Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Leone's Italian Restaurant

5234 Oaklawn Blvd
Hopewell, VA 23860

This dreary little restaurant is one of Amanda’s family’s favorite places to eat. It seems perfectly at home sandwiched between an ABC store and Tops China in the desolate Crossings shopping center in Hopewell.  If the location does not scare you away the interior of Leone’s just might.  With a large finger print covered mirror on one wall and faux wood paneling with faded beer advertisements and pictures of what appears to be Italy on the other it has all of charm of an abandoned house. The only cheery decoration in the whole establishment is a sacred heart of Jesus picture way in the back of the restaurant which seems eerily out of place.
Leone’s tries to pull off the same scam as many other Italian restaurants in the Tri-Cities, Hispanic people pretending to be Italian. I really don’t think that this has any bearing on the quality of the food, although my favorite Italian Restaurant, Pino’s, is run by actual Italians, I just thought that it is funny.  Honestly, you have to respect any person or family willing to open and operate a restaurant especially in these trying economic times.
Leone’s menu is just about the same as any other Italian Restaurant in the area but it lacks specialty Italian entrees that make others stand out. It is especially lacking in the seafood department. But it does have all of the classics like spaghetti, lasagna, various pastas and subs and pizza. It is all done decently but nothing stands out or has any sort of “WOW” factor. The prices are competitive, but there are far better Italian restaurants in every direction.
Last Saturday night, Amanda’s parents invited us out to dinner and since we were already out with nothing else to do we figured it would be nice to have dinner with them. Since Amanda adamantly refuses to eat at El Nopal, her mom’s favorite restaurant, we went to their other favorite restaurant, Leone’s.  While I always enjoy spending time with her family I never really love eating at Leone’s.  It has never been inedible or totally disgusting but it’s just very average Italian fare.
This time I ordered a calzone and added pepperoni, it was $7.95 plus $.99 for the pepperoni. The calzone arrived quite some time after Amanda and her family received their dishes. The calzone was about the size of a medium pizza flipped in half. While it was pretty large it was very thin and did not have a lot of fillings. It was filled with mozzarella and ricotta cheese and the pepperoni I added. If I hadn’t the pepperoni it would have had practically no flavor at all.  I will say that it was accompanied by a large saucer of marinara sauce which was more than enough to last the whole calzone, which is unusual. Although it was a sufficient amount of marinara sauce it was watery and tasted canned and premade.
I’ve had the same experience with Leone’s every time I go there. It has all of the standard Italian dishes and is edible but nothing stands out as great or even really good. If there were no other Italian restaurants within 20 minutes I would go Leone’s on my own accord but since there are far better Italian restaurants within five minutes in either direction I will gladly drive the extra few miles for a great Italian meal. With that being said, I’m sure I will be going back to Leone’s in the future; not because I want to but because it is one of Amanda’s parents’ favorite restaurants and because I love her and them I will keep going back.  

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