Pizza is one of those foods. I love pizza. I adore pizza. If I had a choice between foie gras and pizza, I would go for a white pie with garlic, spinach and olive oil.
There has been a boom in pizza restaurants within the past year or so. Last summer, a friend told me the owners of Pesto planned to open a pizzeria a few doors down on South Broad Street. Pizzeria Pesto is a fine addition to the ever-growing number of pizza places throughout the city.
I’ve been to Pizzeria Pesto on two occasions: lunch on a brutally windy afternoon and a recent dinner after the blizzard. I was delighted with both meals.
The chef in charge is Claudio Conigliaro who is from Genoa, the home of Christopher Columbus and pesto. He prepares his thin-crust pies with loving care and bakes them in a large gas oven.
Soup does not appear on the menu, yet our server advised that I could warm up with a bowl of stracciatella. The broth was homemade and rich with flavor. Warm, homemade rolls dusted with herbs and garlic arrived for the table.
I, along with my dining companions, Bill and John, looked forward to trying the pizza. I ordered a Caesar salad ($6.50) to nosh on before the pies arrived. The dressing did not contain anchovies but our server had the chef top my salad with a few. The dressing, however, was homemade as were the crispy croutons strewn over the crisp bits of fresh romaine.
We ordered the 12-inch pesto pizza ($9) and the classic Margherita ($8). Pesto must be prepared in the right balance of basil, garlic, olive oil and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Conigliaro’s version was smooth and imparted the right consistency. It was topped with olives and fresh mozzarella.
The Margherita was polished with a fresh tomato sauce before slices of fresh mozzarella were added along with fragrant basil leaves. It was simply delicious.
The restaurant was jumping when Edward and I went to dinner. Since it’s a BYOB, we brought a bottle of a rich-blended red from Spain.
Salads here are large enough for two. They are freshly prepared and not a bit overdressed. Arugula salad ($7) contained just a few ingredients.Top quality, fresh baby arugula, shards of Parmigiano-Reggiano, salt and pepper were tossed with one of the freshest olive oil/lemon juice vinaigrettes I’ve sampled in a long time.
The rustica salad ($7) was a Mount Etna of ingredients including mixed greens, which featured baby spinach leaves, frisee, red and green oak lettuces with more of the spicy arugula for good measure, roasted red pepper strips, six thick slices of mozzarella and slices of black olives topped with a dressing of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Before the peppers were added, they should have been rinsed of their brine with the seeds removed. Imported olives rather than the rubbery canned ones would make this salad a star. But we gave the dressing a 10 out of 10. It was the finest balsamic vinaigrette I have ever tried in an Italian restaurant.
Seafood pizza can be tasty and a welcome change from what you might usually order. I asked our smiling waiter if we could have a white pie instead of a red one because we do not care for seafood in a tomato sauce.
The pescatora pie ($10) consisted of baby shrimp, clams and mussels which were placed on a thin skating rink of mozzarella cheese topped with olive oil, garlic and fresh herbs.
I wanted to see if the classic Margherita would arrive the same delicious way it did on my lunch. It did. Since I wanted dessert, a few slices of both pies were packed in a box.
I never turn down a cannoli ($5). The ricotta filling was slightly sweet, creamy and filled my expectations. The shells are made at the restaurant and each one is filled to order.
A cup of decaf espresso ($2) capped off a delicious evening.
Three tips of the toque to Pizzeria Pesto. SPR
1925 S. Broad St.