Some restaurants -- and there aren't many of them -- are so good that you can order just about anything on the menu and be assured of satisfaction. Others may do well with one category of dishes but not another. And still others turn out such a narrow spectrum of worthwhile items that one has to be particularly careful to order just the good ones and avoid the rest.
Why patronize a place in the last category? Because sometimes just one or two outstanding dishes are enough to make a restaurant an attractive choice. Such is the case with Tugio's, an Italian restaurant of nearly unrelieved mediocrity, but with a few shining exceptions.
First and foremost, there's the Sicilian (deep-dish) pizza, which is one of the very best renditions around. Most deep-dish pizzas are, let's face it, awful.
Scrape away the topping and you're left with what tastes like a piece of soft, spongy Wonder Bread. Remove the topping from Tugio's version and what's underneath tastes like a slab of excellent homemade bread -- wonderfully crusty at the bottom, nicely chewy above, with a good, yeasty flavor and a properly airy texture.
In fact, that's the true test for a deep-dish pizza: Try to imagine enjoying it without the tomato and cheese -- with a little butter, let's say, for breakfast. In this department, Tugio's passes with flying colors.
The regular pizza is decent enough, but it's no match for the deep-dish style. The sausage, incidentally, as well as the meatballs, are very good here -- don't hesitate to have them on the pizza.
Two pizza cousins have solid potential but don't quite make the grade. Calzone, a folded-over pocket of pizza dough enclosing a mixture of ricotta and mozzarella cheeses, has a good chewy crust, but we found the ricotta unpleasantly pasty and flavorless.
The Italian boat is similar but without the ricotta, and with green pepper, mushrooms, sausage and meatball in the filling. It would have been fine except for a curious shortage of cheese and a layer of what appeared to be raw dough inside the crust.
Beyond the pizza, it's probably best not to stray too far into the rest of the menu. One of the better nonpizza offerings is linguine with clams -- a bit mushy, with what appear to be canned clams, but you get reasonably priced big portions. The lasagna, unfortunately, has no redeeming virtues, nor do the eggplant or veal.
The desserts are mainly nondescript, but with a couple of gems: a deep, dark chocolate mousse pie and an impressive chocolate truffle cake, both from a Pennsylvania bakery, and a solidly good, old-fashioned cheesecake from Rockville.