The cuisine: At Vietalia Kitchen in Arlington, it's pho meets pasta primavera, bubble tea meets barbecue-beef pizza. Yes, this menu is all over the place.
The ambience: A tiny, order-at-the-counter restaurant just south of the University of Texas at Arlington.
The decor is appealing, with a stone-tile floor, wooden tables, sleek black chairs and a burbling fountain in a corner. Much nicer looking than most of the UTA-area hole-in-the-wall restaurants.
The food: As the name indicates, this restaurant is trying to meld Vietnamese cuisine with popular Italian dishes (primarily pizza), presumably in an attempt to appeal to a broad segment of the nearby college students. Even the traditional Vietnamese dishes are somewhat Americanized. For instance, sandwiches are called Vietnamese sandwiches rather than banh mi, and you can order them with fries.
We started our meal with shrimp rockets ($5), which are large shrimp wrapped in egg roll wrappers and fried golden, served with a dipping sauce that is sweet and hot. We enjoyed the crunch of this appetizer and liked that there were sizeable shrimp inside as opposed to the cream cheese filling you find in the "crab" Rangoon on so many Asian menus.
The lemongrass beef sandwich ($3.50) was larger than the banh mi at some restaurants, making it a good value. The bread was fresh, but not so crispy that eating was difficult. Toppings included sour radish, shredded carrot, onion, cucumber, jalapeño and cilantro.
We're big fans of banh mi and thought this sandwich compared well with some of our favorites, though it would have been improved with a bit more cilantro.
Vietnamese coffee with milk ($2.50) was served in the kind of plastic, cartoon-laden cup that bubble tea is usually served in. A grown-up-style cup would have been nicer.
Vietalia does offer bubble teas ($3) in flavors such as mocha, cappuccino, taro, mango, avocado and passion fruit.
There are a handful of pasta dishes. We tried the carbonara ($8). Linguini was mixed with large chunks of chicken, small bits of bacon, caramelized onions and bell peppers and smothered in Alfredo sauce. To my surprise, it was accompanied by a baguette. The carbonara fell flat, with the sauce not delivering the to-die-for-punch that that many calories should deliver.
Pizzas come in three sizes: 8-inch minis, 12-inch regulars and 15-inch larges.
A mini New York ($5) comes with two toppings of your choice. We picked Italian sausage and onions. When it arrived, the pizza was so hot we had to wait a bit before taking a taste. The proportions of cheese, sauce and toppings were to our liking.
We'd definitely order the pizza again, though New Yorkers be warned: This is not the foldable "slice" you remember, but something with a firmer crust.
We came back another day and tried the orange chicken sandwich ($4.50). Yes, it was oh-so-sweet, thickly breaded chunks of chicken served banh mi-style. Breading between bread. Too much for us.
Vietalia also offers steamed rice dishes, fried rice dishes, pho, hamburgers and a battered fish sandwich for good measure.
You should know: Students with a school ID get a 10 percent discount.
Details: Major credit cards accepted. No alcohol. No smoking. Wheelchair-accessible.