For years, Petrillo’s was a spot I paid no attention to as I drove through Freeport on Depot Street, a road that veers away from the retail outlets. Why would I go to a pizza place for the tourists, one that maybe served a few ersatz Italian entrees?

Then someone who lives in town said it was among her favorite spots for a meal. That, and the opening of a new cinema directly across the street, suggested a drop-in.

I’m glad I did, for Petrillo’s certainly deserves to be noticed.

The freestanding, red-shingled building with patio and a hanging pot of fresh herbs makes for an inviting exterior. Enter to face a long bar of 16 stools running almost the whole length of the long narrow space, with a smattering of tables at one end.

A bar expansion was completed last April, which took away some dining space. More tables are now set in a clear plastic sheet-sided room that extends onto the sidewalk. That section stays open most days, even in winter. It’s plenty warm in this annex, which has its own heater. The floor is the brick sidewalk and the view is, well, plastic sheets.

The “interior” walls are a little better — pumpkin color with red trim. We were seated literally an arm’s length from the ladies room, which made one diner feel squeezed. And we were privy (sorry) to all that traffic.

Enough about the mixed milieu. Come for the entrees, which are delicious. The special of the night we visited was pretty special, considering its price and reach: Tender slices of roasted duck breast bearing an herb-crusted skin served over linguine with a light herb sauce, goat cheese and cranberries for $18. A real find.

Prosciutto and shrimp a la vodka ($15) from the regular menu was another very good dish, with a cream sauce that bore a faint taste of liquor, plenty of shrimp and slivers of the smoked meat over penne.

A second penne-based dish was composed of housemade lean chicken sausage mixed in a cacciatore of chunky tomatoes, onions and green peppers, for a spicy, salty and robust but simple entree ($13).

These very generous portions were served in rather unclassy bowls of sturdy, reusable plastic standing in for stoneware. But the napkins were cloth, the silverware stainless steel, and the tabletops made of tile. And the plates weren’t the throw-away foam stuff, which can be so unappealing to eat off of and depressing, knowing it’s landfill the minute you push away from the table.

Pizza also gets very good treatment here. A 12-inch margherita pizza had big chunks of fresh tomato, whole basil leaves and a blend of mozzarella, provolone and Parmesan over a homemade marinara. Except for the rim, the thin crust was a little too moist, which made the slices floppy, but we loved the nutty flavor of the whole-wheat option. Regular and gluten-free crusts are also available.

Most of the peripheral food was less exciting than the entrees and pizza, with the exception of the terrific homemade meatballs. Each is a fluffy and rich sphere of a quarter pound of meat, served with an excellent marinara ($2.50 per) that the restaurant sells by the pint. There are plenty of takers.

A cream-based smoked mussel and Maine shrimp chowder was laden with potatoes and a good smoky flavor, but our cup portion didn’t carry much in the way of seafood ($4.25). Homemade foccacia was soft and ordinary.

The Caesar salad ($5), generous and fresh and covered with a blizzard of cheese, was dully dressed, like so many these days. (Where is the tang of yesterday’s Caesars?) The good news is, there are seven salads to choose from, a selection that’s much broader than at similar spots. Roasted peppers, sliced onions and homemade croutons soaked in a piquant vinaigrette and served over mixed greens made a nice panzanella ($6).

Because it was served in a martini glass, a lovely-to-behold tiramisu had a layer of sweetened mascarpone to dig through before getting to the tapered end, where the good stuff — the ladyfingers soaking in coffee liqueur — resided in too small measure. Still, the dessert was rich and delectable ($6).

Overall, we liked Petrillo’s quite a bit. On a Tuesday night, one server was assigned to all the tables (a bartender helped out), and the place happened to fill up, which meant she didn’t always get to our table in a timely way. She was friendly, though, and we felt appreciated.

For me, Petrillo’s is no longer a drive-by spot. I look forward to trying more dishes. And here’s a thought for those pinching pennies: After an afternoon of bargain hunting, stop in at happy hour and enjoy that quarter-pounder meatball, generous Caesar salad or panzanella, and a glass of decent house red wine ($2 until 6 p.m. on weekdays), be served at a table, and finish up sated and happy for only $9.

If your bottom line and appetite allows you to delve into the delicious entrees or one of Petrillo’s specialty pizzas, all the better. You’ll get plenty of very good food, competent service and a glass of wine or two for under $25. 

Nancy Heiser is a freelance writer. She can be reached at