I've never really had many reasons to drive to Red Bank, especially up past Ashland Terrace, but that might have to change. I've wanted to try Pizzeria Cortile since hearing so many great reviews from people, so I finally made the effort last week after readers in our online poll listed it among their top choices.
I love pizza. Just about all types of pizza. But some are better than others, and these guys make a tasty pie. For me, a pizza needs to have a good crust that complements the other ingredients.
In fact, everything needs to work together to make a delicious, cohesive pie where every bite gives you the essence of the pizza. This is where some local pizzerias fall short, in my opinion. You might get a taste of pepperoni or bacon or whatever in one bite, but not the next.
Pizzeria Cortile gets it right.
The pizzas are all 12-inch, thin-crust, Neapolitan-style pies that are cooked in a wood-fired brick oven that was imported from Italy.
Several varieties are offered, and you can build your own or ask for substitutes. I went with a vegetarian friend, and the wait staff had no problem building two pies with meat on one half only.
I would have been fine with veggie only, but I had to try the Tennshootoe, which is a locally sourced version of prosciutto and the house-made bacon. When in Rome, right?
The menu features a house or Caesar salad option ($7), wings ($8 for 6, $12 for 10), flatbread with basil oil, oregano, sliced garlic, marinara and Parmesan ($7) or arancini, which are stuffed risotto balls that are breaded, fried and served with marinara, Parmesan, basil oil and a choice of mozzarella, Main Street Meats sausage or pimento cheese. Dessert options are Nutella rolls ($6) or cannoli ($8).
If you go
› What: Pizzeria Cortile, 4400 Dayton Blvd.
› Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Wednesday-Monday
› Price range: Most pies are $11.
› Alcohol: Beer
› Phone: 423-682-8278
› Online: pizzeriacortile.com
The restaurant offers beer in cans or on draft, and there is a corking fee if you bring your own wine.
The stars here are the pies. Among the 13 options on the menu are the Fancy Pants, with olive oil, cheese blend, Tennshootoe, arugula, lemon juice and salt ($11); Sweet Thai Chicken, with peanut sauce, cheese blend, roasted chicken, embered onions, cilantro and green onion ($11); and the Mr. Potato Head, with red sauce, cheese blend, house-made bacon, embered onions, fried potatoes, rosemary and hot honey ($12).
There is also the Hot Hawaiian, with red sauce, cheese blend, Tennshootoe, roasted jalapeno and pineapple ($11) or the Hot Chick with Alabama white sauce, cheese blend, roasted chicken, embered onion, Buffalo sauce, blue cheese and parsley ($12).
We got the Fancy Pants and the Mr. Potato Head without the meats on half. We made good choices and both were delicious, though the hot honey on the latter made it a standout. It blended perfectly with the potatoes, bacon and onions.
It is worth noting that if you are like me and don't put salt on anything you eat, when you do eat something salty it can be overwhelming. Prosciutto, or in this case, Tennshootoe, is inherently salty. Not overly so in this case, but that is subjective, right?
The crust, which is made from just flour, water, yeast and salt, is pretty great, and it is the perfect crust for the pies.
Every bite was full of pizza goodness, and the two pies were more than enough. In fact, I took several pieces home with me.
We also ordered the focaccia ($6), which was one of the daily specials on the board as we walked in. It was a good choice. The four soft pieces of bread were covered by a house-made buttermilk ricotta cheese blend and hot honey.
That hot honey is transformative and addictive.
The restaurant is simple enough, with a few tables surrounding the bar and large brick oven. Our server was friendly and knowledgeable and happy to answer any questions. We were the first customers of the day, so our appetizer and pizzas were served promptly.
I'm looking forward to going back and trying some of the other pies.
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354.