There's a lot of pizza in town, and much of it is pretty good -- complaints from transplanted New Yorkers and Chicagoans notwithstanding. Add Ferraro's Pizzeria & Pub to the list.
The pizza-plus spot opened this summer in the former High Point Pinch on the north end of Downtown, and while it may not reach the heights of the "The Creation of Adam," the panel from the Sistine Chapel depicted on the menu and the side of the building, it's a solid little place.
The pizzas are sold in three sizes and by the slice. You start with cheese and select the rest from a list of more than 25 toppings that includes the usual suspects in addition to roasted garlic, zucchini, eggplant, prosciutto and plenty more. That's for the whole pizza; slices are cheese, vegetarian, meat or house special (usually pepperoni).
The crust is thin, puffed at the edge and with enough texture that cutting the pie would be hard with plastic utensils. Kudos to Ferraro's for bringing real flatware, even though the plates are Styrofoam. I'm not a fan of the foam, but complaints will be kept to
a bare minimum if I don't have to fight with plastic. (Of course, you can also pick up the pizza with your hands and bite in, which is perfectly fine. When did pizza become knife-and-fork food, anyway?)
The sauce is slightly on the sweet side, but it's light enough that it's not cloying. Garlic, powdered parmesan and red pepper flakes are at the table, so you can add those to your taste.
The dough for the crust is made daily, and from that also spring the stromboli and calzone. The latter seems to be the same as the pizza crust; the former is embellished with add-ins of basil and sun-dried tomatoes.
It's excellent. The roll is stuffed with salami, prosciutto, cheese and roasted red pepper and served with a side of a respectable meat sauce. The melted cheese oozed out and puddled into small lumps that cooked up chewy and a little brown on the bottom, and were delicious when picked from the side of the stromboli.
It's great that no one went through and picked off the pieces before it was served. In restaurants, we often miss these little tidbits that make home cooking so good -- a tiny bit of rice that gets crisp on the bottom of a dish, the melted cheese in play here, a little touch of over-browned sugar on a crème brûlée.
Other than our pizza slices coming out cold on our first visit (easily remedied by a quick blast in the pizza oven), there's nothing about Ferraro's that is worth complaint. But it could be better with just a few adjustments.
The antipasto rustico is a generous appetizer of three meats and three cheeses with olives, peppers and artichoke hearts. Prosciutto, capicola and salami are all good; so are the feta, provolone and gouda. The artichokes hearts are canned, and that's fine, but they would be much improved with a light coating of Italian dressing. The pepperoncini peppers are also fine -- and plentiful -- but the olives need to be upgraded from the canned-tasting green ones being served now.
Now, let me point out that this is a huge appetizer that could easily be a meal, and that it costs $10. A better-quality olive will either drive up the price or result in fewer olives, but aren't a few luscious, briny olives better than a big handful of ho-hum ones? Nonetheless, it's pretty good, and it also includes roasted red peppers. Be sure to ask for bread or crackers if you want either, as it comes solo.
The cheese in the calzone is a mix of ricotta and mozzarella cheese. Meh, I don't know. Possibly less ricotta and more mozzarella would improve the texture, but the calzone we had was just too mushy on the inside from the ricotta.
It's a comfortable place with big booths, TVs on the wall (but sound blessedly down at lunch), and a small patio out front. Beer is sold, and there's no corkage for wine or liquor.
The menu is changing next week, and while there might be a few additions (possibly the Italian sub, full of mixed Italian meats?), nothing is slated for removal.
-- Jennifer Biggs: 529-5223
Ferraro's Pizzeria & Pub
Address: 111 Jackson
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday through Sunday
Reviewer's choices: Antipasto rustico ($10); stromboli ($8); pizza (slices from $2.50 to $3.50; whole pies are $6.99 for 8-inch; $12 for 12-inch and $15 for 16-inch, plus $1.50 for toppings)
Alcohol: Beer only. No corkage fee for wine or liquor.
Poor: Zero stars
Good: One star
Very Good: Two stars
Excellent: Three stars
Extraordinary: Four stars