It seems a shame to call Europa a pizzaria.
How many pizza parlors pipe classical music over their sound system, offer an impressive selection of wines by the glass, as well as Northwest microbrews, and serve a mouthwatering lineup of pasta dishes along with their signature pizzas?
With the welcome addition of a classy pub this fall and an expansion of the menu, Europa has become a serious contender on the Spokane dining scene.
With its cozy brick wall interior, Europa has long been a favorite haunt for pizza-philes. The memorable ‘za starts with a fine crust, which has a great, breadlike flavor. The texture is something like a fresh, French baguette, slightly crunchy and chewy on the outside, light inside. A whole wheat crust is a nice option.
At Europa, they don’t skimp on the toppings. A generous dose of zesty marinara is blanketed with gooey mozzarella cheese. Toppings range from the standard offerings such as pepperoni and sausage to trendy items, including sun-dried tomatoes, pesto, smoked oysters and goat cheese. In all, there are 32 topping choices.
No matter what it’s adorned with, the final result truly deserves to be called pizza pie. It’s too substantial to be eaten with your fingers.
On occasion, I’ve even found the cheese and sauce were a little too heavy-handed, making the crust slightly soggy, especially with veggie toppings. But that is the exception rather than the rule.
Still, I prefer the calzones, with all the goodies tucked inside the glorious, golden crust. My favorite is the spinach calzone with feta, cottage cheese and sour cream covering fresh greens and mushrooms. Request a side of marinara for a snappy contrast to the creamy cheese filling.
This fall’s ambitious menu expansion that elevates Europa above a mere pizzaria starts with an impressive lineup of appetizers.
Among the tasty first courses are an antipasto plate (the exceptional marinated carrots alone are worth ordering this item), the Manila clams simmered in a rich mixture of extra virgin olive oil, basil, garlic, diced tomatoes and loads of capers. The liberal use of olive oil in this dish would have the food police running for their fat counter, but it gave the tender clams a lavish quality. The sauce was worthy of sopping up with the excellent wheat and white rolls Europa bakes daily.
Other tempting appetizers include cheesy bread sticks and a pesto torte, which is layers of the garlicky basil mixture, provolone, cream cheese and roasted peppers.
A roasted pepper bruschetta with sun-dried tomato pesto was less successful. The menu described the dish as roasted red, yellow and green peppers served with toast. Most of the peppers were green, with only a few red and no yellow peppers. I suppose that’s understandable during the winter months, though I would have liked some warning. Also, the sun-dried tomatoes seemed scant in the pesto.
Appetizer prices range from $2.50 for the garlic cheese bread to $9.95 for the clams. And they’re half price in the pub between 2 and 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. and midnight.
It appears management has also taken steps to polish the service at Europa. Waiters don formal black tie and spiffy vests and most of the staff seem eager to please. However, during a recent dinner, when I asked why our appetizer had arrived after the salad course, our waitress snapped: “That’s the way we do things here.”
So much for the customer always being right.
A nice feature on the new menu is the addition of a symbol indicating vegetarian dishes. And veggie types will find lots to choose from.
During a recent visit, I enjoyed the cheese ravioli - tender pockets of pasta stuffed with ricotta and baked with a red sauce - though I think the dish could be improved with the addition of some herbs in the filling.
My dining companion ordered the spinach and cheese manicotti, filled with a combination of ricotta, feta, spinach and garlic. He deemed it delectable.
Other meatless entrees include a veggie lasagna, baked spaghetti with a choice of white or red sauce or pesto along with a vegetarian sandwich, pizza and pastry pita rollup.
The latter is a savory, wonderfully flaky turnover. If you’re bored with sandwiches, the pastry pita roll-ups make for a refreshing alternative.
Europa also makes a robust meat sauce that’s at the heart of many pasta dishes, including several variations of spaghetti and a satisfying lasagna.
Most menu items come with a choice of green salad or soup. I recommend the minestrone, a hearty, almost stewlike soup loaded with garbanzo and kidney beans in the traditional tomato base. Or, for an additional $1.25, you can substitute a Caesar salad. It’s an impressive version, with a tangy, creamy Caesar dressing, generous Parmesan cheese and tasty croutons made on the premises.
The menu, which is the same for both lunch and dinner, is pretty accommodating. Half orders of pasta dishes are offered for $5.50, making for a good lunch option. Smaller portions are also available on salads and other dishes.
The desserts looked luscious. They are all made on the premises and range from cheesecake to chocolate decadence. But, after eating pizza or pasta, who has room? Instead, I plan to return for just dessert and a glass of port in the pub.
The comfortable surroundings in the pub - antique sofas and chairs, plants and a huge, gorgeous wood bar - make it worth a special trip anyway.
The space formerly housed an antique shop and it looks like shopkeepers left behind much of their inventory. Longtime Spokane residents might also remember it as the original home of Espresso Delizioso.
The lounge offers a complete selection of cocktails but it’s the beer and wine offerings that are noteworthy.
The wine list isn’t long but it’s well chosen. Some nice options include a California cabernet from Marietta, a spicy Italian red called Salice Salentino and a chardonnay from Woodward Canyon, one of Washington state’s best producers. Often, there will be special selections featured. Most wines are offered by the glass and the prices are among the most reasonable of any restaurant in Spokane, with everything under $5.
Interesting brews on tap include several selections from Hale’s (the pale ale and the special bitters for instance), an oatmeal stout from Birkebeiner and a refreshing hefeweizen from Widmer.
xxxx Europa Pizzaria and Bakery Address: S125 Wall, 455-4051 M Meals: Pizza, pasta Prices: $5.95-$9.95 for entrees, pizza $3 and up Days, hours: Daily 11 a.m.-midnight Alcohol: Full bar Smoking: Nonsmoking, even in the lounge Reservations: yes, except on Friday and Saturday nights Credit cards: MC, V Personal checks: yes
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