Restaurant Review Pizzeria da Lino
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.