This smallish restaurant, perched next to a short street that slopes down into the Embassy Oaks Shopping Center, is housed in what was formerly West Avenue Kitchen and before that, for quite some time, Magnolia Pancake Haus.
I like what they’ve done with the place. Where Magnolia was country-homey, Julian’s has dressed up in red-and-white-checked table coverings and opened up the kitchen. A big walk-up ordering bar is backed by a huge blackboard menu, crowded with offerings to titillate any appetite that demands Italian.
We liked some of Julian’s food enough that we’ll definitely be back for more. One of the first things you should know before going, though, is that Julian’s pizza slices are enormous. I’d say one slice equals two generous slices from most other pizzerias.
What I liked about the pizza was the crunchy bottom of the crust, the tanginess of the sauce, the just-right-amount of cheese. Less impressive were the canned mushrooms used on the toppings – though, I’d add, I have eaten plenty of pizza in New York City that used them.
I ordered a two-meat pizza slice and it came out medium-warm, but it was obvious that the slice had begun life as a pepperoni pizza, and the crumbled sausage had been tossed on later. So, the sausage wasn’t embedded into the cheese and seemed almost like an afterthought. Surely there is a way to handle this differently.
We really liked the artichoke and caper pizza (these generally always come from cans and jars). Julian’s specialty pizza, the Tutto (with everything on it) was good, though we should mention canned mushrooms again. By and large the flavors were good, and the fennel in the Italian sausage, especially, shone through.
Two salads were average but could easily be bumped up a notch. The spinach salad’s balsamic vinaigrette was well-balanced, but there was far too much of it. The tomatoes were limp and appeared to be a day old, while the bacon crumbles were soft rather than crisp. The Caesar needed a lot more oomph, which could be said of plenty of other salads these days. More anchovy and garlic, some Worcestershire sauce, crunchier croutons – all needed to punch up the flavors and and textures to make this salad worthy of its name. I did appreciate the generous amount of fresh greens on both salads.
There’s lotsa pasta on the menu, and I’ll go back to try it out. While I can’t report on its quality, I like Julian’s enough to have faith these dishes will be good, too.
The Italian sub sandwich soared above average, with a good Italian dressing and plenty of cold cuts, fresh lettuce and tomatoes. I also applauded the nice effect of dusting the sandwich with Parmesan cheese (maybe this was an accident, but it sure worked) and the pickle.
While the sub was a fine sandwich indeed, the Chicago dog was only average. No poppy-seed bun, and the bun was also gummy. Not a nice thing to wrap around a foot-long Vienna Beef dog. “Real” Chicago dogs have neon green relish (as my friend who ordered this dog told me) and the requisite sport peppers lacked heat.
Julian’s gets better-than-average marks from me, based on its pizza crust and sausage, the good, strong, house-brewed tea, the really good Italian sub and a warm, cozy atmosphere. I just wish it was closer to my house.
Julian’s New York Style Pizza
13444 West Ave.
Open daily for lunch and dinner