Posted February 10, 2010 01:39 pm - Updated February 10, 2010 04:22 pm

Heat lamps don't make for great pizza

We're on a pizza binge here at Lunch Money Central, and we learned something today: It's hard to keep even the best pizza in its prime under the hot lamps of a pasta buffet.

Lunch Buddy Donna and I and the Luncheon­ettes have been happy with the food at Pizza Joint for years. The Devito sandwich is a favorite of mine, the dough balls are fantastic appetizers, and the pies have always been sublime. The downtown Pizza Joint is one of my favorite places to take job candidates.

Unfortunately, a recent meal from the lunch buffet at the Evans location proved problematic. Their made-from-scratch dough is rolled into thin-crust pies, which is fine, but it didn't hold up well under a heat lamp. This is a pie that deserves to be custom ordered and eaten hot and fresh.

The price is right for the buffet, at $7.50 each, and the selection is decent, with four or five full pies, spaghetti and a salad, but take a walk to the back and check it out before you dine.

Our visit was at 12:30 p.m. on a Sunday, prime dining time, so the pies should have been fresh.

You are greeted as you enter and handed menus, then you seat yourself. Pizza Joint is dark and spacious, with rock music piped in to the background and several televisions of various sizes around the large bar and in the dining room.

The massive aquarium in the dining area is a nice touch, but some of the artwork put us off. We were especially puzzled by a watercolor of a snowy landscape that had been hidden behind three large, brightly-colored plates.

Maybe it was just an off day all around. The dough balls are usually a highlight of a Pizza Joint visit, but the ones on the buffet tasted old and cold. The spaghetti noodles were in water on the buffet. I passed. The Greek salad is usually a treat here, but all that was offered on the buffet was a tub of iceberg lettuce, some bland tomatoes and some shredded cheese, with two dressings available.

Pizza Joint has earned a return visit, based on past experiences. We'll just avoid the buffet on the next go around.

THE LUNCH LINE

WHAT: Pizza Joint
WHERE: 4301 Washington Road, Evans
ON THE MENU: Pizza, sandwiches, salads, subs
FOOD: 2 out of 5
SERVICE: 2.5
VALUE: 3.5
CALL AHEAD: (706) 447-4992