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Kyle Green | The Roanoke Times
12/20/2012 Jenni Smith waits on a customer at Leonore Italian restaurant located at 128 Campbell Ave. SW, Roanoke, Virginia.
Kyle Green | The Roanoke Times
12/20/2012 Italian Sub with ham, turkey, red onion, mozzarella cheese, romaine lettuce, tomato and Italian dressing at Leonore Italian restaurant located at 128 Campbell Ave. SW, Roanoke, Virginia.
Thursday, December 27, 2012
In a narrow cubbyhole on Campbell Avenue sits one of downtown’s newest restaurants, Leonore, named after owner Miguel Liendo’s mother. After five years working at his brother and sister’s pizzeria, Grace’s Place in Grandin Village, Liendo has finally struck out on his own.
This sliver of a restaurant has, by my count, three tables and 18 stools situated at the bar and at a counter that outlines the perimeter of the dining room. The beige walls are tastefully painted to give the impression of randomly exposed brick and a rustic Italian vibe. The atmosphere is light and airy, although it can get a little cramped during the lunchtime rush.
Leonore Restaurant’s menu features the standard offerings at a casual Italian eatery: subs, pasta, pizza, salads, calzones and stromboli. It is worth noting that Leonore offers very reasonably priced lunch specials daily. Usually there are multiple specials, but they almost always offer a sub, chips and a drink for $5.99
According to the owner and the menu, almost everything at this restaurant is made from scratch. But the real star is the dough made in-house.
The crust on my Mediterranean stromboli ($7.50) was lightly crisp on the outside, soft underneath and had a distinct, natural, earthy flavor. The stromboli was stuffed with extra-virgin olive oil, spinach, garlic, tomatoes, black olives and feta, and the fillings certainly tasted fresh, as the menu advertised.
The cold marinara sauce served with the calzone, however, was a surprising and unpleasant contrast. The cooks should consider warming it before it is served.
The Italian sub ($5.99) arrived warm even though the menu did not indicate it would be heated by default. In my opinion, the layers of thickly sliced ham, turkey and creamy mozzarella topped with red onion, romaine and tomato would have been better cold, particularly with the Italian dressing.
Predictably, the tomato was utterly tasteless — such a common problem this time of year that restaurants should forgo it altogether. The wonderful bread, however, was reminiscent of focaccia in both texture and flavor.
I found the beef on the Philly steak sub ($5.99) particularly lean and well-seasoned. The green peppers and onions, which are so often cooked into oblivion on sandwiches like this, maintained their texture and flavors. Finding it a tad dry, we requested some mayonnaise, which made it go down more smoothly .
The meaty wings ($6.99) were slathered with a tangy, sweet barbecue sauce.
As a huge fan of carbonara dishes, I was eager to try Leonore’s version. The tiny pasta shells in my cavatelli ($8.99) arrived coated with a blend of eggs, Parmesan cheese and smoky chunks of bacon that, although satisfying in flavor, was overly viscous. A little more black pepper wouldn’t have hurt.
With the pasta dish, the wondrous bread made another appearance as garlic toast.
The service on each of my visits to Leonore was efficient, which should not be surprising in light of the restaurant’s size. Even if need arose, it would have been easy to get the server’s attention.
The bottom line
Liendo made a good choice when he decided to open his own restaurant.
The result is a slightly cramped but airy little place that aims for the sweet spot of offering great Italian essentials at very reasonable prices. On this score, he appears to have mostly succeeded.
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