Monday, November 12, 2012

Pietro's Coal Oven Pizzeria Review

On a bit of a lazy Saturday two weeks after my birthday, the GF decided to surprise me with one more birthday surprise - a couple's massage. I won't go into the details, but I love a good deep-tissue massage - and trust me - Stephanie @ Body Restoration Spa did an amazing job. So after a great massage what were we in the mood for? Pizza, of course!

Now for those of you who don't know (which I assume is everyone since this is only my 2nd post), I am a bit of a glutton. I tend to over-order. I'm trying to restrain myself at the behest of the GF, but I usually can't help myself. The sign of a true addict.

But on to the review ...

Pietro's advertises itself as a coal oven pizzeria - and that namesake oven is housed in the back of the house. It is on a busy touristy-section of the Center City / Rittenhouse area of Philadelphia. And as such - there are plenty of tourists that pop in to grab a bite here.

There are plenty of tables at Pietro's, as well as a front-of-the-house bar where you can watch the game. If you read the reviews on Yelp, you'll notice that service may be a potential limiting factor to this establishment. True to form, service was sub-par on our recent visit.

The hostess was not necessarily friendly, but then again, not necessarily impolite. Our server was similarly disinterested and while first speaking to us, half-gazed out to the street. A lady at a nearby table - clearly in a rush - was asking for her check for nearly 5 minutes before she was able to pay and be on her way. Separately, a party had walked out the door after lunch and a harried waitress ran after them as there seemed to be issues with the check (non-payment? lack of a tip?). Either way, the waitress was in a huff and was not a happy camper. My point - the atmosphere at Pietro's was harried, huffy, though not necessarily hostile to us. We were hoping the food would overcome what is clearly delineated in the majority of the reviews on Yelp - service could be better.

Breaded Goat Cheese ($8.50)
Sautéed breaded goat cheese served with arugula and roasted peppers.

Pietro's Pizzeria - Breaded Goat Cheese

The breaded goat cheese was a nice surprise. Three circles were crisp and lightly fried - the tangy goat cheese was delicious. It was offset by the peppery arugula and sweet roasted peppers. The salad was well-dressed and not overly so. A nice start to the meal. (FYI - they offer fried mozzarella as well, which I'm sure would be quite similar in execution).

Fried Calamari ($10.50)
Tender squid rings, lightly seasoned served with marinara sauce.

Pietro's Pizzeria - Breaded Goat Cheese

This was actually a misorder on my end - I was actually looking to order the the spicy calamari, which is sauteed with sausage. The regular fried calamari was decent regardless. The squid rings were tender - and true to the description - they were only lightly seasoned and thinly fried. I prefer a little more crispy batter to my calamari, but these were true to the squid. I wished there were tentacles as well, but alas - I should read the description better (the spicy calamari does not specify 'rings'). The marinara, however, was delicious - somewhat sweet, but well seasoned.

Fettucine Carbonara - Small ($13.00)
Fettucine in a creamy carbonara sauce with red onions, green peas, shiitake mushrooms, pecorino cheese, and pork pancetta.

Pietro's Pizzeria - Fettucine Carbonara

Our server did mention that the carbonara had pork pancetta in it (I mean, what carbonara doesn't?) - for those not used to pasta tossed with a fresh egg, cheese, and pancetta - this can be appreciated. My liberal use of pancetta in everything from Mac n Cheese to burger patties was offended just a tad. My simplified pork ethos is as follows: Pork Belly > Guanciale > Pancetta > Bacon.

In any case, while this is all in jest, the dish itself was a bit of a joke as well. The carbonara was overly sauced - I had expected a carbonara to have the egg/cheese mixture simply clinging to the pasta, but this dish was drenched in cream sauce - clearly depicted in the picture above and, I suppose, in the description of the dish. This version is advertised with fettuccine, which was green (carbonara is usually made with spaghetti). The shiitake mushrooms imparted a slightly earthy flavor, which the GF was not fond of, but was fine with me. However, the entire dish was simply offendingly overtaken by a sweetness I could not quite place - I was not a fan. What is the point of succulent pancetta and salty Pecorino Romano when the dish is overpowered by sweetness? After a few bites, we were done. This was unfortunate, as I was thinking about a good carbonara for a few weeks now. 

Asparagus Pizza ($16.00)
13'' white pizza with ham and asparagus 

Pietro's Pizzeria - Fettucine Carbonara

The namesake pizza was the saving grace of the meal. This pizza had salty ham and shaved asparagus on top of a white pizza. The crust was nice and you could taste the flavor the coal oven imparted onto the dough. Deliciously crispy at Pietro's and at home when I warmed it up in the oven for dinner later that night.

Overall, Pietro's was disappointing. I would come back for the breaded goat cheese (perhaps the mozzarella next time) and the pizza. Definitely was not a fan of the carbonara and have had better calamari. FYI - Pietro's is a purveyor of Pepsi products only (which I hate due to the saccharine nature of the beast - diet or otherwise - Coke all the way!). Pietro's service can also improve as well. I would say that Pietro's is middling between a bistro-type atmosphere and a chain joint where service is unenthusiastic. Hopefully, it will move toward the former.


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