Newcomer Pizzeria Sazio is the latest pizza joint to reside at the corner of Vista Avenue and Kootenai Street, in a building that’s been a revolving door of neighborhood pizzerias in the last decade or so. To say there’s been some pizza confusion at this location in the Depot Bench neighborhood would be an understatement.
When the popular Casanova Pizzeria lost its lease two years ago, the building’s owner, Tom Allegrezza, tried his hand at making blistered pies. He opened Orbit-Fire Pizzeria there in the summer of 2015. After a few months the name was changed to Allegrezza’s Italian Cuisine.
In January it reopened in its latest incarnation, Pizzeria Sazio.
Neapolitan-style pizzas topped with high-quality ingredients have been the one constant over the years. Casanova crisped up its pies in a wood-fired pizza oven, whereas Sazio opts for a gas-fired oven. Actually, it’s the same rotating-deck oven that Orbit-Fire used.
Pizzeria Sazio owners Kacey Montgomery and Shannon Lincoln, who also own Juniper on 8th Street, remodeled the previously stark space, adding new paint and updated upholstery to the booths along the front windows. Brick walls were set in place to give the eatery a rustic feel. The bar area was also remodeled, making that small space more effective.
They have succeeded in creating an appealing environment to enjoy pizza, draft brews and glasses of custom-blended wine. Diners can peek across the dining room at the open kitchen and watch their pizzas get prepared before being placed in the red-tiled oven. Laid-back, friendly servers add to the inviting ambience.
While the décor is decidedly minimalistic, the thin-crusted pizzas boast enough nuance to keep foodies and everyday diners interested. The imported cheeses and cured meats on the pies drive the prices higher than at chain pizza joints. But the price points are on par with other upscale pizzerias around town. (North End Pizza in Hyde Park comes to mind.)
Diners can choose one of the many specialty pizzas or build their own pies chosen from a long list of Mediterranean-inspired toppings. (Sorry, no pineapple). All pizzas are 12 inches in diameter and come out of the scorching oven relatively fast. Sazio also serves traditional pasta dishes, salads and appetizers. Sandwich specials were recently added during the day.
Ordering The Italian ($14) will get you a simple four-cheese pizza topped with a skiff of garlicky red sauce and mozzarella, provolone, Reggiano Parmigiano and burrata cheeses. The pronounced yeastiness of the dough gives the chewy crust an underlying earthy flavor, and the pie was nice and crispy on the backside during a daytime visit.
Carnivores should order The Sazio pizza ($17), a blistered, tomato-based meat pizza that looks like a Jackson Pollock painting, strewn about with marbled coppa dry salami, Calabrese ham, golden caramelized fennel, julienne bell pepper, and provolone and ricotta cheeses. The pizzeria is not shy about using garlic, as is the case with this signature pie.
Vegetarians are in luck here, too, thanks to a lineup of inventive meatless pizzas.
The Pinoli ($17) shines a spotlight on pine nuts, which dot the pizza alongside dabs of gooey Gorgonzola, caramelized cipollini onions, aged ricotta cheese, chunky pear-fig chutney and chopped rosemary and thyme. But on a day I dined, this pie was terribly burnt around the edges, and it displayed big, black burn bubbles protruding from the face-side of the crust, giving it a bitter aftertaste.
Those who like robust Mediterranean flavors should go for the Romanesco ($17), a southern Italian-inspired pizza smothered with olive oil, roasted broccoli (with lots of garlic and herbs), marinated artichoke hearts, pungent Fontina cheese and a hint of freshly squeezed lemon, which unifies the flavors.
With a name like the Magic Kingdom pizza ($18), you would expect this pie to be topped with truffled unicorn meat made by artisan leprechauns. Instead, it’s topped with roasted mushrooms (sorry, not the magic kind), stinky truffle oil, chopped herbs, tangy goat cheese, Tallegio cheese and arugula. This pie is good, but calling it magical would be a stretch.
For starters, do yourself a favor and try the deep-fried risotto balls ($9). These crispy orbs — with velvety Arborio rice on the inside — come smothered with garlic-kicked red sauce and gooey Italian cheeses.
Kids will probably like the pan-fried cheese bread ($9), but I found it to be a little pricey. Plus, the slab of grilled, sliced dough (topped with mozzarella, Reggiano Parmigiano and chopped herbs) was on the greasy side one evening. The cheese bread gets served with aromatic marinara sauce for dipping.
In terms of roughage, the pizzeria puts out Caesars and other Italian-tinged salads. A noteworthy pick is the Rucola salad ($9), a heap of fresh arugula mingled with toasted pine nuts, dabs of fresh goat cheese, roasted red grapes and zesty lemon vinaigrette.
Even though pizzas are the name of the game at Pizzeria Sazio, the classic pasta dishes (made with Ferranti Fresh Pasta) are hardly an afterthought.
The slow-simmered red sauce for the pasta Bolognese ($16) is thick and pocked with ground beef, pork loin and fennel-spiked Italian sausage, which clings tightly to the wide ribbons of al dente pappardelle pasta, garnished with shaved Parmesan.
Pizzeria Sazio is still working out some kinks, especially with the pizza oven, but it’s certainly keeping the tradition of Neapolitan-style pizzas alive in the Depot Bench neighborhood.
Statesman reviewers pay for their meals and attempt to dine anonymously. Email James Kelly: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Address: 1204 S. Vista Ave., Boise
Phone: (208) 344-6600
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Menu price range: appetizers, salads and pasta dishes $7-$18; pizzas $12-$18.
Libation situation: The pizzeria maintains a rotating selection of five Northwest craft beers on tap, as well as canned and bottled beers. The wine list features bottles of Italian and Northwest labels — all $36 — in addition to three custom-made red and white blends on tap.
Kid friendly? Yes
Wheelchair accessible? Yes
Opened: January 2017
Casanova Pizzeria ends search for new location
Casanova Pizzeria, a popular restaurant that lost its lease at 1204 S. Vista Ave. in 2015, no longer plans to reopen at a new site.
The owners recently revealed online that they have stopped looking. “We are extremely regretful to announce that, after two years of seeking, we have decided to suspend our search for a location. During these past years, we have toiled to get Casanova up and running again, looking at 31 different locations all over the area and starting lease negotiations on six of them. Unfortunately, at every turn there seemed to be an unforeseen obstacle or some inexplicable incident, all of which barred our path to reopening.
“... We don’t know what is in store for the Casanova name, if we will revisit the possibility of reopening in the years ahead, or if it will evolve into some other project. We will keep avenues of communication, through the website and Facebook, open as long as we can in the case that there are any updates on our future.”