THE PLACE: Grimaldi's in the Outlets at Legends in Sparks belongs to a group with restaurants in Nevada, Arizona, Florida, Texas and New York. Patsy Grimaldi opened the original Grimaldi's beneath the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City.
The signature of the pizzerias is a coal-fired brick oven. The ovens burn anthracite, a coal with fewer impurities, according to the company.
THE LOOK: Grimaldi's has high ceilings, banquette and table seating and a spacious bar; big groups will feel at home.
Photographs of Big Apple landmarks garnish the walls. There are red-check tablecloths and -- my favorite touch -- an offbeat sort of recycling: chandeliers fashioned from empty wine bottles.
THE MEAL: My companion and I decide to split a small Caesar salad and a small cheese pizza with extra basil. Oopsie. We don't read the menu closely, and when the pizza arrives, we learn that a small is a generous 16 inches across.
With $6 for the salad, $14 for the pizza and $2 for basil topping, we're two bucks over budget. But our oversight proves instructive.
The small pizza provides eight good-size pieces -- almost too much for two.
A 12-inch personal pizza, however, is still roomy enough for a duo, but it's only $9. Which leaves money to choose from among $2 toppings like pesto, fresh sliced tomatoes, ricotta, ham, meatballs -- more than a dozen in all.
The small Caesar salad is studded with croutons baked in the oven. It's also big enough to split.
KUDOS: The pizza is outstanding. Its crust is thin but still chewy enough to fold (a must for me), with a smudged, smoky, coal-fired bottom; sweet San Marzano tomato sauce; and gooey puddles of mozzarella.
I also like that no split plate charge was levied for the shared salad.
QUIBBLES: I'm a martini guy, but Grimaldi's serves only one brand of vodka, Three Olives (I'm guessing that's a corporate office decision). So fellow vodka fiends, take note: It's Three Olives or nothing.
Grimaldi's wine list, on the other hand, offers nearly four dozen choices -- where do you think parts for the chandeliers come from? -- including many bottles from Italy.
ALTERNATIVES: Entry-level personal calzones, also 12 inches, are $10. A couple of $2 fillings and a small Caesar or house salad ($5) would put the tab for two at or just under $20.
Or skip the tributaries and hit the rapids with an 18-inch large pizza ($16) with two toppings.
RETURN TRIP?: Isn't it obvious? For the pizza.