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Yeah, it's a chain—but it's good Italian food for cheap.


We know what you’re thinking: Pomodoro, the Italian pasta chain? Well, it’s not that big of a chain (it’s based in San Francisco), plus the food is actually pretty good—and the menu’s loaded with options for the serious bargain eater.

Many of the dinner entrées are offered in two sizes, giving you the option of ordering smaller but still filling versions of the shells with shrimp ($8.75), lasagna ($6.95), and the tasty ravioli di Zucca, a butternut squash ravioli with brown butter and crisp, fried sage ($6.75). Even the bistecca, a totally satisfying grilled skirt steak with arugula, Pecorino, and Tuscan beans, is offered in a smaller size for just $10.75. And, if you’re not that hungry, appetizers are generous and can double as a meal in a pinch: The gamberi, or roasted shrimp, with tomato sauce and garlic bread ($8.75), and tortellini soup ($4.50 small, $6.50 large) stand out as particularly good options.

For lunch, Pomodoro’s Lunch Express menu offers a nice range of pasta, meats, and panini options, most for under $10, served with your choice of a side soup or salad. There’re also plenty of entrée salads for under $10.

Prix Fixe Me Up: Look out for the supersaver three-course menu, offered at all locations, where $16 gets you a choice between two generously portioned appetizers, two full-sized entrées, and a flavorful little dessert.

You’re Kidding: Pomodoro is known for being child-friendly and has a cool kid’s menu for $5.50, which includes a drink (milk, apple juice, or soda); a choice of grilled cheese, mac and cheese, pizza, or mini chicken parm; and a chocolate sundae to top it off. Kiddies can even build their own pasta dish for the main course.

Drink Up: Bridging the wide gap between a glass and a bottle, wines are offered in a carafe, including a convenient two and a half glass–sized quartino ($6.50 to $10).

Pomodoro; various locations, including El Cerrito, Emeryville, Oakland, Pleasant Hill, and San Ramon, pastapomodoro.com. Lunch and dinner daily.

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