Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Pizza Perfect

photo by Barney Taxel
   It was one of those nights. The stars aligned, the gods smiled, things fell into place  whatever term of art and belief you use to describe the magic that happens when circumstances and situations are all you could wish for and more.

   The husband and I found ourselves near Kirtland late on a Saturday afternoon. I'd been hearing rumors of a fantastic pizza place there for more than a year. The buzz was that Biga on Chillicothe Road was above the ordinary. This was the opportunity to find out for myself. We called ahead, learned it was BYOB, and stopped at a grocery store on the way to pick up a bottle of wine.

  It's a small stand-alone building, close to the road. Inside it was packed, (there are only 11 tables) and on the loud side, so we opted for a spot outside on the deck. Despite the fact that the view is of a parking lot, the setting was surprisingly pleasant. Ceiling fans turned slowly overhead. Big baskets of red geraniums hung from the rafters, adding a splash of color. A large multigenerational family eating together  wine on the table, everyone talking, laughing and tending to the babies and toddlers  reminded me of restaurants we visited in Tuscany.

  The way the dough is made and cooked sets Biga apart from most other pizzerias. The kitchen is committed to doing it the old world way, using special flour and a starter culture alive with wild yeasts, rather than commercial cake and powdered stuff, that has been nurtured for for years. The dough's rolled thin, Neapolitan style, and the pies are baked in a 900 degree wood-burning oven. The crust has a crisped exterior with a bits of smokey blackening and a chewy core. Pizza perfection.We chose the day's special and it was truly six slices of amazing, a combination of fresh figs, pistachios, prosciutto, and Gorgonzola. But I have no doubt that I'd have also been happy with any of the other white and red varieties, from a classic tomato pie to a rustica with roasted artichokes, onions, Kalamata olives and fresh mozzarella. Our $12 bottle of Argentine Malbec (DiSeno Old Vine 2011) was better than it should have been for the price. Corking fee was only $2 a glass.

photo by Barney Taxel
  We also had a big plate of broccolini, roasted in the wood-fired oven, and dressed in lemon, olive oil, Parmesan and garlic. It was an utterly simple and incredibly delicious preparation.

      The service was top-notch, especially for such a casual kind of eatery. Before we ordered and because he'd asked if it was our first time there, Carlos, our server explained the size of the portions without the info he provided we would definitely have gotten more than we needed. At some point we mentioned being a bit sad that it was a long drive for take out. He told us that they will half-bake a pie so you can finish at home and serve piping hot with the cheese browned and bubbling.

  Turns out Carlos started out as customer, became a regular, and then an employee. His knowledge and enthusiasm was apparent and the energy he brought to the table made the entire experience better.

  Reading the menu and chatting with him, I learned that the chef and owner buys local, emphasizes seasonality and is serious about making everything from scratch  all things I could taste in the food.Which brings me to dessert-a tasty hunk of blueberry pie. We were full but we'd seen it served to the folks nearby and couldn't resist. So we shared a piece. And we were so glad we did. It was as homemade as it gets, with all the word implies. It was growing dark by the time we stood up to leave. The stars were starting to come out. We were happy and satisfied. The atmosphere as much as the dinner had that special something. I've had fancier meals and goodness knows I've had more expensive ones. But I enjoyed this one, from start to finish, as much as those I think of  as "the best." Take note- in summer the restaurant is open Wednesday through Sunday. After this weekend,  things change and fall hours are Thursday through Sunday.

photo by Barney Taxel


Anonymous said...

Love this place too. We drive all the way from Chagrin Falls and it is worth the drive!! They now have a liquor license so it is no longer BYOB.

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