Thursday, June 4, 2009

“Mad with Garlic”

If you post a menu on the window of your restaurant, I am going to stop and read it.

And so we found Adriano’s Italian Restaurant. After a long list of pasta entrees, the menu listed thin crust pizza. R-i-g-h-t! I have seen those words before. So in my mind I issued a challenge to Signore Adriano: “Show me your thin crust pizza.” But we were headed to the Irma for lunch so the challenge would need to wait for another day.

The day of the pizza challenge arrived. We walked into Adriano’s at about 1:00 p.m. and found only one other table occupied. Should I be worried? I hadn’t done a Google search so was flying blind here. We opened our menus and went directly to the heading “Thin Crust Pizza.” Directly under those words was the statement “Mad with Garlic.” We joked whether this was a typo. Then I took a few deep breaths. This was no typo or misuse if the English language. Adriano was mad with garlic.

Since they did not have a Margherita pizza or offer toppings that could be made into a Margherita, we ordered one large sausage pizza. While we were waiting for our pizza to be served, the threesome at the other table received their pastas. Oh, what aromas! Oh, what large portions! One of the diners had lasagna, one primavera style pasta, and the other unknown. I sat drooling. Chuck kept saying “Stop staring.” I drooled. Chuck admonished. By the time our pizza arrived, I was ravenous.

In the interim, Adriano comes over to our table and asks, with a very heavy Italian accent, where we are from. Chuck replies “Philadelphia.” Adriano acts confused. Chuck adds “Pennsylvania.” Adriano then says something that we thought related to Norwegians. Something was lost in translation.

Finally our pizza arrived. What a masterpiece. Baked in a gas-fired, brick-floored oven, the crust was thin as promised. Our kind of thin. The “thin and crisp” where the slice can be picked up as a whole and, if one wanted to, folded. Not the kind of thin that you so often find with a wood-fired oven where most of the slice has to be eaten with knife and fork. This was crust that tasted like a good Italian breadstick that had been brushed with high quality olive oil.

Oh, the sauce! I later learned that Adriano makes his sauce from fresh and not canned tomatoes. (In addition to the house-made sauce, he makes the dough fresh every morning.) Mad with garlic, thin and slightly sharp rather than thick and sweet, seasoned perfectly, this was the perfect sauce to top the crust. This was topped with a generous amount of good sliced Italian sausage that was lightly seasoned with fennel. And, to our delight, not too much cheese. This was a pizza that left you wishing there was more.

As we were eating, Adriano made a return appearance at our table and asked if we liked the pizza. All I could do was applaud and say “Bravo!” This brought a huge grin to his face.

I later learned from our waitress that Adriano’s last name is D’Argento. He and his wife were visiting Cody a number of years ago and got tired of eating steak. He took a look around and thought that Cody could use an Italian restaurant. And thus in 2002 Adriano’s Italian Restaurant was born.

Since leaving Arizona, we have had a succession of pizza disappointments. Yes, Pasta Jay’s in Moab was good, but not like this. While New Jersey Pizza Company (Flagstaff, AZ) will always be the standard by which I judge a pizza, this was first-rate, top-of-the-line pizza and rates a 4.5 on the Addie scale. Had Adriano used fresh mozzarella we could have had a tie here.

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