Bia's brings righteous pizza to the 'burbs 

Calm, comfortable and attractive, Bia's is an ideal lunch place. Easy-listening and smooth jazz purrs through the speakers, and walls are painted a soothing dusty blue. A gentleman eating alone flips through a book while nibbling on a plate of fried mushrooms. Rain falls quietly outside as everyone sinks into the cozy leatherette banquettes. Glass pendant lights dangle above the bar and seating areas. Mod-ish blond wood accents provide an extra touch of brightness. The feel is just a little upscale -- enough to make the restaurant feel special, yet casual, without overextending itself.

CRUST TO CRUST: Like the interior, the menu is dressed-up and simple at once. Each entree is matched with wine, but, in pizzeria tradition, you can build your own calzone or pizza, as we did one visit with great results. But the creations the restaurant composes can be standouts as well: The eggplant parmigana calzone ($6.75) is nothing like the mushy, doughy mess that stands in for calzones at many places. Creamy ricotta and rich mozzarella with the right amount of chewiness and springiness ooze out from a golden brown, crispy-chewy and flavorful crust as you cut into it. Breaded eggplant slices stuffed into the calzone are delightfully custard-like.

Alpharetta Pizza Kitchen: I'm not a huge fan of chicken pizzas or pizzas with an Asian slant, but the Orient Express ($7.45) may well have converted me. The usual problems of jarringly sugary sauces and dried-out nubs of chicken are thoroughly avoided at Bia's. Succulent chicken, red onions, mozzarella and fresh cilantro are combined with a sesame sauce on Bia's excellent crust to delicious effect. The slightly sweet sauce has just the right touch of sesame.

Bought The Parm: Our only minor disappointment is the Parm ($5.45). The chicken in the sandwich is crispy, savory and tender, but the roll it's served on is soggy before we take our first bite. Proactive toasting would definitely help. A judicious amount of mozzarella provides just enough ooze, and the perfect amount of sauce gives the sandwich the right balance of sloppiness that all parmigianas need.

Bia's Pizza Kitchen is a happy surprise in a bland landscape. While the food isn't daring or exciting, the pizza and calzones we tried were carefully prepared. You might not care to haul yourself out to Bia's if you live intown. But if you call the area home, this pleasant, affordable restaurant is exactly the sort of place you'd like to make your special own.



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