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Central Food 0

Benton’s Verona Italian Restaurant

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It’s never easy driving long distances to restaurants that you know almost nothing about. Think of it as a mixture of excitement and cautious optimism. But that’s the beauty of the food hunt. Sometimes you find gems and sometimes you find duds. A few years back, I drove out to 16925 Interstate 30 in Benton in hopes of a gem. I got a dud.

Since then, that restaurant space located just steps from the interstate has gone through a number of concepts, none of which were sufficient to inspire a return visit from yours truly. Well, that is until Verona Italian Restaurant opened this past year and I started hearing positive chatter from the masses.

Once again, I made the 30-minute trek to 16925 Interstate 30 in hopes of finding a culinary diamond. Thank goodness, this time I found a gem. That’s mainly because of Verona’s ability to churn out no-frills, reasonably priced Italian comfort food dishes.

If you are going for lunch, Verona offers a plethora of specials, like the manicotti, lasagna, eggplant Parmigiana, fettucini Alfredo and chicken piccata. Each dish costs between $7-10, which is an excellent value considering the quality and amount of food. The manicotti is a hit–especially if you’re into a massive intake of gooey, melted cheese–as is Verona’s Spaghetti Works, a vibrant beef meat sauce with sliced links of Italian sausage over noodles.

The menu also includes a wide selection of subs. The meatball, chicken Parm, and Philly steak (with mozzarella) all make an appearance, as does the Veal Parmigiana. The latter proved to be every bit as good as I imagined, thanks in large part to the thin cutlets of perfectly fried veal and a heavy hand of the aforementioned meat sauce. It’s a sloppy sandwich, but what good Italian sub isn’t a 10-napkin experience?

Truth be told, we only scratched the surface of Verona’s menu on our one visit. There is a full selection of appetizers, salads, and pasta offerings like baked ziti and ravioli, as well as a wide variety of chicken and shrimp dishes. Chicken Marsala and shrimp scampi will probably happen on the next visit. And yes, there will be a next visit.

When you go, please arrive hungry or expect to bring home a doggy bag with half of your meal. Also, the food at lunch comes out within a few minutes, a good trait for the business crowd looking to get in and out and back to work in a timely fashion. I suspect the dinner service isn’t much different, but I doubt you will ever feel rushed.

No, it is not fine dining at Verona Italian Kitchen, but I imagine the casual setting and friendly service will continue to be a hit with the Benton community.

And those of us who are willing to drive a bit.

Verona Italian Restaurant
16925 I-30 (Benton)
Phone: 501-794-6588
Hours: Tuesday-Thursday 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday & Saturday 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Closed Monday

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Kevin Shalin is a food writer living in Little Rock with his wife, Sara, and two daughters, Natalie (12) and Sydney (7). He started his own blog, The Mighty Rib, seven years ago while living in Houston. Six months later, he began writing for Eating Our Words, a Houston Press food blog. After a year in Boston, he moved to Little Rock, where he’s been for almost five years. During that time, he’s written for Little Rock Soiree, Rock City Eats, Treatsie, and Bourbon and Boots.

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