I have to admit, when I saw that yet another pizza joint had opened in my Southside neighborhood I was less than thrilled.
I had my fill long ago of greasy pepperoni, plastic cheese, wilted peppers and overly sweet excuses for pizza sauce, so I was in no particular hurry to visit Uncle Maddio's Pizza Joint.
Life being the exciting and money-sucking adventure it is, though, when I fished their big coupon for free salad from my bill-stuffed mailbox one day I figured, eh, what the heck—I'll just get the salad and be outta there fast. Was I in for a surprise!
This was one of my first experiences with a "fast casual" restaurant in Savannah. I had to take a moment to figure my way up to the counter past a maze-like wall that lead up to a gaggle of smiling young people who just seemed stoked as all get-out to be there—but I was thoroughly impressed and a tad overwhelmed at the variety of fresh produce, meats, cheeses and toppings displayed on their smorgasbord before me: all organic, fresh local veggies, hormone free chicken.
I'm not talking about some cold colorless chunks of vaguely chicken-y meat here—the nicely herbed and grilled chicken on my salad was wonderful, and I have to say, the lightly-coated baked slices of eggplant blew me away.
A word on the salads, since that was what truly enticed me in there: no watery shreds of iceberg, but real, organic, spinach, Italian spring mixes, and more, beautifully crisp and fresh, zucchini slices, juicy roma tomatoes, salty feta cheese (one of many varieties to choose from)—culminating in a huge, tasty bowl topped with pieces of spiced pizza dough chips...sigh. I'm sold already, even in the case of the pizza sucking. Newsflash: it did not.
My hubby's the big meat-eater in the family, and if you've read my articles you know I love a good oxtail or porkchop. But I also like to eat healthy when possible and vegetarian at least eight meals a week.
The solution was half meat, half vegetables—and what veggies! The selection was dizzying: artichoke hearts, fresh basil, black bean-corn salsa, broccoli, caramelized onions, eggplant, garlic, tofu, pickled Jalapenos, lovely portabellas, and sundried tomatoes, just to name a few.
I took the easy way out and ordered the Simple Veggie for my side—my hubby chose the Big Max, tomato-basil sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, house-made Italian sausage, bacon, and handmade meatballs. You order at the counter and they give you a number to take to your table.
Before you choose your table, hit the bar on the sidelines for shakers of parmesan, pepper flakes, hot sauce, sweetener, salad dressings, etc.; the friendly wait staff will bring your beer or wine along quickly—soda/tea drinkers pour your own at the side bar.
One side of the cheerful, bright dining room has raised booths, which give you a great view of the prep area, so we stepped on up. When I saw the size of my salad I knew there was no way I could eat it all, so I took half home—had to, just to be able to enjoy my delicious pizza. The sauce is one of the very best I've ever tasted—not too sweet, just right, intense, flavorful, with just a bit of tang and perfectly spiced. It was love at first bite, literally. If you want something different try the Herb Pesto, Olive Oil, Zesty BBQ or Buttermilk Ranch sauces available.
Other perks: cannoli is made fresh each day and filled before your eyes, the chocolate Coca-Cola cake looks very tempting with its dark, shiny glaze, as did the oatmeal cookies; their pizza dough is also made in-house daily (no frozen slabs here) with whole wheat, gluten-free and other healthy varieties available, the veggies are locally sourced, the beer is artisan and the place is as neat as a pim.
I've learned my lesson. Even an old stand-by like pizza can be exciting and new.
Uncle Maddio's Pizza Joint, 805 Abercorn St Suite 2, Chatham Plaza across from Oglethorpe Mall, (912) 777-4479
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