Eye on the pies

Pasatiempo - - Restaurant Review - Su­san Mead­ows The New Mex­i­can

It’s no sur­prise that Santa Fe has em­braced Pizze­ria da Lino, the lat­est in a line of eater­ies that stretches back to Michelan­gelo’s on Cer­ril­los Road, con­tin­ues with the late great Palace Res­tau­rant, and then on to the pop­u­lar Os­te­ria d’As­sisi. The Lino in ques­tion is Lino Per­tusini, co-owner of all three, who should know how to run a res­tau­rant. And what’s not to love about au­then­tic Ital­ian pizza baked in a flash in a wood-fired oven? Throw in some an­tipasti and sal­ads, a few nightly spe­cials, some clas­sic desserts, a wine list that of­fers quaf­fa­ble af­ford­abil­ity, plus a lovely court­yard pa­tio shaded by trees and strung with tiny white lights, and you’ll find ta­bles hard to get on Fri­day evening at the peak din­ner hour.

With in­di­vid­ual pies around $10 to $12 and glasses of wine avail­able for $8 (and less), a sim­ple din­ner at Per­tusini’s new ven­ture won’t bust your bud­get. All of which is to say I was pre­pared to love it. But I found a sur­pris­ing lack of at­ten­tion to im­por­tant de­tails. A mixed an­tipasto plat­ter ar­rived with nearly raw egg­plant, zuc­chini, and red pep­pers, all ad­ver­tised on the menu as “wood roasted.” There was also a dis­ap­point­ing Cae­sar salad — which was sur­pris­ing com­ing from an owner of The Palace, the long-gone home of the last great Cae­sar salad in Santa Fe. No, I didn’t ex­pect it to be made ta­ble­side as at The Palace, but I did ex­pect some­thing be­sides taste­less crou­tons and a mere slick of dress­ing on the plate be­low the crisp ro­maine let­tuce with no de­tectable Parme­san cheese or an­chovy. The carpac­cio di bue (beef carpac­cio) — an­other sig­na­ture Per­tusini dish from The Palace days — had pre­sum­ably sat in the walk-in so long that it dried out and was dis­con­cert­ingly glued to the plate. Be­cause the afore­men­tioned items cost roughly the price of a pizza, these are not mere quib­bles with side dishes. On a very quiet midweek evening, the food should have been bet­ter at­tended to.

A spe­cial porcini-mush­room pizza of­fered dur­ing the flush lo­cal porcini har­vest in late sum­mer proved an­other letdown. Like all the piz­zas I tasted, the crust was per­fectly thin, crisp, and de­li­cious. The fresh porcini mush­rooms would have been spec­tac­u­lar, but the over­salted mari­nara, while fresh tast­ing, sim­ply oblit­er­ated the del­i­cate woodsy fla­vor of the mush­rooms. Priced con­sid­er­ably more than the other piz­zas, it seemed a re­gret­table waste of good porcini — and money.

The porcini in­ci­dent aside, I won’t soon tire of the tre for­maggi con pera pizza. The sweet­ness of roasted pears and caramelized onions con­trasts with the salty tang of moz­zarella, Ta­leg­gio, and Gor­gonzola cheeses on a “white” pizza crust back­ground (no mari­nara sauce). Like­wise, the salame alla Toscana pizza with salami and spicy crum­bled sausage, a not-too-salty mari­nara, and moz­zarella bathed our taste buds in clas­sic pizza beat­i­tude. The ex­cel­lent Parma pro­sciutto on the pro­sciutto-arugula pizza only left me want­ing more.

A creamy and dense panna cotta sat­is­fied my im­pulse for dessert deca­dence with whipped cream and driz­zles of caramel sauce. The house gelatos were merely pleas­ant. An oddly stringy-tex­tured le­mon gelato lacked le­mon snap. Like­wise, the vanilla gelato lacked suf­fi­cient vanilla essence, though a mango gelato tasted of the fresh fruit. Dry tiramisu seems like an oxy­moron but proved pos­si­ble.

Gen­er­ous pours of nero d’Avola and Zonin prosecco are lively and af­ford­able pizza com­pan­ions by the glass. Sim­i­larly, a bot­tle of pizza-priced 2007 Placido Chi­anti, which only im­proved as the evening pro­gressed, is a re­minder of the Ital­ian at­ti­tude that wine doesn’t have to be an ex­pen­sive cer­e­mony. A bot­tle of Peroni beer ar­rived at our ta­ble as a re­sult of a mix-up, be­cause the menu-listed draft Ital­ian beer wasn’t avail­able, though other draft beers were.

Ser­vice is warm and pro­fes­sional. Though the main din­ing room can be loud when busy and a lit­tle cav­ernous when quiet, the smaller bar/en­try area has a hip neigh­bor­hood-pizza-joint vibe. Go for the pizza and the court­yard pa­tio. Santa Fe has al­ready em­braced Per­tusini’s new res­tau­rant be­cause of these things and his rep­u­ta­tion. Let’s just hope he re­pays the fa­vor by fo­cus­ing some at­ten­tion on other menu items.

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