August 17, 2012 by Jared.Ely
When it comes to Italian food, you have to be adventurous. All too often I find myself attending group events where the organizers invariably make the decision to order the same dreary thing every single time: a tall stack of plain pizzas and another of, hold on to your seats ladies and gentlemen, pepperoni. Fine, I’ll eat them. Heck, I’ll even enjoy them. One should never be rude, and besides, all pizza tastes great, especially when compared to a big ol’ pile of nothing.
But come on, people! Who decided that playing it safe would make for a good get-together? Give me buffalo chicken, and who knows, I might actually consider joining your club. Show me a Hawaiian pizza and I will try my best not to doze off during your presentation. Yes, I will come for plain pizza. No, I will not stay afterward.
I apologize for the digression, but I take this kind of thing seriously. I mean, as a food critic that’s my civic duty. That’s why when I went to Pizza Rustica, I was excited. Due to the nature of my column, I take a gamble every time with my meal. One meal could be filet mignon and the next could be caviar (not to say anything bad about caviar, but honestly, caviar does not make a meal).
Barring some cruel joke, there was very little chance that the most expensive thing on Pizza Rustica’s menu would be plain, and with a spread of 33 different pizzas I was not to be disappointed. Although there was technically a four-way tie for the most expensive pizza, I used my charisma and food savvy to persuade my way into a split between two of the choices. My final pizza: half rib-eye and Portobello mushrooms, and half shrimp and scallops (Pesci di Formaggio).
Before I neglect to mention it, there was one initial downside to my night at Pizza Rustica. While the restaurant interior itself is small, it is still nice and homey in the way that traditional Italian restaurants are. Pizza Rustica also boasts a pleasant little outdoor section that appears relaxing and subtly fancy. Unfortunately, the night of my review turned out stormy, forcing me to stay inside.
The pizza itself looked fantastic. If there was one thing Pizza Rustica did well, it was not skimping on the toppings. There was a slew of mushrooms and chunks of rib-eye on half of the pizza, and the other half was drowning in shrimp and scallops (see what I did there?). Though my meal comrades encouraged a blending of the two slices, I disregarded their suggestions for a more purist approach and began by sampling the Pesci di Formaggio.
In my opinion, the shrimp made the pizza what it was, as they still retained much of their sweet flavor in contrast to the ever-so-slight sharp tang of the pizza’s cheese and creme sauce. The scallops were somewhat large (approximately ½ inch cubes) and very tender, but they had little flavor and just came off as bland chunks of generic whitefish. I’ll admit I’m picky with my scallops and prefer more flavor over less, but I would have much rather had extra shrimp in place of those scallops. Still, the Pesci di Formaggio was quite satisfying and was an overall lighter slice of pizza due to the seafood and white sauce, though the grease of the pizza alongside the shellfish made for an odd combination.
Comparatively, the rib-eye and Portobello pizza was the Pesci di Formaggio’s polar opposite. The rib-eye was hearty and added a heavy beef taste to the slice, while the Portobello mushrooms imbued it with a very strong, earthy flavor. On the whole, the slice was very robust, and the grease did little to mitigate the overpowering flavors. Something I found annoying was that the rib-eye was tough at times. As I’m sure you agree, when it comes to pizza, the meat is best kept as tender as possible so that pieces do not come off as whole. This allows for the topping distribution to stay adequate. It is a small qualm, truly, but a necessary one.
Overall, Pizza Rustica is a fairly good place to pick up some more exotic slices. You’ll most likely pay a little bit more than you would at the surrounding pizza joints, but the variety makes up for that. Still, don’t expect exquisite cuisine. Pizza Rustica is good, but in no way fine dining.