There are some restaurants where trying to stick to a budget automatically means you’re going to get a little less for your money. But, resigning yourself to lesser quantity doesn’t mean you’ll also need to suffer lower quality.
Chiesa fits solidly into this category. Nestled in the Montford area and housed inside what was once a church (what chiesa translates into), the restaurant is loved as much for its lowkey coziness as it is for its house-made pastas. Those pastas, however, come at a cost. It’s a reasonable cost, but when you only have $25 at play, a house-made pasta will blow your budget. Depending on what sauce you pick, the pasta dishes will run from $17-$20.
Add on a protein from a well-populated list ranging from a meatball to scallops, plan to tack on another $4-$13 depending on your choice.
House specialties also run up to $30 but taunt you with delicious options such as duck with broccolini and cherries or scallops with polenta and butternut squash. Ordering just a couple of appetizers seemed like the easy way out.
What did I walk away with? Eggplant Parmesan. Found under house specialties, this dish rings in at $17 but doesn’t shy on food. Four ample slices of eggplant come breaded in house-made breadcrumbs, crispy and layered with melted mozzarella and drizzled in marinara (Chiesa calls it Antonia’s Sicilian tomato gravy). The sauce has plenty of flavor pulling from herbs, garlic and quality tomatoes. You can also find the gravy coating a generous serving of the restaurant’s house-made orecchiette.
If you don’t think a meal is complete without a meat, the mozzarella stuffed Italian meatballs will check your box for only $8. You get two meatballs per order. And, if you’re thinking $4 per meatball sounds a little steep, it isn’t for these two. They are a mix of HNG pork, beef and veal that literally weighed down their to-go container. The true bonus feature of this meatball, aside from a little melted cheese coating the exterior, was the melted mozzarella center, making this the easiest $8 decision you’ll ever make.
Our order also came with some sliced house-made focaccia, which incidentally comes in handy for all of the extra sauce that comes with the meatballs. By the end of the meal the focaccia ensures the sauce can no longer be referred to as extra.
When you step back and look at this meal, it may seem like, with only 2 dishes, you didn’t get enough for your money. But, the quantity of each of the two dishes made it easily worth the price tag of $25 and, honestly, was a generous enough portion to feed two adults.
So, now that cheese filled meatballs have undoubtedly won you over, your thoughts have shifted to logistics. Though the Chiesa’s website, at the time of this review, lists curbside as an option, it is not. That aside, pickup is still an easy process. You are required to phone in your order and pay at pickup. On your side is the Montford location, an easier parking experience than nearby downtown.
The restaurant seems to still be doing a fair amount of to-go, though they are now offering inside seating. As you walk in the door, a table is setup to your left in front of the bar as a staging area for all the to-to orders. You’ll pay here and pick up your food here.
Don’t wait for polpettes to start raining from the sky. Sadly that only happens in kids’ stories. If you haven’t had a chance to dine with Chiesa in a while, you’ll be glad you revisited even if just for to-go. In case you’re wondering, polpettes are meatballs. Did I mention you need to order them?
IF YOU GO
Where: Chiesa (Montford)
To order online: www.chiesaavl.com
Beverage notes: Cocktails, beer, wine and non-alcoholic beverages.
Contactless pickup available? No.
Matthew DeRobertis is a chef, writer and father to a kid who loves food more than her dog. Contact him at [email protected].
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