The wait continues for Craft & Vine Taproom, but not every great restaurant in Roanoke is on Oak Street.
For an updated version of New York pizza-and-pasta combined with contemporary cocktails, Benjamin’s Pizza Kitchen & Bar is worth finding on West Byron Nelson Boulevard, away from the parking madhouse of historic downtown Roanoke.
You probably have a corner pizza-and-pasta restaurant like Benjamin’s in your neighborhood of Dallas or Tarrant County. It’s probably named Joe’s. Another Lusha family cousin probably runs it.
Benjamin’s is Bryan Lusha’s refreshed version, offering the same brick-oven New York pizzas but with more artisan toppings and notable desserts, along with a lively bar in the Cannon Crossing shopping center, away from ugly big-box blight on U.S. 377.
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Everything at Benjamin’s is big. For example, the calzone is the size of a football.
I am not kidding. For less than $10, a lunch calzone would easily have fed a family.
It’s the size of a giant pizza, doubled over and stuffed with high-grade ricotta, flavorful Italian sausage and pepperoni, plus a choice of other traditional or contemporary toppings such as artichoke, spinach, garlic, feta or truffle oil.
“You should see the size of the meatballs,” Lusha said. “We try to make everything a little bigger.”
For 25 years, Lusha’s relatives have served simple pasta casseroles such as lasagna at family restaurants named Joe’s, beginning in south Arlington and Carrollton.
Instead, Benjamin’s served a towering, 5-layer lasagna for about $11. For less than $20, the menu also features chicken or eggplant Parmigiana, linguine in clam sauce or a seafood pasta with mussels, clams and shrimp.
Philly cheesesteak sandwiches cost less than $10. There’s a choice of several salads, and a Greek dressing instead of the ubiquitous tomato vinaigrette.
Then there’s dessert.
Lusha buys high-end bakery desserts such as a towering, multilayer chocolate-mousse “tuxedo cake” with chocolate mousse.
There’s also a s’mores cake. They’re about $7, but they’re plenty big to share.
“People go to Cheesecake Factory for dinner, but they also go for the desserts,” Lusha said: “I want people to come for the desserts.”
He poked a little fun at newer, wood-fired pizza restaurants known for the hot flame that singes the crust.
“It’s burned,” he said.
“I still love the old way, in the brick oven. We do pizzas just the same way as in New York.”
He might or might not add another Benjamin’s, which is named for his son.
He also owns two Carrollton restaurants, Buffalo Joe’s Grill & Bar and La Vista Mexican Restaurant.
“I’m trying something new,” he said. “Let’s see how this goes.”
Benjamin’s is open for lunch and dinner daily at 295 W. Byron Nelson Blvd, No. 200, Roanoke; 682-237-7707, benjaminspizzakitchen.com.
Nearly ready to tap
Craft & Vine, the new taproom on the third floor overlooking historic downtown Roanoke, is announcing an Oct. 2 opening.
It’s at 310 S. Oak St., No. 300; craftandvine.restaurant.
A Stacks Biscuit House, featuring biscuit sandwiches, eggs Benedict and several different flavors of gravy, is under construction nearby.
A Southlake ‘taxi’
If Manny’s Uptown Tex Mex seems a bit like Mi Cocina, there’s a reason.
Relatives of the Rodriguez family from Mia’s in Dallas and Mi Cocina also started Manny’s. Mi Cocina regulars will find similarities in the brisket tacos, fajitas in jalapeño-queso “sunset” sauce and the swirled “taxi” drinks.
But Manny’s Uptown has a larger menu and chicken mole enchiladas and a strikingly good “cowboy salad” with adobo chicken and a garlic-chili dressing.
It’s open for lunch and dinner daily at 151 N. Nolen Drive, No. 100, 817-749-1616, mannysuptowntexmex.com.