Pizzaria Gregario, Safety Harbor

On a Friday night, Pizzaria Gregario offers hungry patrons supreme service in a small, cozy, romantically lit space. Situated inside a small house, the low lighting and intimate atmosphere fit the bill for a Friday night dinner. There is a wait for indoor seating so we opt a picnic table outdoors.

Chef Greg Seymour crafts pies made of locally sourced ingredients and handmade sourdough. In addition to pizza, Gregario offers spreads, meatballs and salads.

Beef and pork meatballs in tomato sauce are too good to turn down. The meatball appetizer consists of three meatballs, approximately 2-3″ in diameter, sitting in a saucy bath. It does not disappoint.

After a 20-25 minute our waiter brings the good lookin’ pie we’ve eagerly awaited. None better attests to a restaurant’s pizza prowess than the margherita pizza. It’s simplicity is what makes it both beautiful and tricky. Each of the four ingredients must be supreme. Sadly, most of the ingredients used in Gregario’s margherita fall short.

The foundation of the margherita pizza is a thin, wood-fired crust. It is neither soft nor crunchy; it dances the boundary with all the finesse of a fine crust. The sauce, made of Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes, is too sweet. I prefer a tangy, full-bodied sauce. I do not doubt the quality of the house made mozzarella, but it served as little more than chewy lumps to add texture. The absence of flavor is a tease. With only five or six puny leaves, the dearth of basil breaks my heart. A good margherita pizza must have a healthy measure of basil.

Save the crust, this pizza is certainly inferior to its cousins in New York.

I allow that I am scrutinizing, maybe even excessively, but I do it in the name of true, steadfast love for margherita pizza.

The great service compensates for what the pizza lacks. Through some miscommunication in the ordering process, the smiling waiter brings out a pie topped with parmesan cheese, as advertised on the menu. I am allergic to parm, which was lost in translation during the ordering process. The waiter is very kind when I explain this. He brings a new one, sans parmesan, within 10 minutes. More than one waiter checks on us during our stay. They are attentive without hovering, and they are exceptionally friendly.

Though the pizza is not a Top 10, it is decent. I look forward to returning to try the meaty Lombardi and Eh Mate pies.

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Ess-A-Bagel, Lower East Side

Dear kids,

I’ve lived here for awhile now and in that time I’ve consumed many a bagel. Yet until I went to this place, Ess-A-Bagel, I didn’t really get the hype. Maybe my spot in RVA was that awesome (yeah, it really was that awesome). The coffee shop that served as my second kitchen for five years, Harrison St Coffee Shop, sold RVA-local Cupertino’s bagels that were always so freshhh. So I started off my journey here with already high standards. BUT ALAS! After almost nine months, I have enjoyed the most epic, delicious, mouth-watering, crave-inducing, can’t sleep until I have another BAGEL. Auntie Katrina and I went last week. Read more about it here –> yaybagel yaybagel yaybagel yaybagel yaybagel

Image credit: Jennifer Feuchter via Melissa Stanger @ Business Insider

Image credit: Jennifer Feuchter via Melissa Stanger @ Business Insider

Don Antonio, Theater District

We are greeted by friendly faces. Not in an overbearing in-your-face way that’s contrived and obnoxious, but I get the impression that this is truly a family place.

The pizza is divine. The hubz and I get the classic Montanara Starita to split. The slightly fried crust makes for a unique and distinct taste, the pizza sauce is delicious, but the cheese – holy cow, that smoked mozzarella is THE BEST cheese I’ve ever had. So flavorful, and it pairs perfectly with the crust and sauce.

The pizza is just big enough for two hungry people to be sufficiently full, but I think it’s more typical for people to order one per person because of the way the manager(?) man lingers around our table somewhat uncomfortably after we tell him we want the pie … to share. If you’re shamelessly frugal like us though you can eat here for about $25, including +20% tip, for two.

All in all a fantastic culinary experience. We will return.

We got the Montanara Starita Pizza (Photo credit: Layla L. Yelp user)

We got the Montanara Starita Pizza (Photo credit: Layla L. Yelp user)