Moretti's

MORETTI'S
DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC?

By: S.C. Davis

    I HAD A MAGICAL MOMENT THE OTHER DAY WHEN I WAS ABOUT HALFWAY THROUGH MY FIRST SLICE OF PIZZA AT MORETTI'S, A NEW PIZZA, PASTA, SANDWICH AND WINGS RESTAURANT THAT RECENTLY OPENED IN GREENVILLE'S PELHAM COURT PLAZA. MAGIC CREEPS UP ON YOU SLOWLY, END WHEN YOU'RE WATCHING IT UNFOLD, YOU'RE ALWAYS TEMPTED TO DISBELIEVE WHAT YOUR SENSE TELL YOU TO BE TRUE. BUT AFTER TWO BITES, I COULD NO LONGER DENY WHAT WAS HAPPENING. I WAS EATING THE UPSTATE'S BEST PIZZA, AND I WASN'T DOING IT IN ONE OF OUR COMMUNITY'S LONGSTANDING PIZZA PALACES. I WAS DOING IT IN A PLACE THAT VERY FEW PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT. YET.

       THE GREATNESS OF THE PIZZA I HAD AT MORETTI'S GROWS IN MY MEMORY, BECOMING A COLOSSAL AND INDESTRUCTIBLE CERTAINTY THAT I CARRY WITH ME WHEREVER I GO. IT WAS SO GOOD THAT I ALMOST WANT TO DOUBT MY JUDGMENT OF IT, TO BLAME ITS ABSURD DELICIOUSNESS ON THE OVERWHELMING HUNGER I BROUGHT TO MORETTI'S OR ON THE FACT THAT THE PIZZA WAS FRESHLY PREPARED WHILE I WAITED RATHER THAN DELIVERED TO MY DOOR AN HOUR AFTER IT CAME OUT OF THE OVEN. BUT NOTHING WILL CHANGE THE VERDICT: THIS IS PIZZA THAT WILL GET INTO YOUR DREAMS AND STAY THERE.

       THE FUNNY THING IS THAT IN THIS DAY AND AGE, MOST OF US HAVE DIFFICULTY GETTING  EXCITED ABOUT EVEN TRYING A NEW PIZZA AND WINGS RESTAURANT. WINGS AND PIZZA? THEY'RE AS PLENTIFUL AS DIRT. SCHLOTZSKY'S SERVES PIZZA AND MCDONALD'S SERVES PIZZA AND DOMINO'S SERVES WINGS AND JUST ABOUT EVERYBODY IN BETWEEN TRIES TO DO THE SAME. STILL, I WAS INTRIGUED BY MORETTI'S NEWSPAPER ADS THAT PROMISED THE RESTAURANT USES ONLY FRESH INGREDIENTS AND SERVES HOMEMADE DISHES RATHER THAN PRE-PACKAGED GROCERY STORE STUFF. AND I LIKED THE PLEDGE THAT ITS CHICKEN WINGS HAD ACTUALLY BEEN HONED AND ACCLAIMED IN BUFFALO, N.Y., WHERE WINGS WERE BORN. SO I FIGURED WHAT CAN THIS HURT?

       WHAT I FOUND IS A RESTAURANT THAT IS VERY POSSIBLY THE BEST AT WHAT IT DOES IN OUR AREA. MORETTI'S IS A SMALL, HUMBLE STOREFRONT HOUSED IN A LOCATION THAT ONCE HELD ROSIE'S NEW YORK PIZZERIA, BUT A CHEERY WARMTH EVIDENT FROM THE MINUTE YOU WALK IN, AND THERE'S AN OBVIOUS COMMITMENT TO HIGH-QUALITY, COST-FRIENDLY FOOD, THE KIND OF COMMITMENT IT'S BECOMING INCREASINGLY TOUGH TO FIND. IN FACT, IT CAN TAKE A LITTLE WHILE FOR YOUR ORDER TO BE PREPARED HERE, BUT THAT PROVES ONLY THAT'S BEING MADE FRESH, AND YOU CAN CALL IT IN AHED OF TIME IF YOU'RE ON A TIGHT SCHEDULE.

       MORETTI'S MENU ASSERTS THAT ITS PROPRIETORS HAIL FROM BUFFALO, AND IT MAKES THE CLAIM THAT THEY "ACTUALLY SOLD REAL BUFFALO WINGS TO REAL BUFFALONIANS FOR THE LAST 12 YEARS. A' THE POINT? THESE WINGS ARE THE REAL DEAL. YOU DON'T HAVE TO TAKE THEIR WORD FOR IT, THOUGH. A SINGLE BITE OF ONE OF MORETTI'S WINGS (5.25 FOR 10) IS ENOUGH TO VERIFY THOSE CONTENTIONS. I'M THE KIND OF GUY WHO POURS TABASCO SAUCE ON BREAKFAST CEREAL AND BELIEVES EVERY MEAL IS MADE BETTER BY JALAPENO PEPPERS, SO I'M ACCUSTOMED TO FINDING MOST HOT WINGS TOO MEEK FOR MY TASTE. MORETTI'S SUCKED MY BREATH AWAY BEFORE I EVEN BIT DOWN ON THEM. IF YOU LIKE THEM FIERY AND VINEGARY, THIS IS WHERE TO GET THEM (I DON'T THINK EVEN I HAVE WHAT IT TAKES TO TRY MORETTI'S" SUICIDAL" WINGS). EVEN BETTER, THESE WINGS ARE COOKED UNTIL CRISPY, MAKING THEM A CUT ABOVE THE VAST MAJORITY OF WINGS OUT THERE (YOU KNOW THE KIND I'M TALKING ABOUT-THE KIND THAT ARE COOKED SO LIGHTLY YOU ALMOST EXPECT TO HEAR CLUCKING WHEN YOU TAKE A BITE) 

       I THINK THE STEAK SANDWICH IS ONE OF AMERICA'S GREAT LOW-RENT COOKING CREATIONS, AND AS SUCH, I MAKE IT A POINT TO TRY AS MANY AS I CAN WITHOUT RISKING ARTERY BLOCKAGE. THAT'S WHY IT'S SURPRISING THAT I CAN THINK OF JUST TWO THAT WERE AS GOOD OR BETTER THAN THE ONE I HAD AT MORETTI'S, AND NEITHER OF THEM WERE SERVED AROUND HERE (YOU CAN FIND THEM AT THE BRASS RAIL IN ALLENTOWN, PA., AND THE SUB CABIN IN COLUMBIA, SC., IF YOU'RE LOOKING). MORETTI'S STEAK SANDWICH (6.35 WITH) GREEN PEPPERS, ONIONS AND MUSHROOMS0) IS A HUGE, MESSY MASTERPIECE CRAMMED IN A LONG, THIN 11" HOAGIE AND FILLED WITH CHUNKS OF HOT STEAK. IT'S AWASH IN MOZZARELLA AND TOPPED WITH A ZESTY PIZZA SAUCE BRIMMING WITH GARLIC AND OTHER SPICES, YOU DON'T STAND A CHANCE OF FINISHING THE THING, BUT YOU'LL HAVE FUN TRYING. (ANY I HATE TO SAY IT, BUT THIS IS THE KIND OF SANDWICH THAT SOUTHERNERS SIMPLY DON'T KNOW HOW TO GET RIGHT . THE ADDITION OF THE SAUCE MAKES IT OBVIOUS THAT THIS BABY WAS BORN IN NORTHERN KITCHENS) 

        AS IF ALL THAT WEREN'T ENOUGH, THERE'S THE PIZZA. QUITE SIMPLY, YOU OWE IT YOURSELF TO TRY MORETTI'S ITALIAN FLAG PIZZA ($8.95 FOR SMALL; $12.95 FOR A LARGE). IT IS FUN, REFRESHING , DIFFERENT AND DELICIOUS. FOR STARTERS, THERE'S NO SAUCE, AND SINCE MORETTI'S SAUCE IS SUPERB, YOU MIGHT THINK THAT'S A  MINUS. IN FACT, ITS ABSENCE PAVES THE WAY FOR SO MANY OTHER FLAVORS TO SHINE. I SPENT HOURS DEBATING WHICH ASPECT OF THE PIZZA WAS THE BEST AND MOST IMPORTANT. AT DIFFERENT TIMES, I SETTLED ALTERNATELY ON THE FAT, FRESH SHAVINGS OF BASIL, ON THE SINFULLY RIPE, FLAVOR-MADE SLICES OF ROMA TOMATO ON THE PUNGENT OLIVE OIL, ON THE CRISPY, SAG-FREE CRUST, ON THE GARLIC AND OREGANO, ON THE MIXTURE OF ROMANO, MOZZARELLA AND FONTANELLE CHEESE. BUT JUST AS SOON  AS I WAS WILLING TO GIVE ONE ELEMENT THE UPPER HAND, I'D REMEMBER HOW GOOD ANOTHER PART OF THE PIZZA WAS , AND I NEVER COULD DETERMINE WHAT EXACTLY MADE IT SO SPECIAL. THE ANSWER: ALL OF IT. IF IT'S POSSIBLE FOR PIZZA TO BE LIGHT AND FEATHERY ON THE BELLY, THE ITALIAN FLAG IS. MORETTI'S ALSO OFFERS PIZZA WITH SAUCE AND TRADITIONAL TOPPINGS, PLUS SPECIALTY PIES, INCLUDING ONE THAT'S TOPPED WITH BUFFALO-STYLE CHICKEN. ANXIOUS AS I AM  TO TRY  ALL OF THEM, I KNOW IT'S GOING TO BE A STRUGGLE FOR ME TO EVER ANYTHING BESIDES THE LESS THAN THE UPSTATE'S BEST PIZZA.

       WHEN YOU EAT OUT OFTEN ENOUGH, YOU ALWAYS REACH A POINT WHEN YOU BELIEVE THE MAGIC HAS ENDED, WHEN YOU'RE CERTAIN THAT YOU'LL NEVER AGAIN EXPERIENCE FOOD THAT SURPRISES YOU, SEDUCES YOU AND DEMANDS THAT YOU EAT IT AGAIN. BUT AS LONG AS YOU DON'T GIVE UP, THE MAGIC ALWAYS RETURNS, QUIETLY AND UNEXPECTEDLY. AND RIGHT NOW, MORETTI'S IS FAIR PRICE FOR SENDING THE SENSES SWOONING, NO?

MORETTI'S
Featured in:
Creative Loafing
March 3, 2001