Italio is many things; bright flavors, always fresh, different textures, excellent value, and lots of choices. This is why I love to eat at this fast foodish place fit for a foodie.
Leave it to a college student, and foodie in training, Brooke Eichenbaum to turn me on to this place. She is a nutrition major who appreciates good, fresh, fit food. Italio is the perfect match.
When you walk into Italio, if you think it resembles another ethnic specific “fast foodish” popular chain, you’d be correct. The layout is similar to a very successful Mexican chain restaurant, and that’s ok. Take what works and make it your own, and Italio does just that.
5 Great Reasons to Eat at Italio
Everything begins with your choice of a pasta bowl, wrap or piadina, or salad. Then your real choices begin.
1- Flavor- Your choices for a protein are chicken; grilled or fried, steak, shrimp, meatballs, sausage, or veggies. I have tried them all except the sausage.
The all natural marinated grilled chicken breast is a very good healthy choice option. The lemon herb marinate is very subtle, but it does keep the chicken very moist.
The Italian style chicken cutlet is lightly fried in seasoned bread crumbs. The chicken is not oily at all, and the seasoning is a good complement for the meal. It is one of my go-to choices.
The balsamic marinated sirloin steak is excellent. On all of my visits, the steak was cooked medium rare to medium, with a nice pink center. Tender, moist, with a great flavor from the marinate. You can’t go wrong with the steak.
Cooking shrimp is touchy. I can’t tell you how many places I’ve eaten at where the tight little ball of something formerly known as shrimp, were overcooked to a tough mass of bleh. Nothing like that here. Italio’s shrimp are grilled to just tender and fresh.
The Meatballs are made from pork and beef. Growing up as I did, this wasn’t the standard meatball I grew up on. I love getting them out. It was the choice for my first visit there and I wasn’t disappointed. The meatballs are full of flavor, and as the other choices, prepared very well.
After you have chosen your main dish, your choices for sauce are plentiful also. From a spicy prima rosa, to alfredo, to several pestos, you have 7 choices to add more umpfhh to you dish.
The prima rosa is mildly spicy. They are not going to knock you out of your chair with the heat. It’s got a nice little bite to it. If you like spice at all, have no fear- you’ll like it.
Some alfredo sauces are very heavy, goopy and bury you in cheese. Italio gives you enough cheesiness to make you happy, and no thick pastiness that scares some people away from it.
The pesto’s are my favorite choices. Basil, sun dried tomato, and red pepper pesto. I have a special affinity towards to the red pepper. Years ago, the first dish I ever created without a recipe was red pepper pesto. I did not call it that at the time, but hey it was great and I loved it and I still do.
Whether you pick the bright green basil, or the stop light red pepper or sun dried tomato the flavors are very bright and fresh. These are not like some sauces where you can’t taste the said flavor. It is right there, in front and that freshness is one of the things I like best about Italio.
2- Freshness- If your meal of choice is a piadina, it is placed on the griddle when you order it. This refreshes it and gives it a slightly toasted feel. Filled with everything you request, its makes a great wrap. If you order a pasta, the whole wheat or white pasta are there right in front of you and portioned as you order it. If you are 3-4 people back in line, you will see them getting a new pot of pasta. None of the food behind the glass at Italio is out for long.
The main choices are only enough for a few servings. Then more is on the way. The food is not sitting under lamps drying out, and cooked long before you got there. The same goes for all the toppings that you can choose. One, all, or none on your dish, at Italio you can have it all.
My only knock on freshness was the lack of real ground pepper. All the trouble to have such fresh items in front of you, and the one thing I missed a lot, was a few turns of a pepper mill to add that aroma and taste that only just ground pepper will add. GET PEPPER MILLS for the tables.
3- Variety- You’ve read about all the main choices, 2 different types of pasta, a salad, or a wrap. There are enough sauces options to keep you busy for awhile. The variety truly comes into play with all your choice of toppings. Italio’s boosts over 20 fresh toppings you can add to whichever meal you choose.
I will just give you a sampling: 3 different types of greens including my favorite, arugula, roasted eggplant, and garlic, olives, carrots, chick peas, onions. basil and 4 cheeses to top it all.
When you have all that variety, you get different tastes and textures in your mouth all at once. The peppery pop of arugula with the crunch of a chick pea, the little hint of the basil. How can you go wrong?
At Italio, every mouthful tastes and feels a little different. That is variety in every bite.
If you take all the choices from mains, to sauces to toppings, you make over 1.7 gazillion different dishes at Italio. Okay maybe a slight exaggeration, but you can never get bored, and can’t make a bad choice.
4- Speed- Fast food has a bad rep these days. Poor quality, health concerns, labor issues, these are the things you commonly associate with McKingWen fast food. Even in a lunch rush at Italio, I have never waited more than a few minutes for my food. You know what that makes it: FAST FOOD. The difference is at Italio, none of those other issues are there. Fast good food. Case closed.
5- Value- Cheaper than real “fast food” Yup I said it. Less expensive than the big chains. When you supersize it at McKingWen, you looking from 6-8 bucks for a meal with a drink. At Italio it’s probably about 1-2 more.
I love to eat, I love food. I can say that I have never finished a pasta bowl at Italio. So guess what, let’s take the cost of my Italio and divide it in 2. So in real dollar value, my meal at Italio is actually less than eating the McKingWen. That is value.
Ok so those are my 5.
BUT WAIT- if you read now I’ll give you a few bonus reasons.
Still hurry for more- at Italio there’s an app for that, the fried calamari appetizer or side dish. Calamari is easy to make, yet ruined by so many. I have had this 5 times at Italio. Not one piece of my squid was ever chewy. Crunchy, hot, and fresh, not those rubber bands that get passed off so often by a restaurant as calamari. Italio’s calamari has been a winner every time.
Even dessert makes an appearance at Italio. They took a spin on the traditional cannoli and make it a chip. WHAT. Yes they took a cannoli shell and serve it as chip.
The chip is light as air, and sprinkled with powdered sugar, just enough to cover my black tee shirt. It comes with a side of cannoli cream to dip in and it’s great. Cool idea.
On a recent lunch visit, I got to the counter to pay and the manager said its free. I thought he was kidding. Maybe he recognized me from my card as that famous up and coming blogger lol. No I was informed the POS system was down. Instead of posting a sign, cash only, Italio earned some kudos and brownie points by treating us to lunch. That breeds loyal clients.
The people behind the counter are stellar, always smiling and helpful. They never give me that dirty look if I ask for an extra sauce for my pasta. McKingWen employees act like I’m taking that 2nd ketchup right out of their pocket.
Coke is very important to me. I love coke. Get your mind out of the alley. Coca Cola is it, as a beverage. Many places have terrible fountain Coke. They alter the proper mix, and give me a dumbfounded stare, when I tell them it has no taste. Even the Coke at Italio is great. It has that just pumped to the factory spec taste. To me nothing goes better than a good Coke and a meal, especially if that meal is at Italio.
My only other issue are the serving trays Italio uses. Italio serves your meal on a pizza pan. At least twice, my pasta bowl almost slid off the pan with my drink. Cute yes, fancier than a tray yes, functional, no.
Italio is fresh, simple, tasty, fast , and a great value. Go eat there and you will go back.
Italio has locations in Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, and several other Florida cities with more on the way. Check their website for more information.