Antico

i don’t even know how to begin writing about this place without salivating over my keyboard! don’t you just love going by recommendations online (from people you don’t know!) and then you go there, and it’s a complete win? antico is one of those places for us.

the entrance to this place belies what you find soon after you order at the counter up front. passing a small dining room with a communal table, you enter into the kitchen where you can eat and also watch your pizza being made.

(above: wood-fired ovens named after italian cities and their saints)

(above: san gennaro (salsiccia, sweet red pepper, bufala, cipolline))

and the pizza … it’s to die for! we ordered the san gennaro, which has the tastiest salsiccia (italian sausage) we’ve ever had! thank goodness they were generous with the sizes! ah the memories …

and after dinner, we had to stop by the gelato truck across the street. what we thought was antico’s dessert truck is actually honeysuckle, an independent business. that night, they served flavors that complement antico’s food. after much deliberating, cheeks and i settled on the fico nero and the espresso, that surprisingly went well together. perfect ending after a satisfying dinner!

(above: honeysuckle gelato)

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Smashing Tomato

this year, it’s been tough to stay put during long weekend holidays. so as labor day weekend approached, cheeks and i decided to head down south to atlanta. but first stop, a visit we had been planning to make, was smashing tomato.

since our awesome lunch (and dinner) experience at pizzeria libretto in toronto, we had been in search of a vera pizza napoletana (or vpn) restaurant close by. the drive to atlanta was going to take us straight through lexington, ky and so their location on war admiral way became our rest stop.

(above: parma (with fresh arugula, prosciutto and mozzarella))

(above: sheet music bread (wood-fired flatbread seasoned with sea salt, herbs, and extra virgin olive oil))

(above: affogato (vanilla gelato with espresso))
the verdict: not bad at all! for a restaurant owned by the guy who started fazoli’s, we were impressed that the company decided to offer up a concept that would make traditional neapolitan pizza accessible to a small-ish midwest city. we met a gentleman who live in cincinnati, and always make it a point to eat here when he’s in town for business. it’s no pizzeria libretto, and it’s not close enough to drive to if we were craving neapolitan pizza for dinner, but i think we’d go back the next time we’re down that way. give them a try in one of their 3 locations in lexington.

Pizzeria Libretto

pizzeria libretto:

Libretto aims to be loyal to what real pizza is, invented in Naples using local natural ingredients, cooked in a wood fired oven at extremely high heat to achieve a charred, blistered crust. We use San Marzano tomatoes and Fiore di Latte Mozzarella, brought in fresh daily. Our dough is made with naturally leavened Italian Caputo dopio zero flour. Our pizza bakes in less than 90 seconds in our 900 degree wood burning oven, hand built for us by a 3rd generation pizza oven maker in Naples. Simple, Honest, and Natural.

—Chef Rocco Agostino & Max Rimaldi

this, by far, is the best pizza we’ve had! pizzeria libretto is the only pizzeria in canada that offers a vera pizza napoletana certified experience. and what an experience we had! the perfectly charred crust topped with ingredients bursting with flavor. the big dilemma was whether to eat the pizza as is or with the amazing smoky chilli oil that came with it! i could write a whole essay just about the chilli oil.

(above L: Rocco’s Duck Prosciutto; above R: Margherita D.O.P.)

(above L: the way to eat a neapolitan pizza; above R: cappucino)

(above: tiramisu)

(above: postcard of enoteca sociale)

it was so good that we went back for dinner that same day! and it’s not just the pizza that we swear by. the duck prosciutto was tender and paired so well with pear. the tiramisu, which came in a small mason jar, was heavenly. if only we could lick the bottom of the jar!

our bill came with a postcard for enoteca sociale, an italian wine-bar run by the same chef and owners. definitely a must-stop the next trip to toronto. if you’re curious about other VPN Americas members, here’s the grand list! please do yourselves a favor and check at least one of these out; you will be happy, i guarantee.

Il Vicino

back to new mexico: il vicino was our first stop after landing in albuquerque. we’re always wary of chain restaurants but il vicino showed promise – they use fresh ingredients. our order of the bianca (spicy oil, mozzarella, capocollo ham, portabello mushrooms, caramelized onions, goat cheese, gorgonzola, tomatoes and fresh rosemary) got us hopeful.

the pizzas arrived on fiesta ware and we mmm’d at the first bite. the crust had just enough air to make it light and fluffy, but also had that crunch for extra texture. it was a good reminder that some chain restaurants do strive to offer the best to their customers.

Via Vite

yesterday was cinco de mayo and we had not planned on going anywhere really. i had a recipe in mind to prepare. 2 in fact: gemelli pasta with swiss chard, sausage & pine nuts, and lemon & currant cookies. i was planning to substitute the currants with blueberries (i had the most amazing blueberry lemon tart in portland, maine last year and knew the flavor combinations will work). but i digress …

i’m usually the planning person, and i love it that cheeks balances me out by being spontaneous 🙂 so we decided to head downtown!

it wasn’t really for the cinco de mayo celebration on Fountain Square (there was Zumba salsa lessons when we arrived), but we still walked through and surveyed what was going on foodwise. we were there mainly for 1 thing, well 3 things actually: Senor Roy’s Taco Patrol, Taco Azul and Cafe de Wheels. all cincinnati food trucks! but where the heck were they?? they were not around the square as we had thought they would be. we checked their tweets and walked blocks to find them, only … to NOT find them! we later found out that Taco Azul wasn’t serving on the truck last night, but were serving indoors, at the Mainstay Rock Bar. Cafe de Wheels had permit issues and Senor Roy’s was awol. drat!

it was 930pm by then and we were starving and getting tired by the minute. via vite it was!

(upper R: veal & ricotta meatballs “alla Cibreo” with parmigiano reggiano; below L: caprese of fresh imported buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes and basil; bottom R: mushroom pate with fontina cheese, truffle oil and prosciutto crudo wood-fired pizza)

it was a nice night with a light breeze, so we asked for a table upstairs where the canopy had been rolled up.  we also got a good view of the square. the verdict: we enjoyed the sauce on the veal & ricotta meatballs (we kept dunking the baguettes in it) but the meatballs were pretty heavy. the tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella in the caprese salad were really fresh; we enjoyed that a lot! and the wood-fired pizza was yummy but could be better if it was less salty. all in all, we had a nice evening. the service was good and we didn’t feel bothered. we didn’t have room for dessert though.

we got to see the kitchen on our way out and wondered whether the “wood-fired oven” really was wood-fired. we saw a piece of wood in there …

nice thing is that their hours go late into the night, and when you’re in downtown, that’s hard to come by. so keep via vite on your list if/when you’re looking for a late night meal.