Monday, November 06, 2006



Move over, Roma's, there's a new Anna in town. Not the eponymous local chain with outlets in Newport News and Poquoson-- this is a new independent focusing on similar themes. Think comforting Italian-American food, with a hearty dose of pizza and subs thrown in for good measure.
It was one of the few restaurants open on a Monday night, and my husband and I practically had the dining room to ourselves. The pale coral walls were speckled with setting sunlight glancing off of a bevy of framed Italian views. A festive banner gaily wound the length of the windows. The general impression was open and airy, even though the room is bisected by a wall with cut-out archways.
Our young server was immediately tableside, and we asked for some time to ponder the menu. When she returned with our waters, we ordered a bottle of the Il Bastardo Sangiovese, and asked some questions about the preparation of particular items. She smiled, warning us it was only her third day, but quickly rounded up all the answers we needed.
Our antipasto salad ($7.95) was quickly at the table, a mound of lettuce surrounded by thinly rolled meats, a couple of slices of provolone, grape tomatoes and cucumbers. The dressing came on the side, so we divided up the salad, dressed it to preference, and dug in. The oil-and-vinegar dressing was nice, but the meats really threw off the balance. They were overly salty, and odd cuts to boot: normally salami and ham, it also included turkey and roast beef (upon sight, I'd thought hopefully that they were anchovies), slightly out-of-place in this antipasto guise. Sans salty meat, the salad was quite nice, and that's just how I enjoyed it.
Almost as soon as the salad cleared, the pie was being carried deftly to the table. We kept it simple with a request for the margherita, a simple pizza topped with mozzarella, tomatoes and basil, and here, a touch of sauce. Now, this may be a personal quirk, but a lot of places undercook their pies, serving it forth with gloopy cheese and too-soft dough. Not this night- it was cooked just right to handle the amount of toppings, with crust and cheese both attaining delicious levels of golden brown. My first bite almost tempted me into believing the sauce was too sweet, and perhaps it was, but a couple of bites in, it all melded together perfectly. Very nice.
Dave's sausage-and-pepperoni stromboli($11.95) was delivered burnished brown and piping hot. He sliced it open to a burst of steam and an explosion of gooey mozzarella cheese. The meats were present, but played second fiddle to the abundance of cheese. The marinara was sweet and simple, all falling perfectly in line with the pie and wine.
We took home the baked ziti ($8.25) to try the next day, but sampled a few bites hot from the box. It was cheesy, loose, and filled with soft, tomato-laced noodles. Not bad, but certainly not my favorite in terms of flavor profile.
The service at Anna's was pleasant and very cheerful, while the menu items varied in consistency. If you like the usual line-up of casual Italian-American meals in a family-style atmosphere, this should fit the ticket. Undoubtedly, the pizza was the best thing I tasted, and I'll be back soon to check out their specialty and Sicilian varieties.


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