After six years of owning a full-service pizza restaurant as well as another business in Huntington Beach, Calif., Roger and Imelda Chugh craved a change. The expense and crowds of Southern California weren't exactly what they had planned for raising their four children. So, five years ago, they sold both businesses and moved to Colorado Springs, aiming for open space and a quieter climate.
But leaving Cali behind didn't mean leaving their passion for food.
A year and a half ago, the Chughs opened Pizza Time in north Colorado Springs as a family-friendly place featuring pizza, subs, salads and pastas. Located off Research Boulevard, the restaurant's bright, two-toned yellow and red design sports Air Force Academy pennants and a Colorado Rockies fan-only section. The open concept offers large wooden tables for groups and families, a corner mini-arcade space and four flat-screens around the room for game-watching.
However, on one recent visit I had a choice of CNN or the Jonas Brothers. I watched both as I dived into the appetizer menu, opting for the oddly named Sticky Fried Zucchini ($5.99) and Melli's Hot Wings ($4.99). Imelda says that the right oil temperature and timing keep the zucchini from tasting greasy or mushy in the center — sure enough, it proved a solid, crunchy snack. With eyes watering, I was too weak for the red pepper-flecked wings.
Aside from offering a sarcastic answer to the question, "What time is it?" (on its Web site), Pizza Time offers a benevolent perspective on size. My delicious, small Antipasto salad ($5.29) nearly fed two of us, loaded with greens, bell peppers, olives, artichoke hearts, salami, pepperoni and ham. We also enjoyed a suitably large, hand-tossed, whole-wheat pizza ($12.29; extra toppings, $.75 to $3.50) with a nice, crisp bottom. My kids didn't notice a difference from the regular dough.
Mindful of other healthier options, Imelda recently added an entire grouping of gluten-free items to the menu. After a friend noted that he couldn't eat much she served, she worked with her distributor, Sysco, to solve that problem. Now, those with gluten intolerance can choose from pizza and pasta dishes to sandwiches with little worry. Imelda even made sure her liquor menu included a gluten-free beer.
"The response has been amazing," she says.
Given the close proximity to Pine Creek High School, it's no surprise that the subs would be a popular choice for student lunch crowds. I see why: Pizza Time's Philly Cheesesteak ($6.99) delighted, with its crunchy crust and spongy center, though I prefer my onions and peppers sautéed. (Imelda says she can easily accommodate that upon request.)
A vegetarian Mediterranean pasta dish ($7.99) quickly became my favorite dish. It's basically a warm Greek salad minus the lettuce, penne pasta tossed in a house balsamic sauce combined with sun-dried tomatoes, Kalamata olives, wilted spinach, garlic, and feta and parmesan crumbs. Outstanding.
For dessert, we spurned apple pie and sundaes, opting for a refreshing, sour-apple, Hawaiian shaved ice ($1.99), similar to a snow cone. The slivers of melted ice left their telltale green mark on my son's tongue, which he found "cool" after making $3 disappear in the arcade.
Aside from pleasing the kids, Pizza Time ultimately succeeds in satisfying grown-up eaters too, which leads me to doubt another move for the Chughs any time soon.