A down-home taste of Italy with a dash of glamor at The Pie Factory
Respect the pizza.
That seems to be the idea at The Pie Factory on Court Street and why not?
Pizza should be heralded if for no other reasons than for pulling us through college finals, nourishing us (cold) for breakfast and celebrating a new job. The interior of this downtown restaurant conveys, “Yes, we serve pizza, but that does not mean that we must seat you in vinyl-covered booths or offer all-you-can-eat buffets.” Ball-jar chandeliers, glamorous and gracious hostesses and ambient lighting turn eating pizza, salad and calzones into an event.
And that’s just the looks of The Pie Factory. Its soul is the food. Thin, crunchy New York-style crusts, fresh ingredients and desserts that would make an Italian blush are the pride of this restaurant that opened last year.
I was lucky enough to eat pizza in Venice, Italy in 2011, and I have yet to find any in the United States that comes close to its authenticity. Until yesterday at noon, at The Pie Factory. Technically, I ordered a calzone, which is like a 3-D slice of pizza. Calzones can be tricky because they can be too heavy on the bread and doughy. This one was thin, crunchy and full of the pepperoni, olives, and bell pepper that I ordered. The cook added the ideal amount of tomato sauce — it did not drown the ingredients, yet I wasn’t wanting more.
The generous size of the calzones still left room to split a piece of Lemoncello Cake with my mother. The piece, served cold, was just the right size to halve without guilt that you are really eating a regular-size piece of cake. The frosting was tangy and creamy with white chocolate shavings on top. It reminded me of the dolce I ate in Italy. In addition to being fashionably superior, cultured and confident, Italians also eat sweets, or dolce, for breakfast with a cup of stout expresso.
This cake tasted a lot like one from a bakery in Lecco, in northern Italy. Superb. Old Chicago Cafe on Mobile Street, now closed, was my go-to pizza place when I lived in Florence. I’m glad to know The Pie Factory is here to make great pizza downtown. The atmosphere among diners proved friendly, an asset only a satisfied belly can yield. Diners waved to acquaintances on the street. “How y’all doing?” they called.
The soundtrack, mined years ago from across the river in Muscle Shoals, turned eating pizza into an, I daresay, sassy experience. Listening to Etta James rail about not needing a man who’s a watch dog, and Aretha Franklin’s almost religious confirmation that she’s never loved a man the way she loves him, makes one want to order another pie just to keep listening.
May 15, 2014
By Jennifer Crossley Howard