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$13 at Pronto Cucinino

Did we mention the rolls are delicious?

: Pronto Cucinino, 1401 Montrose, 713-528-8646

What $13 gets you: Just about whatever your heart desires – in this case, ¼ roasted lemon-garlic chicken breast, garlic mashed potatoes, green beans, and two rolls.

In the land of Pronto Cucinino, the man with $13 is king. Some snobs might turn their noses up at this casual, counter-order Italian bistro, but that just means you won’t have to wait in line behind them for a decent meal. The atmosphere is warm and inviting, with a brick fireplace where they roast their specialty lemon-garlic chicken. There’s also the added convenience of special parking for take-out.

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Recommended? Darn tootin’. Whether you’re craving salad, pizza, pasta, seafood or the aforementioned chicken, your $13 will go far. At $7.95, the lasagna was calling my name, but I somehow felt obligated to indulge in their specialty, so I put a muzzle on the lasagna and opted for the ¼ chicken. (A whole freakin’ chicken is only $10.50, but I didn’t want to be that gluttonous.) They also have bottled Italian sodas and Orangina – one of my all-time faves, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen on any other menu. (At $2.75, it’s a bit steep, though, and out of line with the rest of the menu prices, so I abstained on principle. Like Dirty Harry said, a man’s gotta know his limitations).

The chicken was very good, but the highlights were the sides – especially the “Italian style” green beans. I can’t really describe how the beans were prepared – slathered in some sort of oil perhaps – but they tasted fresh and rich, almost a dessert unto themselves. The whole meal was such a pleasure, I definitely need to go back for that lasagna. The whole thing came to $11.69 with tax and tip – a very good value for a very good meal.

Bonus point: Fast, friendly service. And freakin’ Orangina. – Craig Malisow

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