunch or for picky kids. Get a baby pepperoni for $3.75 for the kids, and you can get a baby Veggie Special, Mediterranean, BBQ Chick or my favorite, the Capri (herb and olive oil sauce, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted garlic, goat cheese, mozzarella and chicken or bacon) for about a dollar more. You can also get pizza in 13-, 15- and 17-inch sizes, with a wide variety of toppings. Calzones, stuffed with the same combinations, run from $3.95 for a cheese half calzone to $14.75 for a full Mama Mia calzone.

Not in the mood for pizza? Megyeri's has pasta so good you'll be tempted to pass it off as your own. The Baked Spaghetti is topped with a large meat ball and a gigantic Italian sausage link, smothered in marinara and mozzarella. At $6.25, it's more than most people (or two children) can eat in a single meal. The Veggie Lasagna ($5.75) is an enormous slab of pasta layered with ricotta, Romano and mozzarella cheeses, and studded with mushrooms, carrots and broccoli, well cooked but not lifeless. The Pesto Capallini ($5.95) comes across a bit lighter, with more delicate angel-hair pasta coated with a fresh basil, parmesan, pine nut and olive oil pesto that is nicely balanced, not too much garlic. If you like a little more choice, when you get to the Baked Capallini, Mostaccioli, Stuffed Shells and Manicotti ($4.95-$5.95), you can choose between that wonderful marinara sauce or a richer, meatier Bolognese sauce. All the pasta dishes come with a piece of garlic bread, and you can add a small garden salad for $1.50.

Don't forget the sweets. You can take home tiramisu or cheesecake, and of course you wouldn't have to bake them. But while the oven is hot, why not try the Dessert Stromboli that Bambino's made famous? The buttery crust holds cherry, blueberry, peach or apple filling, topped with a crumbly streusel, and it comes with a side of frosting to drizzle over the top. Or get the (soon-to-be-famous) Take-n-Bake Cookie ($2.50). Your choice of chocolate chip, peanut butter or sugar cookie dough, in its own little baking pan, all ready to pop in the oven. One cookie is easily big enough to share, but no one will blame you if you don't.

So you think this sounds great but you still don't want to get out of your bathrobe? No problem. Megyeri's has thought of everything. Just call your order in, and you can go through the drive-through window to pick it up. You may never have to cook or wear real clothes again.

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