Topping secret

The culinary equivalent of Led Zeppelin? Pesto pasta and a meatball, sausage and artichoke heart pizza from Sonny’s Authentic Italian Pizza & Pasta.

The culinary equivalent of Led Zeppelin? Pesto pasta and a meatball, sausage and artichoke heart pizza from Sonny’s Authentic Italian Pizza & Pasta.

Photo by Dana NÖllsch

Sonny’s Authentic Italian Pizza & Pasta is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Sonny’s Pizza & Pasta

7689 S. Virginia St.
Reno, NV 89511

(775) 852-9898

1994 was my freshman year in high school. I remember the day my friend Andrew ran up to me, Discman in hand, screaming, “You gotta hear this band Led Zeppelin!” By the look on his face you’d have thought he discovered them in someone’s garage the night before.

My response was something like, “Idiot, they’ve been awesome since before we were born.” Well on a recent Friday evening, my wife, Kat, her mom, Pam, and I made our first trip to Sonny’s Authentic Italian Pizza & Pasta. I left feeling like the proud protector of my own wonderful secret. That was, until I asked a girl in my accounting class if she’d ever been there.

She replied by giving me the stink eye and saying, “Yeah, I’ve been going there for years, and it’s awesome.”

Eating at Sonny’s is a little like relaxing at my grandma’s house. It’s super casual and comfortable, there are family photos covering one whole wall and a bunch of bric-a-brac hanging on the others. Not to mention the whole “when you’re here, you’re family” attitude the entire staff fostered.

The meal started with a complimentary basket of rosemary bread and herb-stuffed mushroom caps (six for $5.95). They were very simple, garlicky, buttery and delicious, but at a buck a cap, a little heavy on the wallet. For entrees, Pam chose the Megan’s Favorite pizza (12” for $14.95), Kat picked the pernod cream ravioli ($12.95), and I, the classic meatball sandwich ($10.95).

Sonny’s makes its pizza crusts from sourdough. It rolls them out thin, but apparently sourdough crust puffs up around the edges when baked. It’s the best of both worlds—a thin crust under the toppings and an airy crispy edge left over for dipping. Pam’s pizza was topped with pepperoni, fresh mushrooms and a ton of diced, roasted garlic. I know this sounds tough to believe, but the sheer amount of garlic, mostly spread throughout the center of the pizza, actually detracted from that fine pie. In fact, my only suggestion to Sonny’s is to tone down on the garnishes. My meatball sandwich was loaded with oregano, and its accompanying side of spaghetti was topped with a sizeable heap of parsley. Nothing about this was irreparable; I simply picked off what I didn’t want to eat.

That aside, my sandwich with its nicely browned and seasoned meatballs and all the melted mozzarella on top, was great. Likewise, Kat’s large beef raviolis tasted fantastic and were improved by the savory pernod mushroom cream sauce. The sauce contained tiny slices of orange zest, which Kat picked out right away. It was the right call because the citrus overpowered the sauce’s subtle liqueur flavor that combined so wonderfully with the mushrooms and cream.

Right after walking in, we had noticed strawberry shortcake listed as a special. The waitress couldn’t say enough about the dish and I didn’t eat nearly enough strawberries this summer, so of course we ordered one. Unfortunately the chef hadn’t made any that night. It must have been the pouty look on Kat’s face and our refusal to order any other dessert that caught the chef’s attention. He came out of the kitchen and explained that one portion remained from the night before. However, the shortcake wasn’t as fresh as he’d like, so we could have it for free. Talk about bending over backwards.

He was right, the biscuits were a little crunchy, but there was nothing wrong with the homemade whipped cream and strawberries. Truly, what a testament that Sonny’s unsellable, give-away strawberry shortcake is still better than others I’ve paid for in town.