Tag Archives: restaurant review

margherita pizza

NYC Pizza Review: Masseria Dei Vini

Mark and I had a fun Memorial Day Weekend with friends from our building (and from life, since I’ve known her since we were five): eating pizza, seeing a Broadway musical and getting midnight gelato.

We had dinner at an unsuspecting Italian restaurant on 9th Avenue: Masseria Dei Vini. You would never know from a street full of hole-in-the-wall quick-bite eateries that a large, bright, white-washed upscale Italian restaurant lies behind huge glass windows.

Complete with white tablecloths, mannered waitstaff and a restaurant-length (and height) wall of temperature-controlled, beautifully lit wine bottles, Masseria Dei Vini felt luxurious in an off-beat part of town. Like we had been transported away from anything grungy….maybe to the suburbs even?

 

Mark and I split a pasta as a our appetizer (even split it was a lot of food), and then I had the Margherita pizza as my main, of course.

magherita pizza
margherita pizza

The pizza was excellent and actually fairly large. I ate the whole thing. But I probably could’ve taken half home and still been full!

The crust was a puffy and charred. There was a perfect ratio of sauce to cheese (not too much sauce) and lots of basil leaves. I ate it with a knife and fork, but you definitely could’ve eaten it with hands too, which is to say, it wasn’t too soggy in the middle.

I would definitely return, although next time I would probably split the pizza, or force myself to stop eating and take the rest home!

Pizza Night in Ann Arbor Part I: Tony Sacco’s

tony saccos

Mark and I had a pizza hankering a few weekends ago, and wanting to try some place new, we decided on Tony Sacco’s coal-fired pizza. Tony Sacco’s is a chain with establishments in the Midwest, Florida and North Carolina but that didn’t deter us because some chains (like Bertucci’s) can be really good. We had driven by Tony Sacco’s many times when shopping at Whole Foods, as it’s located in that strip mall’s parking lot, and always wondered how it was.

The restaurant atmosphere wasn’t anything special: standard large room with granite tables and typical black metal slatted-back chairs as you find in many pizzerias. Nothing on the walls to make it homey or charming, but there were some TVs if you wanted to go there to watch a game. What I did notice was that the tables were kinda long and skinny, so that Mark and I were abnormally far away from one another. I probably only noticed this because I recently read restauranteur Danny Meyer’s book Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business, in which he describes specifically picking wider tables that were shorter in length so guests would be closer to one another across the table and could speak more intimately without shouting. So that was one odd distinguishing feature of Tony Sacco’s.

Mark and I each ordered a personal pizza, and personal they were. On the small side, it was enough for me, but Mark was still a bit hungry after his pepperoni pizza….more on that in a minute.

I had a sun-dried tomato and banana pepper pizza, which was fairly tasty. They definitely did NOT skimp on toppings, which was appreciated, however we did remark that the toppings really gave the pizza flavor, whereas a plain cheese pizza without toppings probably would have been bland. They also put some sort of added butter or oil on the crust, which was unwelcome. The crust texture was well enough, but whatever they spread on there at the end just added grease and no flavor. At least if you are going to add all these extra butter calories, make it like Papa John’s garlic butter goodness. I feel like this “butter on the crust” thing is a new trend that I’m seeing in a lot of pizza commercials, and I don’t like it. Your crust should be delicious enough that you don’t need to slather it with butter. If I see you putting extra butter on your crust (of stuffing the crust with cheese for that matter), all I’m thinking is that your dough is sub-par and I probably should avoid your establishment all together. Just sayin’.

Overall, if I were on a road trip and were hungry, would I go to Tony Sacco’s? Yes. If I’m craving pizza at home, am I going to seek out Tony Sacco’s? No. (On a positive note, the waitstaff was very friendly, so good job to them.)

As I mentioned earlier, Mark was unsatisfied after his small personal pizza, so we decided to go elsewhere for our second pizza dinner of the night. Part II to come.

TX Pizza Review: Coppa Ristorante

This past weekend in Houston, we went to dinner Coppa, an Italian restaurant that seemed to me to epitomize much of the Houston restaurant scene.

Clearly I don’t live in Houston nor have I spent copious amounts of time there, but I’ve eaten at a my fair share of establishments on my semi-annual trips.  Here are the broad generalizations I’m going to make, and feel free to disagree (but please cite examples):

1. Lots of upscale or “finer” dining restaurants (notches above fast casual and family friendly) are situated in strip malls.  They could be very nice, new, stone strip malls, or they could be run-of-the-mill.  Either way, you may not realize that there’s a nice restaurant tucked on the side next to Kroger.  You pull up to the parking lot thinking incredulously, “Huh, where are we?”  Then you open the trying-to-be-historic-but-is-really-a-new-restaurant-trend obligatory heavy wooden door and boom! you’re in a white tablecloth restaurant.  Surprise!

2. Once you enter said strip mall fine restaurant, the dining room(s) will be large, potentially cavernous, and have an eerie similarity to lots of other restaurants, and you may think that you have actually been to that place before.  However, while the placement of the bar, bathrooms and kitchen may be reminiscent of other establishments, the decor will vary, and hopefully, as in the case of Coppa, be warm and inviting.  When I walked into Coppa, I thought I had been there on an earlier trip, remembering the large wall of windows lined with long tables and the placement of the entryway and bar.  I had in fact never been there.  The bar was welcoming with large framed mirrors hanging over yet another mirror mounted on the wall, and I liked how the opposite back wall and secondary dining alcove were lined with the wine selection.

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3. Tables will be crowded together and it will likely be loud.  Because these dining rooms tend to consist of one very large room with high ceilings (and maybe a secondary room like at Coppa), there’s not much in the way of interior structures, such as half-walls, pillars (there were a few at the far end of the room at Coppa) or other alcoves in which to sit.  Everyone is in one large room, where the tables are placed apart at the minimum socially acceptable distance.  You think your waiter is walking away after only having placed half your party’s order, when you realize he’s just making his away around 12 other tables to get to the opposite side of your table to be able to hear the rest of the orders.

These are the sweeping stereotypes I’ve gleaned about the set up of many Houston restaurants.  But on to the food at Coppa specifically:

I ordered a pizza margherita (as you can see, this is my go-to for assessing the true quality of pizza….crazy toppings may be good, but can you make a deliciously simple pie?) and the burrata appetizer.  I thought both were done very well.

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The pizza was well-balanced in terms of ingredients, and I liked how the crust under the toppings was stiff and didn’t flop.  I don’t have much else to say other than I ate the whole thing and will let the photo speak for itself.  I also enjoyed that they brought the condiments over on a small plate from which you could take a pinch (or hand-full) and sprinkle it on to your heart’s content.

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The burrata was also delicious.  It was served with arugula, coppa (an Italian cured pork, that was thinly sliced), campari tomatoes (bright, sweet and juicy), olive oil and sea salt.  The sea salt stuck to the cheese via the olive oil and added some crunch to the bites.  I liked how it wasn’t uniformly salty, but here and there you would get a little kick.  The fresh arugula and tomatoes laced with bits of coppa gave those bites eaten with the burrata a slightly bitter, sweet and salty taste and some added texture.  Delightful!

I can’t speak for the meals of my dinner companions, but I would definitely recommend the pizza here, and wouldn’t mind getting some carry out from Coppa next time we’re in town.