Whether you want to amp up your pizza presentation or pass off that garlic chicken as your own―we’ll never tell―REAL SIMPLE. REAL LIFE. food expert Nathan Lyon offers two ways to rethink restaurant fare.

By Real Simple
Updated February 03, 2009
Caren Alpert


To make take-out look homemade, put your own spin on the dish. For example:

• Order a thin-crust pizza and ask the pizzeria to go easy on the cheese. Sprinkle it with a combo of high-quality grated cheese such as mozzarella or Parmesan and freshly chopped herbs. (Thinly sliced vegetables and a light drizzle of olive oil are great toppers, too.)

• Use an Italian specialty like chicken cacciatore as a building block for whatever vegetables and herbs you have handy―tomato-based dishes go well with a variety of flavors.

• In the mood for Chinese? Ask for extra vegetables, brown rice, and entrees that are steamed instead of fried. When you’re ready to serve, add your own handful of bean sprouts, freshly grated carrots or thinly sliced broccoli.


Banish the paper and plastic cartons and break out the plates, bowls, and platters that go best with what’s on the menu―even if the selections are out of the ordinary. (Why not sip chilled pea soup out of stemless wine glasses?) If you have a favorite family cuisine, consider splurging on corresponding serveware, such as individual sushi sets. And before you put any plate on the table, add your own garnish―a slice of lemon or a sprig of parsley.