The kids went back to school this week, and in their honor, we're returning to our own personal Friday tradition: pizza night! I generally order delivery from Cibo's on James Island because that's closest to where I live, but that doesn't mean you should be stuck with the same boring (but perfectly delicious) pepperoni and mushroom (ordered extra large so the crust is nice and thin) as me. We think pizza can be as unorthodox as you want it to be, so we called around to find out some of the freshest, most inspiring combos available.
The boys at EVO in Park Circle have gone all out with today's special pizza, a pesto base topped with roasted Lexington sweet corn, Blackbird Farm ichiban eggplant, Split Creek feta, housemade mozzarella, parmesan cheese, and sea salt. Specials change twice a day, and at EVO they consider themselves a pretty hard-core Neapolitan pizzeria with no gas to be found in the kitchen, the "real deal." The wood-burning oven chars the 12-inch pies in 2.5 minutes flat.
Downtown on Bogard Street, D'Allesandro's is happy to cater to the students with their specialty Get Gnarly pie: olive oil, garlic, spinach, balsamic chicken, mozzarella, finished with blue cheese crumbles. Another popular pie that has many fans is The Chauncinator: red sauce, mozzarella, fresh basil, and double pepperoni. Chef Nick describes the pizza as "authentic, homemade, thin crust."
Another downtown favorite is Mellow Mushroom on King Street. Their Caesar pizza is a crowd pleaser with its oil and garlic base with pesto chicken, provolone, mozzarella and feta, topped with fresh romaine lettuce, Roma tomatoes, and Caesar dressing (it's like a salad without all that calorie counting!). All the pies served at Mellow are made of a whole-wheat crust, a tasty and healthy change of pace from your run of the mill pizza joints. Also, for all the starving students Mellow has a pizza special every Monday From 4 p.m.-close: small one-topping pizzas for a mere five bucks.
In a tiny shotgun shack on Rutledge Avenue, Mia Pomodori is tossing some amazing high quality pizza pies. A new specialty pie dubbed "Verde" is a pesto-based creation with ricotta cheese, campari tomatoes, roasted garlic, mozzarella, and romano cheese. Another great choice from the menu is the very light Fresh Salad pizza. First, the crust is baked with olive oil, fresh mozzarella, roasted garlic, and pecans. Once out of the oven it's topped with a fresh mixed green salad, campari tomatoes, drizzled with romano cheese, and finally topped with prosciutto and served with a choice of dressing (this whole salad pizza thing intrigues me!). Pizzas are authentic Italian but most people would say New York-style, and Chef Paul DeSantis has no problem with that.
Over on Daniel Island, Vespa's new chef Dusty Chorvat is featuring a pie with roma tomatoes, goat cheese, mozzarella, sweet red onions, and extra virgin olive oil. The traditional Neapolitan pizza gets crisped up in an oak-burning wood oven at 750-800 degrees for a couple minutes. It's the kind of pizza you'll want to dine in for.
In West Ashley, the guys at Al di La have been playing around with a couple specialty pies, or pizzettes as they call them. The first comes with asparagus, prosciutto, and fontina. Also new is a duck confit pizza with braised cherries, arugula, and ubriaco cheese, an intriguing combo if there ever was one. The dough is rolled through a pasta machine to create a thin-crusted pizza that is cooked in a wood-fired oven located in the back of the Bacaro.
We hope this list has inspired you to eat some pizza pie tonight —and don't feel limited to this list. Every neighborhood has its own place with its own specialty pies and you should make haste to eat at your favorite locally-owned pizza (think Gilroy's, Andolini's, Monza, Pop's, Famulari's, Paisano's, etc.). Mangia!