Bargain Bites: Hot Heaven Pizzeria, Avon

October 15, 2009 | By Daniela Altimari

Originally printed in The Hartford Courant

This little pizzeria tucked in Old Avon Village isn't the kind of place you'd drive across the state to visit, but if you live a suburb west of the mountain, you'll be happy it's in your neighborhood. The compact menu consists mainly of everyday eats such as salads, sandwiches, pasta and pizza, but there are flashes of creativity throughout.
The vibe: Homey and intimate. There are only seven tables. (The restaurant also has a brisk takeout operation). The tiny space never feels cramped thanks to features such as rich, cranberry-colored walls, hardwood floors and gentle lighting. The warm vibe is underscored by the presence of a hearth in the dining room. Even though no fire was lit, it gave the room a comfy aura. There's also a large collection of carved wooden figures and, somewhat incongruously, a Keno machine and a smattering of sports memorabilia, including football helmets and a ball signed by Joe Namath.
The food: We started with the cranberry-spinach salad with chicken, easily large enough for two to share. The mild greens were tender and the dried cranberries sweet, and the champagne vinaigrette provided a tangy counterpoint. The maple-glazed chicken was on the bland side, but roasted garlic and toasted sesame seeds added zip and crunch. A pizza place whose motto is "everybody wants a slice of heaven" had better turn out a mean pie, and Hot Heaven lives up to its moniker. Topping choices include sausage, pepperoni, feta or goat cheese or artichoke hearts. We're pizza purists, so we went with plain cheese, which featured nothing but tomato sauce and a generous toss of slightly salty mozzarella cheese. The crust was crisp and pleasantly charred. The kids meals tend toward the traditional — chicken tenders, mozzarella sticks, pasta with sauce or butter — but they were well-prepared and came with a mound of addictive fries. We also liked that the pasta selections could be ordered family-style. It's BYOB, but if you feel like a beer or a glass of wine, there is a package store in the same complex, right across the hall.
The prices: A large cheese pie is $13; entree-sized salads ample enough for two are $7 or $9. Individual pasta dishes are about $9 for lunch, $12 for dinner. And for about $30, you and your dining companions could feast on a family-sized portion of pasta primavera, fettuccine Alfredo with chicken, seven-cheese lasagna or other pasta choices, as well as a house salad and an order of garlic-basil Gorgonzola bread.
The particulars: Open Monday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sundays, 4 to 9 p.m.
The verdict: A heavenly choice for denizens of Avon and surrounding communities.