Restau­rant Re­view Pizze­ria da Lino

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO - Molly Boyle

Some­times, on a cold night, a per­son’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of pizza. For some, th­ese fan­tasies tend to­ward the prod­uct of a wood-fired oven — flat, flour-dusted, oc­ca­sion­ally bub­bled crust, nei­ther too crack­ery nor too doughy; with ro­bust, zesty red sauce and tangy, caramelized, ooz­ing cheese. Truly, this is the food­stuff of win­try dreams.

Hap­pily, Pizze­ria da Lino and its wood-burn­ing brick oven are around to sat­isfy such crav­ings. Like many es­tab­lish­ments on the north end of Guadalupe Street, the restau­rant of­fers lit­tle in the way of park­ing, but once you en­ter the restau­rant, a world of space opens up in warm shades of red and or­ange. There’s a bar area; a main din­ing room with a fine view of that brick oven; a dimly lit vestibule for more pri­vate din­ing; and an ex­pan­sive pa­tio that tends to fill up in the warmer months.

Pizze­ria da Lino was con­ceived as the sis­ter restau­rant to down­town’s Os­te­ria d’As­sisi, and that lin­eage is re­flected in its clas­sic menu, which of­fers sal­ads and an­tipasti, small piz­zas with sev­eral top­ping op­tions, pasta, and Ital­ian­in­flected en­trees along with many va­ri­eties of gelato and a few other desserts. There’s a long wine list with daily spe­cials, draft and bottled beers, and a newer ven­ture, the Chili Line Brew­ing Com­pany, which of­fers small-batch beers made on site. We tried the Chili Line he­feweizen, which was re­spectable, and the wine spe­cial, a Duca San Felice red. “It jumps up into your mouth,” said the waiter, and I agreed.

More is more here, it seems, which is some­times great, and some­times not so. Sal­ads rou­tinely come over­dressed. I liked the pre­sen­ta­tion of the whole-leaf Cae­sar salad, with its strong Parme­san and herbed crou­tons, but the dress­ing was too gloppy, re­sem­bling may­on­naise. The in­salata di

arugula e car­ciofi — which in­cluded fresh nutty arugula, mar­i­nated ar­ti­chokes, shaved Parme­san, and wal­nuts — didn’t bal­ance its overly bal­samic acid­ity. The tramezzini

al pro­sciutto, baked moz­zarella wrapped in pro­sciutto with arugula and (again, too much) red wine vinai­grette, was well-con­ceived but ill-ex­e­cuted, as the moz­zarella didn’t ar­rive suf­fi­ciently warm or melted. How­ever, the pro­sciutto was a crispy, piggy de­light, and for an ap­pe­tizer, the por­tion was more than gen­er­ous. Pas­tas are an ex­er­cise in in­dul­gence. The lasagna ai broc­coli was nicely strat­i­fied with lay­ers of pasta, Gor­gonzola béchamel, broc­coli, and beef; though it was too salty, I couldn’t stop eat­ing un­til it was gone. Like­wise a sim­ple, de­li­cious spe­cial of plump gar­lic shrimp in tomato sauce over spaghetti with plenty of Parme­san and pars­ley. The fet­tuc­cine di mare fared worse, how­ever, with overly fishy mus­sels, rub­bery oc­to­pus, stiff fish, and a cloy­ing red sauce, though the clams were good.

The best news? That pizza oven is fir­ing on all cylin­ders. Each pizza I tried on two vis­its boasted per­fectly cooked, crunchy, but not crack­ery crust mot­tled with dark brown bub­bles, topped with a ser­vice­able tomato sauce and good moz­zarella. Stand­outs in­clude the pro­sciutto arugula with shaved Parme­san, ideal for those who like a lit­tle salad ac­tion in the mix, and the deca­dent funghi e tartufo, a white pizza with wild mush­rooms, onions, gor­gonzola, Ta­leg­gio, moz­zarella, and a tad too much truf­fle oil. It was hard to dis­tin­guish the smoked moz­zarella on the Chili Line Brew­ery pizza, which in­cluded pep­per­oni and suf­fered from sub­par green chile. The campagnola pizza was marred by bland, dry chicken chunks in­stead of the roasted rose­mary chicken it promised.

In­deed, Pizze­ria da Lino’s most con­sis­tent mis­step is its at­ten­tion-de­fi­ciency with re­gard to the qual­ity of the restau­rant’s in­gre­di­ents and sea­son­ing. More su­per­vi­sion would go a long way to­ward high­light­ing the stel­lar out­put of that won­der­ful oven — and the wait­staff could use a wake-up call, too, as ser­vice leans to the lack­adaisi­cal. Still, af­ter sam­pling the very good tiramisu and pis­ta­chio gelato and rolling back out into the chilly evening, it’s safe to say that Pizze­ria da Lino gets the job done. With pizza dreams re­al­ized, I went straight to bed — vi­sions of moz­zarella danc­ing in my head.

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