wireless_kitchen (2006-29)

Mama Mia!

West Knox restaurant delivers Italian for foodies

by Gay Lyons

Pizza is the perfect food. It’s delicious piping hot, slightly warmed or straight from the refrigerator. In my youthful days, pizza was a staple, practically its own food group. These days it’s a treat, so when I do indulge, it better be good.

Having heard complimentary things about the recently opened Adagio Pizzeria, I gathered a couple of companions and headed off—twice, it turned out. We discovered the restaurant is closed Mondays when we pulled into the empty lot, so my anticipation the following evening was high. Nothing like delayed gratification to whet the appetite.

The entrance to the restaurant is a little odd. It’s been made appealing with two lovely planters flanking the doorway and an attractive bar area just inside, but the distinctive covered area adjacent to the door had us speculating about the previous life of the business. A gas station? Indeed. Our server confirmed that in a previous incarnation it had been a BP.

The pizzeria’s attractive interior belies its previous existence as a gas station. The textured walls are a warm terra cotta, a theme continued in the clay pots used to serve the freshly baked breadsticks and to hold opened bottles of wine. Large prints are widely spaced around the L-shaped dining area. White tablecloths are covered in white paper, a compromise that melds elegance and practicality.

Adagio is more than a pizzeria. The menu lists some enticing panini sandwiches, such as “La Verdura,” which consists of grilled portobello mushrooms, roasted red peppers and sautéed baby spinach with mozzarella cheese and a mango dressing. House specials include traditional favorites such as lasagna and chicken parmesan as well as some you don’t find quite as often, such as pasta with carbonara sauce. Soups and salads are also available. But we came for pizza, so that’s what we concentrated on. After all, I’d had a whole 24 hours to think about pizza.

We ordered some calamari and a bottle of the house pinot grigio to share while we studied the pizza menu. The wine list is perfect for a pizzeria, lots of reasonably priced selections, including at least three chiantis, with most wines available by the glass or the bottle. I prefer chianti with pizza, but I was outvoted by the white wine lovers. The crispy calamari was delicious enough on its own to make it a great choice, but we discovered an unintended benefit. The marinara sauce that came with the calamari was tastier than the sauce accompanying the breadsticks. Before long, the entire table switched to this chunkier, spicier sauce for all our dunking needs.

You can build your own small, medium or large pizza with a pretty impressive list of ingredients, but we tried three house specialties: margherita, fresco and spinach and artichoke. Though these were classified as small, be advised: While not large, these are not personal pizzas either. Three small pizzas provided us with several pieces each and quite a bit of leftover pizza (breakfast!) to carry home.

The delicious crust was thin but not crispy. The texture was more like that of a thicker crust—but without the extra dough. It complemented but didn’t overwhelm the toppings. The margherita pizza had just enough red sauce to give it zing. Most of the flavor came from the juicy roma tomatoes, fresh basil and mozzarella cheese atop the lightly applied sauce. The creamiest of the three was the spinach and artichoke pizza. The heavier application of white sauce along with the melted mozzarella cheese was the perfect bed for the spinach and artichokes. Quite a few tender artichoke quarters were nestled in the creamy base, but we all agreed that a little more spinach would have made the pizza exceptional as opposed to very good.

The clear favorite of the night was the fresco pizza. Garlicky pesto, sun-dried tomatoes and fresh basil were topped with a generous amount of goat cheese, which had been perfectly browned. Goat cheese is one of those things people either love or hate. If you, like me, are in the former group, you will love this pizza. The only downside was that since my companions also love goat cheese, there was only one tiny sliver of this pizza to take home.

Pizza is enough of a treat without adding dessert to the mix, but we had decided from the outset that we were going to go all out—and share one dessert. Our server recommended the key lime cheesecake and the chocolate malt cake, but when we heard the cannoli was “a work in progress,” intrigued, we told her to bring it on. The beautifully presented, crispy cream-filled cannoli, surrounded by whipped cream twirls and chocolate drizzles, was delicious. Obviously, a great deal of progress has been made on this item.

I entered Adagio in the mood for pizza, having anticipated its taste for an extra 24 hours. I left totally satisfied and already looking forward to a return visit for a large fresco pizza. I’m craving that toasted goat cheese.