Santa Lucia opens brick and mortar | Rock Candy

Friday, October 10, 2014

Santa Lucia opens brick and mortar

Posted By on Fri, Oct 10, 2014 at 10:46 AM

click to enlarge Margherita Pizza - JESS ROBERTS
  • Margherita Pizza

Pizza, when done well, is one of life's greatest pleasures, and last night's soft opening of Pizzeria Santa Lucia's brick-and-mortar location was pleasurable indeed. Little Rock is a city that is certainly no slouch in the pizza department, but I don't think that the new pizzeria will have any problems distinguishing themselves from the pack. In a word, the pizza is fantastic. In a few more words, the pizza is simple, well-made, and a complete delight to eat.

click to enlarge Tossing dough - JESS ROBERTS
  • Tossing dough
Santa Lucia started as a mobile wood-fired pizza oven — a bold and different concept that put a real "wow" factor into many of Little Rock's food truck events. Creating honest-to-god Neapolitan-style pizza on the go was something of a coup, and owners Jeremy and Jacquelyn Pittman constantly sold out early at every event.

With success comes growth, and the folks behind Santa Lucia have moved into Terry's Finer Foods on Kavanaugh to ply their wares. The pizzeria is an extension of a previous connection with Terry's, The Pie Shop, and with the dining room now open and a stationary oven in place, the quaint gourmet food shop has now become a potential evening hot spot in the heights.

Stepping into Santa Lucia, I was immediately struck by the classy dining room. Bottles of premium liquor line the walls behind the bar, and the pizza prep area is the first thing you see when you enter. The color scheme is a great mixture of light and dark — and while Santa Lucia has seating in the form of benches along the wall with chairs across, they've done it right: there is ample space between tables.

But what about the food? It's great. Really, really great. Santa Lucia's crust might be the best pizza crust I've ever tasted: firm enough to hold toppings, but with a light crunch that melts away to delicious bliss with every bite. Neapolitan pizza is a bit different than what most folks are used to — the crust is thin, allowing for a quick trip into a 900+ degree oven that quickly cooks everything to a slightly charred and blistered delight. The result is a pizza that combines combines rich cheese and salty toppings with a light crust that cuts the saltiness with just a hint of bitter from the oven. It's a perfect balance of flavor that has to be tasted to be believed. 

We sampled three items from the menu, the Margherita, which was the highlight of the night — basil, cheese, and Barnhill Orchard tomatoes made for bite after perfect bite. The Quattro Stagioni was another delight, with salty parma ham adding richness to the dish. Any pizza on the menu can also be ordered as a calzone, so we decided to calzonify (yes, that's now a word) the Pop Supreme, a decadent combination of homemade sausage, onions, mushrooms, and cheese. My next trip to Santa Lucia will see me ordering the simple cheese pizza, made with Little Rock's own Bonta Toscana garlic sauce — and I have no doubt that will be a pleasure, too.

As my colleague Louis Williams told me the other day, Neapolitan pizza "isn't a Meat Lovers pizza," and that's a good thing. The toppings are light, but that allows them to work well with the excellent crust to create bite after delicious bite. It's easily my favorite type of pizza, and Santa Lucia follows tradition quite nicely. The dining room opens to the public today, so get there early and stuff yourself with quality.

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