As the College Town development on Mt Hope continues to grow, pizza continues to be part of the mix.The latest entrant is Grappa, which opened in June.
Grappa which bills itself as "Italian nouveau." My regular-guy inner self recoils a bit at a term like "Italian nouveau," but my pizzaholic self can get over that, if the pizza's good. And on a recent lunch visit with a friend, it was.
Grappa offers six pizzas, although I imagine they could do custom pizza if you asked. I got a Margherita, my friend got a pepperoni, and we shared.
The crusts were thin, with an underside that was crisp, but not crackly, and spottily browned but not quite charred. (These are not wood-fired, by the way.)
Which is not to say that they weren't good. I don't like limp, soggy pizza, but neither do I think that a thin-crust pizza has to be blackened and shatteringly crisp underneath to be good. These straddled the line between crisp and pliable.
Aside from that, the crust wasn't especially flavorful or aromatic. I had no particular complaints about it, but it was more serviceable than sublime. But the toppings were good enough to pretty much make up for any shortcomings in that regard.
My dining companion and I don't always see eye to eye on pizza, but we both enjoyed these. My Margherita was a little unusual for having both tomato sauce and sliced tomatoes; most places do one or the other. But it was a nice combination. The sauce was lightly applied, and not heavily seasoned, while the sliced tomatoes had an acidic edge that balanced the slight sweetness of the sauce.
With its two-tomato topping, the Margherita was not a minimalist version, and that carried through to the cheese. Some Margheritas are dotted with islands of slightly melted fresh mozzarella. This pie was blanketed by a uniform layer of processed mozzarella, which was slightly browned, with a good balance (there's that word again) between chewy and stringy. The shredded fresh basil added enough flavor and visual appeal to round out the pie nicely. The basil seemed to have been added right after the pizza came out of the oven, as it was still bright green and aromatic.
The pepperoni pie was highlighted by three different types of sausage, which I think is a great idea that I'd like to see more pizzerias adopt. Small, crisp, cupped slices, and meatier, wide, beefy slices were combined with thin strips, adding variety and interest with each bite. A moderate layer of basic red sauce and well melted cheese, which was applied nearly all the way to the thinly formed edge made for a very satisfying pie.
Grappa's additional pizza choices include: a Mediterranean pie with artichokes, roasted red peppers, cured olives, feta cheese, arugula, and garlic pesto sauce (which I came very close to ordering, but I decided to stick with my usual Margherita); funghi (garlic bechamel sauce, roasted portabello and button mushrooms, and truffle oil); a white pizza with garlic bechamel, fresh herbs, ricotta, mozzarella and shaved Parmesan; and a spicy meatball pie, with house-made meatballs, ricotta and a Roma tomato blush sauce.
Beyond the pizza, Grappa's lunch menu includes several pasta options, panini, and a grab bag of other dishes, including a burger, grilled salmon, chicken cutlet, greens & beans, and "zesty Parmesan" wings. The dinner menu adds several more entrees, such as steak, pork osso buco, and frutti di mare, with a medley of seafood. Pricewise, pizzas run 10 to 12 dollars, entrees are mostly in the 20s, and pasta dishes in the teens.
The layout is partitioned into several dining areas. On this visit, we were given a table on the south side of the restaurant, which afforded plenty of sunlight at lunchtime. Since I had to get back to work, I didn't take the time to look around the rest of the dining area, but if you go, you might want to ask for a table in one area or another, depending on whether you want more privacy or to do more people watching.
I debated whether to give Grappa a grade, considering that it only opened a couple months ago, but unlike at some places, I didn't get the sense that they were still working out the bugs. These were well made pizzas, and it seems fair to rate them. That said, I found these clearly above average, but not quite among the top tier for our area. So I'll give them a B.
Grappa, 30 Celebration Drive (just west of Mt. Hope Ave. between Elmwood and Crittenden)
Open for lunch and dinner daily