Photo by Connor Burnard / MTSU Sidelines
Affordable, convenient and fast Italian food is not elusive, but in my experience it isn’t usually authentic, either. When I think of Italian food that I can get quickly without going out of my way or hurting my wallet, the only thing that comes to mind is pizza, which is not exactly traditional Italian food. However, my visit to Sauce proved that inexpensive and classic Italian food can be found just down the street.
Located on South Church Street just before Shelbyville Highway begins, Sauce stands in the middle of a strip mall, wedged between Fin Fusion Sushi and a walk-in clinic. Its nondescript brick entrance is adorned with just the word “Sauce,” and the interior is equally low-key. There are some frames on the main wall with decorative oversized eating utensils and canvases with Italian words that take the shape of wine bottles. Behind the counter, three dollar bills are framed, denoted as the restaurant’s first, second and third dollars.
As I arrived at the slow time of 1:15 p.m., the small dining room was empty except for one table, and only three employees appeared to be present in the restaurant.
The menu is wonderfully designed, giving the appearance of a much more expensive and exclusive establishment. A wide variety of appetizers, salads, pastas, pizzas and sandwiches ensure a difficult time deciding what to eat. The menu offers the expected fare: Mediterranean and Caesar salads or spaghetti and lasagne.
However, more adventurous appetites are also catered to here, with options like the Genoa pizza, topped with salami, spinach, broccoli, red onion and red bell pepper, or the Cowboy sandwich, filled with ham, jalapeños, red onion, chili and cheese. Always a sucker for alfredo, I resisted the temptation of the unique assortment of pizzas and sandwiches and chose a baked mushroom-and-chicken alfredo penne.
A mouthwatering whiff of parmesan slightly preceded the arrival of the food, and the taste matched the aroma. The healthy sized bowl of baked penne was a fine enough deal at $9.25, and the cherry on top was a loaf of freshly baked, buttered bread that enhanced the meal enormously. The mushrooms did not overwhelm the dish, which relieved me as I have never loved mushrooms, but I did appreciate the flavor they added. The chicken felt slightly overdone, but not enough to deter me from polishing the plate in less than ten minutes.
The food rivaled the quality of a larger, more expensive restaurant like Romano’s Macaroni Grill, but in a much cozier, intimate and authentic setting at a much better value. Just thinking about the sauce and pasta is enough to make me want another serving.
My experience at Sauce opened my previously blind eyes to a world of affordable but high-quality Italian food, and the lengthy menu beckons me to return and try more. Although I’d love to believe that the rest of the menu lives up to the freshness of the alfredo penne, I reserve a perfect score, having only tried one dish. For now, Sauce receives four out of five stars, but I’ll be back to hopefully dole out that final star.
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