First up: Pizzeria Toscano in Sandy, which replaced my beloved Nevole’s pizzeria. Nevole’s served classic, East Coast-style pizza in a small, friendly and funky setting. So, when I first stepped into Toscano, I couldn’t quite get my bearings; all traces of Nevole’s are gone. The new, snazzy Toscano is about four times the size of Nevole’s, complete with patio seating, a somewhat annoying, nonstop computerized piano, ultra-modern décor including a 12-foot waterwall and even a gelato bar. But, what attracted me to Toscano was the oven: specifically, a clay wood-fired pizza oven, Utah’s largest, according to the Toscano folks.
The sun-drenched Toscano “terazza” is an ideal spot for al fresco dining, and an antipasto of prosciutto-wrapped cantaloupe with a balsamic drizzle ($7.95) gets things started nicely. Although it’s not exactly a warm-weather dish, the homemade Italian meatballs with rich marinara sauce and ciabatta bread is quite good, but pricey at $7.95 for a small serving.
However, pizza is the main attraction at Toscano, and I’d had high hopes. Unfortunately, the pizzas left me wanting. On my first visit—shortly after the restaurant opened—I chalked it up to the eatery’s newness. But months later, I still found the pizza disappointing—in particular, the dough. The Margherita pizza ($10.95) would be spot-on, with simple, classic toppings of San Marzano tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and basil, but the dough on each visit, though nicely charred from the wood-fired oven, was tough and chewy—too heavy and glutinous. It’s a shame, because it’s so, so close. I suggest a visit by Toscano’s pizza maker to Settebello to see how it’s done.
From the owners of Tonyburgers comes Arella Pizzeria, a new pizza place in Bountiful specializing in what they call a combination of “Brooklyn, N.Y., thin-crust pizza with that of a traditional Napoletana pizza,” all cooked up in its 700 degree wood-fired brick oven. Like Toscano, Arella is contemporary and stylish—much more Los Angeles than Brooklyn. Its name comes from the last three syllables of mozzarella—perhaps not the most creative restaurant branding I’ve come across but, hey, it works.
A pre-pizza salad of mixed spring greens with diced pears, candied pecans, shredded Fontina cheese and a poppy seed dressing ($7.99) was plentiful—easily enough for two to share—and delightful. The Margherita pizza ($9.99-$17.49), however, was Toscano’s Margherita stood on its head. Unlike Toscano, the crust at Arella is nearly perfect: thin, crisp and slightly charred. But the sauce, sadly, marred that beautiful crust. It was bitter and acidic and, although supposedly house-made, tasted canned with an unpleasant hint of garlic powder. Maybe the pizza makers from Toscano and Arella should combine forces and exchange notes. On the other hand, a white pizza ($12.99-$19.49) with Alfredo sauce, Canadian bacon, caramelized onions, artichoke hearts, pine nuts and fresh basil was much more pleasing to our crowd.
Somewhat surprisingly, my favorite pizza from this trio of pizzerias came from Layton’s new NYPD Pizzeria. I was surprised, because NYPD is the one of the three that doesn’t utilize a wood-fired pizza oven. The pizzas at NYPD are made in a classic, steel, deck oven typical of East Coast pizzerias. In addition to pizzas, NYPD features deli sandwiches, calzones, strombolis, pasta dishes, soups and salads. Although NYPD had great pizzas, the service was atrocious. I honestly don’t recall ever having worse service in a restaurant.
If you’re unlucky, you’ll be met at Layton’s NYPD Pizzeria by a gum-smacking teenager, who will be difficult to understand, thanks to the jumbo-size wad in her mouth. She’ll sit you down, give you menus and then … disappear. Well, not so much disappear. Actually, she’s a couple tables over, eating lunch (with her fingers) with a fellow employee. I couldn’t see if she removed the gum between bites; I suspect not.
After having plenty of time to peruse the menu, our NYPD gal took a break from her own lunch to get ours started. But first, she needed to know: “Is that your car?” she shouted, pointing to a cool Mustang in the parking lot. Nope, not ours. When my wife asked about the choice of soup or salad that accompanied the veggie sandwich ($6.99), our server said, “The soup is awful,” without even telling us what it was. Asked about the sandwich, she didn’t know if the veggies were grilled, the bread was grilled, if it was served hot or cold … then, she grabbed my hand, literally, pawed my wedding ring and said “How did you do that?” inquiring about the blue inlays, as though I had somehow colored them myself. Finally, she took our order and went back to eating her own lunch.
At this point, only a great pizza could save the day. Thankfully, a meatball and red onion pizza ($15.99) did just that. Virtually perfect crisp, New York-style crust topped with nicely seasoned and sliced meatballs was simply marvelous. It goes without saying that our NYPD server screwed up our bill once we finally got it. I felt like calling a New York City cop.
17 E. 11400 South, Sandy
535 W. 400 North, Bountiful
768 W. 1425 North, Layton
129 E. 1380 South, Draper
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