Friday, April 24, 2009

Tavanello and Sons: It's Good To Have Choices

As much as I love Marie's Pizza located in my hometown of Wadsworth, Ohio, there is a lesser known pizza purveyor that I feel I should give a chance. It's on the extreme west side of town out by SkyPark and most of us "townies" don't really even know about it. The only reason I knew about it is that a good high school friend of mine lived out in that area and he would get it on a regular basis. It just so happened that I was in town and out driving around thinking about my dinner options (because it was SUCH a gorgeous day) when I decided that I would stop in and order a pie.

Tavanello and Sons is located at 2985 Greenwich Road in Wadsworth, OH and can be reached at 330-336-6581.

Having never been inside the store before, the only thing I knew about it was that this was a take-out place; there are no tables inside. That was okay with me though because there is a park not five minutes away where I could sit out in the sun at a picnic table and enjoy my dinner.

The place is quite quaint and I discovered upon walking in that the pizzeria shares the interior space with a very small general store. They have DVD rentals in the rear of the store and a refrigerated case where you could pick up beer and bottled water and soda. The right side of the store was where the kitchen was. It always fascinates me to walk into a place and order a pizza (as opposed to calling it in) because then you get to see the entire process from start to finish. This isn't fancy pizza. What this is, however, is pizza made by people who care. I could tell that the couple (Mr. and Mrs. Tavanello, I believe) taking orders, making the pies, and ringing up customers were there because they love what they do and take pride in what they do.

The menu is pretty simple: pizzas, calzones, and subs. They have some other sides, like garlic bread, etc., but the majority of the menu is about how to combine dough, sauce, meat, and cheese.

All the dough and the sauce are made from scratch. Tavanello's has a pizza oven with two columns of doors. On this particular Friday night, only the left side had been heated up. In the back corner was the industrial stand mixer for the dough and next to that the sheeter, used to initially flatten out the balls of dough before being finished by hand. Toppings are fairly standard, but I did notice that they offered meatballs as a topping (a nod to my good friend Nancy). Unfortunately, when I asked about the meatball option, they were all out.

Once the pie had been sauced, cheesed, and topped with your choice of toppings (mine was pepperoni), into the oven it went. No timers were set. No alarms ever went off. Mr. Tavanello knew by how brown the crust was and how caramelized the cheese was exactly how much time each pie had left in the oven. Once the dough had set in the pizza pan, the pie was removed from the pan and finished directly on the floor of the oven. This ensured a nice golden brown crust. It probably took about fifteen minutes from the time I ordered to the time I paid for my pie and left.

Right before cutting and boxing up my pie, it was brushed with garlic butter, just to "guild the lily" a little bit.

Here's what I brought out to my car (this is a large, they also have extra-large):

And a shot of the pizza in the box:

I was going to try and actually eat a piece before I even got into the car, but the Molten Cheese Conundrum came into play: The fresher the pie, the more likely the cheese will completely slide off if you try and pick up a piece. I quickly realized that a 3-5 minute ride in the car to the park would do the cheese a world of good. And it did.

Once I got to the park, however, all bets were off. A closer shot of the uneaten portion of my pizza:

Now let's talk about taste. If you like thicker crust pizza, this was an excellent example. The crust was nice and toasty from the oven, wonderfully chewy, and cooked completely through. The crust had a nice flavor, most likely from the garlic butter that was brushed on right at the end, but it wasn't overpowering. The homemade pizza sauce was quite good and seasoning was spot on. In terms of a quality sauce, I'd put it right up there with Marie's sauce. I immediately got the taste of the richness from the tomatoes, a strong oregano/marjoram essence, and just a hint of garlic. Honestly, my first thought when I tasted the sauce was the herb being used was marjoram, but that would be such an unusual ingredient for a place like this to use. And since marjoram and oregano have similar flavor profiles, I'm willing to bet it is probably the latter. Next time I go, I'll find out for sure.

The cheese was plentiful and had a nice rich flavor to it. The pepperoni was nice, but the only criticism I could levy was that I wish it came with just a bit more of the topping. I suppose that's what double-toppings are for, right?

My large one topping came to $9 and had 8 slices, so it really only cost about $1.13 per slice, which is pretty economical. Two hungry adults could definitely finish off one of these guys. Next time I go back, I'll have to verify the answers to some of the questions I posed in this blog entry with the owners and try a pizza topped with meatballs instead of pepperoni.

If you happen to be in the Wadsworth area and are in the mood for a local pizza you can enjoy out in the fresh air at the park, definitely check out Tavanello and Sons.

Tavanello & Sons Pizza on Urbanspoon


Nancy Heller said...

Tom - do they use ricotta cheese in the calzones?

Tino said...

Nancy -- I didn't think to ask when I got my pizza. There was a young man eating a calzone in the lobby when I got there (no tables, but they do have a couple of benches to sit on). And while it looked pretty good, it was a little too dark to tell what kind of cheese was in it.

Something to ask on my next visit!

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