Twenty years after the Kaba family moved to Texas, its tiny pasta cafes are now anchor restaurants.Take a look at the newest on East Loop 820: Italy Pasta & Pizza.Of the 80 pizza-and-pasta cafes related somehow to the Kabas, either through family or as consultants, Italy is one of the first to take over a freeway frontage-road location and offer a full bar.Italy started nearby in a tiny strip shopping center. The new location, originally a Black-eyed Pea, has the same simple, inexpensive pizzas and pasta dishes, served with garlic-brushed rolls and sides such as the family’s familiar fried cheese or salads with “our famous” tomato vinaigrette.At a time when lunch and dinner prices at many casual restaurants are pushing past $15, Italy still has a personal pizza or pasta lunch for less than $10.The special pizza (or “Mario’s Chicken”) is nothing elaborate: It’s a basic, thin-crust, New York-style pizza just like at the pizza-and-pasta restaurant in your neighborhood, and that’s the way the family wants it.Italy Pizza and Pasta is open daily for lunch and dinner; 800 E. Loop 820 at Bridge Street/John T. White Road, 817-457-2444, italypastapizza.com (not yet updated).• The new Niki’s Italian Bistro in North Richland Hills also has made a move: The Neziri family’s small pizza cafe has set up shop in a grander space at 5249 Davis Blvd.The new Niki’s also has a full bar with wines and banquet rooms, $7-$8 lunches, $12-$14 dinners and thin-crust pizzas.It’s open daily for lunch and dinner; 817-788-9444, nikisitalian.com.• Another new pizza-and-pasta restaurant of note is now open in Fort Worth’s medical district. Tony Leland’s Tony’s Pizza, Pasta & Subs is open at 609 S. Jennings Ave., with a patio along Pennsylvania Avenue.A big plus for Tony’s: It serves giant thin-crust pizza by the slice, which winds up about the same size as a personal-pan pizza.A dinner slice and a salad (yes, with tomato vinaigrette) came to less than $10. It’s open for lunch and dinner daily and soon will add late-night hours; 817-870-2255.• As long as this column is about small pasta cafes gone big-time, another note: Macaluso’s Italian Restaurant on Forest Park Boulevard is one of the best.Macaluso’s — owned by Zeke Jusufi from west-side favorite Fortuna — brings inexpensive prices to the sunny dining room of the former Le Chardonnay and Grady’s at Forest Park and Park Hill Drive.It’s open for lunch and dinner Sundays and Tuesdays through Fridays, dinner Saturdays; 817-921-2200, macalusosrestaurant.org.
Bud Kennedy's Eats Beat appears Wednesdays in Life & Arts and Fridays in DFW.com. 817-390-7538 Twitter: @EatsBeat Facebook: Bud Kennedy’s Eats Beat Get alerts at RebelMouse.com/eats