Stuzzi on a Monday Night
To answer The Marinara's question - Yes.
The Wife and I had plans to try Stuzzi last night - a colleague of mine and I had been talking about it for a while, and the $1 pizza (at the bar only) enticed us enough to make the trip.
A little before 6:30 we came in through the side door on Ellwood and saw two bars full of people who already knew what we would come to know by the end of our meal.
The bars were packed, but the restaurant was empty - and none of the bar patrons were leaving anytime soon. We agreed to wait until the other couple arrived and if no seats opened up, we'd take a table and chalk it up to bad timing. At this point, there were now two parties behind us also waiting for bar seats rather than sitting at one of the many available tables (they too knew what we would soon find out.)
Our guests came and we found a table on the far wall and ordered drinks. They have a decent by-the-glass list ranging from $7-$9.
We started with appetizers.
The Wife and I ordered bruschetta - officially titled Tomato Caprese Crostini ($3). I would soon find out why this was such a good deal - it's one bruschetta. Granted, there were more than enough toppings, but only one piece of bread. Why not charge $5 or $6 and give me two - at least we could have shared that, without cutting the one slice of bread in half. Or make it known on the menu that it's one piece of bread, and we would have ordered more.
The mozzarella was good - it is said to be made in house, and reminded me of the house made mozzarella that we get at Tom Leonard's that is to die for. The olive oil and salt were the very prominent flavors of the dish.
The other couple started with a salad (not pictured) and the potato and prosciutto croquettes. I thought the croquettes were the best thing we had all night. The outside had a nice crusty breading, and the inside was almost creamy (think ricotta) with bits of prosciutto - unlike our crostini, these came three to an order at $6.
For entrees, The Wife and I ordered the Margherita Reale ($12). The best thing about this was the sauce and tomatoes. They were the sweetest I've ever had - maybe because they're flown in from San Marzano, Italy. The crust on ours was almost soggy - not crisp as we expected from a wood fired pizza. Forget eating this by the slice, we both had to use a knife and fork.
Our dinner companions ordered the Quattro Formaggi and the Pasta Fazool.
As soggy as our pizza was, the Quattro Formaggi was even more so. It wasn't fully cooked in the middle. This actually was sent back for a little more time in the oven - that did not get a nice face from the pizzaoli (who, from their menu we learned, has been specially trained to cook pizzas in one minute...)
It returned from one extreme to the other, with black and gray crust.
The Pasta Fazool was not much better - and not more than a few bites were taken and no box was needed. The service was just ok. We were left waterless for the last twenty minutes of the meal.
After experiencing the entrees, we opted not to try dessert.
We left knowing why the dining room was nearly empty while both bars were packed. I'd go back if I only had to pay $1 for the pizza - but that's only if I could get a seat at the bar. I would go back on Tuesday nights to get the croquettes for $1 - but again, that's if I could get a seat at the bar.
So ending where we began, with The Marinara's question, has Stuzzi become a gimmick? If they haven't become one, that's what it would take to get us back.
So that begs the question; For great pizza and appetizers - why not just start at Aziza's and avoid the headache in the first place?