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It's long been common knowledge that Spiros serves some of the best Chicago-style pizza in the area. What might not be as well known is how delicious their dinners are. Thus it was that a couple of close friends and I visited this casual, family-friendly restaurant craving excellent service and a delicious meal. We were not disappointed.

The waitress seated us right away at a comfortable booth and let us peruse the menu. In addition to their pizzas, Spiros serves a variety of simple appetizers (zucchini sticks being an unusual option), hot grinders, burgers and sandwiches, pitas with a variety of fillings, gyros, calzones, and around 30 classic and signature Italian dishes, many with homemade meat sauce.

If you want a traditional pizza, they come in three sizes, 10, 14, and 16 inch, with lots of options for toppings. Pizza prices start at $8.50 for a 10 inch cheese pizza.

We all opted to start with their small salad ($4.50), though they also offer homemade soups. Italian wedding soup and pasta fazule were the ones available that night.

The salad includes shredded lettuce, cheese, a half slice of tomato, Greek olives, and shredded ham and salami. I chose the house dressing, which was an oil and vinegar style with herbs and garlic.

The salad was fresh and crunchy, with lively flavor. The small salad comes out in a small bowl nested in a larger bowl. I like to dump the salad into the larger bowl, pour the dressing atop, and then mix it all together for the best combination of flavors and textures.

Moving on to the main courses, one of my dining companions ordered the lasagne ($12.95), a dish that many people use to judge the quality of an Italian restaurant.

Spiros gets it right with hearty layers of ricotta cheese and homemade meat sauce gently separated by lasagne noodles, and baked to perfection, even on the edges. It came to our table hot enough that I had to wait a few moments before tasting it, but the melt-in-your-mouth flavors were worth it.

My other dining companion ordered the grilled chicken bacon alfredo ($12.25). With a sensitivity to both garlic and onions, she has to order carefully. When she informed the waitress of her issues and the dish she was considering, the waitress assured her that there was very little if any garlic in the dish, and no onions. My companion had no problems after the meal.

I personally am not a fan of bacon, but this flavor and texture combination worked particularly well in this dish, with the bacon adding salt, the alfredo sauce adding its cheesy, creamy flavor and texture, and the noodles and chicken carrying it all smoothly.

My dining companion remarked on the good-sized pieces of chicken in the dish. She noted that she thought they used panchetta rather than bacon, which she prefers, as it is meatier than bacon.

My choice, on the other hand, was a garlic lover's dream; shrimp scampi ($13.25). I got a good number of decently-sized shrimp in angel hair pasta full of bits of real garlic. Lightly seasoned and garnished with Spiros' Italian herb blend, this dish delights and satisfies.

Speaking of garlic and satisfaction, the plentiful garlic bread was well-saturated with garlic. It came warm to the table. Garlic bread is one of the ways I rate an Italian restaurant, and Spiros definitely passed.

Two of us had to box up leftovers. Spiros' portions are so generous you will almost certainly get a second meal out of any dinner you order. This makes their reasonable prices even more of a good deal.

While Spiros does offer several kinds of tempting cheesecake, we decided to keep on theme and ordered the baklava, tiramisu, and cannoli. The cannoli came out quite competently done, its lightly crunchy outer shell wrapped around pastry cream with chocolate chips generously sprinkled into either end. The sweet dessert was topped with confectioner's sugar.

The tiramisu was soft, creamy, rich, melt-in-your-mouth delicious. The light cake layered with cream sweetly hinted at this traditional treat's coffee flavor rather than hitting you over the head with it.

The baklava delivered the big win. Served warm, this dessert managed to hint at the nostalgic comfort of apple pie while being completely true to its roots. It was all there: the sweet honey, the flaky layers of filo, the nuts. We think we may have tasted just a touch of cinnamon to warm our hearts.

The next time you want to eat good Greek or Italian food in a casual atmosphere with fast, friendly service, check out Spiros, at 1203 West Highway 50 in Clermont, in the Emerald Isles shopping plaza. You'll be delighted. And you'll be back to try more dishes.

Try Spiros for fast, filling, and family-friendly Greek and Italian Fare in a casual atmosphere


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