Desano Pizza Bakery opened on Friday, and we ducked in there for an afterschool snack that afternoon to check it out. Being an odd time, the place was empty except for a handful of customers and the friendly staff.
The restaurant is set up for counter service. Stand in line, place your order, and make your way to a table. They have bottles of wine, some beer (Peroni), and soft drinks. You can also bring your own wine, and they won't charge you a corkage fee. A nice bonus.
The dining room is a vast space filled with both high- and low-top wooden community tables. The completely open kitchen boasts three massive Italian ovens
(Grande Forni), which give the room a vibrant feel.
Desano is building its reputation on the type of pie made famous in Naples, Italy — and most recently made famous at Atlanta's Antico. Rich Squillante says they purchased the intellectual rights to the Antico concept and recipes, but are moving forward as a new brand to differentiate it from the original location, which is not owned by the Desano group. But if you're a fan of Antico, you'll be a fan of Desano.
All of the ingredients, from the flour to the tomatoes to the mozarella, is shipped over from the old country, and the pizzas are made according to tradition.
We ordered a margherita (classic buffalo mozzarella, San Marzano tomatoes, basil, and garlic) along with the world famous San Gennaro, which has a beguiling mix of sausage, peppadew peppers, buffalo mozzarella, and caramelized onions. They hit the table quickly and were impressive. The thin crust had a crispy char that was still good if a bit soggier by the time we dropped off the leftovers to the advertising staff later that afternoon.
Squillante says opening weekend was a success. "The response to the pizza was amazing," he says. "Across the board, people said it was the best pizza they'd had in Charleston or the best pizza they'd ever had ... Our focus is on the perfect pizza, so we're thrilled with the response."
The pizza pies come in 10 and 14-inch sizes and range from $12 for a 10-inch margherita to $23 for the large San Gennaro. They also have calzones, salads, and dessert in the form of cannoli, biscotti, and gelato.
Desano Pizza Bakery is located at 94 Stuart Street (the street before Huger between Morrison Drive and Meeting Street) and opens at 11:30 a.m. for lunch and closes when the dough runs out (usually about 10 p.m.)