Dining Out: Twilight makes magic of pizza, pasta

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Why: This month is the fifth anniversary of Twilight Pizza Bistro in Camas. They have quite a following among Clark County pizza-lovers. Although known for specialty pizzas that are nothing short of gourmet, the restaurant serves some other outstanding items that are all part of Twilight's magic.

Atmosphere: An artistic, ethereal vibe greets diners at the door. A blue paper moon hangs from a recess in the center of the ceiling. Walls are painted dark and dressed with an eclectic array of mirrors. Fabric panels help break up the dining space along the walls, and amber pendant lights further define the tables. Small trinkets have been randomly set in the strips of wood on the floor. A drink cooler toward the back is decorated with lighted garland, and a few antique pieces of furniture have been utilized as serving stations.

What I tried: My dining companions and I decided on the Baked Mac and Cheese, Traditional Lasagna, and a Jester Pizza for our entrees, and we tried the Twilight Salad, Caesar Salad, and Fresh Mix Salad. For dessert, we had the brownie with raspberry sauce and the chocolate cheesecake with caramel and chocolate-dipped pretzels.

After sampling the Jester Pizza, I understood why Twilight is widely adored. The pizza begins with a base of both barbecue sauce and traditional red sauce and is topped with mozzarella cheese, pepperoni, Canadian bacon, chicken, bacon, Italian sausage, pineapple, garlic, and honey. The toppings are added in reasonable amounts so as not to create a mound of flavors that cross over with every bite, but rather a more conservative experience where flavors intermingle in a delightful way. This particular pizza is unique, and I would certainly recommend it for first-time Twilighters.

Both the Baked Mac and Cheese with its bubbly golden top and the lasagna with its traditional multi-layer goodness were excellent. My only regret was not ordering a meat add-in -- grilled chicken or meatballs -- for the Baked Mac and Cheese. This would have made it more entrée-worthy.

The salads were all good, with a garden-fresh quality. The Twilight was an inspirational departure from common salads, made with a spring mix of (mostly dark) greens, candied walnuts, blue cheese crumble, bacon, and a drizzle of red balsamic vinaigrette. I've had similar salads, but the bacon and the distinct flavor of the vinaigrette put a slight spin on the rest of the ingredients that really bumped it up a notch.

Dessert was enchanting. The fanciful presentation takes Twilight's various sweets beyond Clark-County-ordinary. Both the brownie and the cheesecake were accompanied by a mountain of whipped cream and a large hard-sugar drizzle, along with their own individually suited elements -- the brownie with its sweet, raspberry-fresh sauce, and the cheesecake with its pretzels. They were fun to eat and to share.

Menu highlights beyond what I tried: A popular nonpizza item is the Potato Gnocchi with Sausage and Onions -- potato dumplings and sautéed Italian sausage and onions, smothered in a house-made porcini cream sauce. The Baked Penne Twilight, made with penne pasta, meat sauce, bell peppers, mushrooms and ricotta cheese, all covered with mozzarella cheese, sounded delicious to me.

Other observations: The acoustics do not favor quiet conversation when the house is full.

Desserts are all house-made, and the selection changes frequently.

The wait staff was courteous and attentive, and special requests were met without difficulty.

Cost: Appetizers are $4.95 to $11.95. Soup is $3.95 for a cup, $5.50 for a bowl. Salads are $4.95 to $10.95. Pastas range from $6 to $14.95. Pizzas come in five sizes. You can build your own from a basic cheese, which start at $4.95 and top out at $18.90, plus the cost of toppings of your choice. Specialty pizzas are $6.60 to $28.45. Calzones are $11.95 plus fillings from $0.75 to $1.50. Kids' selections are $3.50 to $5.50.

Hours: 4 to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. Hours will be adjusted for summer in a few weeks.

Telephone: 360-834-6596

Where: 224 N.E. Fourth Ave., Camas. Twilight Pizza Bistro will open its second location in the 192nd Station shopping center in August.

Web:Twilight Pizza Bistro

Health score: Twilight Pizza Bistro received a score of 5 on March 22. Zero is a perfect score, and Clark County Public Health closes restaurants that score 100 or higher. For information, call 360-397-8428.