If the smell of fresh pizza dough is a sure lure, then you'll be hooked easily by the Italian Gardens, which sends that savory aroma throughout Kenilworth Park Mall. You can buy it by the piece or the pie; thick or thin crust; red or white toppings. You can eat in or carry it out.

And if pizza doesn't get you, something else probably will. The Italian Gardens features a fairly extensive menu of pasta with a variety of sauces, Italian specialties, salads, regular sandwiches and Italian and American subs.

Although it smelled terrific, we passed up the pizza this time. The meatball sub is large and tasty with good meatballs under a thick sauce. The day I was there, it was served as a special with fairly standard french fries. My young lunch companions like the spicy chicken wings. Although the wings are supposed to be an appetizer, the portion was large enough for a light lunch. They were tasty without being too hot.

The Italian Gardens seems to do a brisk lunchtime business, so be prepared to stand in line if you go at peak hours. But you do get to inhale the sweet smell of freshly baked pizza while you wait.

- Mary Maushard, The Sun

The person who order the shrimp and garlic used one of those fastidious technical terms-"yummy" to describe the dish, which came with tomatoes and white wine sauce. Pretty good marks also for the garlic bread, which was crispy and...with no lack of seasoning. Big salads preceded the entrees. They came in bowls large enough, nearly, to be serving bowls. So few will walk away hungry.

“It's easy for gnocchi to come out hard, but this is very tender, said the gnocchi chooser.” And "they got it right" said one connoisseur after tasting the marinara sauce with the ziti.

“The shrimp scampi was attractive with accompanying bright green broccoli and soft gray mushrooms. The shrimp was pleasurable, complemented rather than overwhelmed by the garlic and the white whine sauce. We...[ordered] Chocolate Delight, which turned out to be layered cake with an edible gold leaf and a hint of anise.” Good enough for us, no argument.

- Bobbie and Tom Wilkinson, The Washington Post

"The families of this ever-growing community have a new home for good Italian fare that can be enjoyed on a regular basis with or without the kids, served in a smartly decorated dining room filled with friendly staff.

Italian Garden has a...simple formula for making people happy; serve good tasting, hot food at a fair price and lots of it. The spaghetti and meatballs stands up to the test of the Italian fare moniker. For $8.95, you get a big bowl of pasta with a sauce that is rich, with just enough sweetness to take away any of the acidic edge of the slowly cooked tomato sauce.

The three meatballs are too much for this person to eat at one sitting, but in a larger family setting, I'm sure someone would still have room for the "whole" meal. Instead, I had enough to take home for a nice lunch the next day. The meatballs are flavorful and suprizingly tender considering their size.

If you're a sub person, you can count on the meatball parmigiana being a satisfactory sandwich. The bologuese, with meat and mushrooms cooked into the tomato sauce, is a personal favorite. Those on a lighter diet will appreciate the straightforward flavors of the capellini d'lite, made with virgin olive oil, mushrooms, garlic, broccoli and fresh tomatoes.

The rest of the menu includes chicken done appropriately with any number of sauces and styles. One of the obvious favorite entrees is the shrimp scampi, which are sauteed quickly in butter and garlic and served over a generous portion of ziti.

Pizzas are another specialty, and, just because it says, small, don't think you're getting anything less than a 14-inch pizza. The thin-crusted pie is a winner; crunchy and delicious. The white pizza has plenty of fresh garlic and the Italian spices and a topping of green peppers, onions and mushrooms. The pizza is a perfect appetizer for a large party of six or more and dinner for a couple of teenagers (who can probably finish the extra meatball on your plate)."

- Michael Birchenall, Weekender, Times Community Newspapers