Fortunato Brothers Pizza is a York Road institution, attracting a diverse clientele of North Baltimore and Towson-area soccer moms and Little Leaguers, bus drivers and college students.
The restaurant, which sits between a Chinese carryout and a discount haircutter, has eight plastic-topped tables in a small dining room that is bathed in the smells of garlic and baking pizza. Fortunato offers not only pizza but also strombolis, hot and cold subs, pasta, salads and sandwiches.
On our recent visit, the young staff seemed utterly unflappable, even during an unceasing dinner rush. It was crowded enough that I had to stand in a corner to make room for people to come and go from the counter. Our large dinner order took 20 minutes to prepare, which seemed about right, given the crowd.
The pizza comes with either a thick or thin crust, and you can buy any kind by the slice. And buying by the slice, while more expensive than buying a whole pie, might work for many families because the slices at Fortunato's are enormous. The slice of plain pizza ($1.40) my 10-year-old ate was bigger than his head.
Fortunato's makes wonderful crusts and avoids over-salting, a common fault at many pizza joints. It also piles on the extras. One slice of sausage pizza ($1.70) came with 12 thick slices of slightly sweet, delicious Italian sausage.
We were also pleased with the tomato pizza -- pizza crust covered with a thin layer of cheese, which is topped with spices, garlic and thick chunks of tomato.
I resisted the urge to try a piece of thick-crust pizza, which came topped with cheese and cooked ziti, of all things.
My son's spaghetti was a good-size portion of thick (reputedly homemade) pasta in a hearty meat sauce. It was nothing special, but the spaghetti, which cost $6.25 and came with a small salad and buttery garlic bread, was familiar and comforting. The meatball sub ($3.80) included nicely seasoned meatballs covered in a thick layer of melted mozzarella, all on a crusty sub roll.
The chef's salad ($4.50) featured a thick layer of bland, shredded mozzarella covering a nice mix of ham, salami, sliced egg, green olives and assorted fresh other vegetables. There was, I think, a thin layer of iceberg lettuce under all that. An unexciting Italian dressing of olive oil, vinegar and a smattering of spices did little to enliven things.
Fortunato's sits in the York Road Plaza, several blocks north of Northern Parkway on York Road. Its only drawback is the plaza's always-crowded parking lot -- a fender bender waiting to happen for pizza lovers.
Know of a good carryout place? We'd like to hear about it. You can write Liz Atwood, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, MD 21278, send a fax to 410-783-2519, or e-mail your suggestion to food@ baltsun.com.
Fortunato Brothers Pizza
Waiting room: **
Where: 6374 York Road
Hours: 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 10 a.m. to midnight Friday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday
Prices: $4 to $8 per person; cash and check only
Outstanding: ****; Good:***; Fair or uneven: ** ; Poor: *