When a couple of my friends called me last week to see if I wanted to go to Vera Pizzeria, I readily accepted. I had been watching the restaurant’s progress all along and was very interested to see how the customers would react and interact with the space. I had a feeling that the owners had a hit on their hands, but until you see a concept brought to life, there’s no guessing the outcome.
After taking a quick look around, we ended up sitting at the middle row of tables, since there was not enough bar space for us and the tables along the wall were already occupied. The middle of the restaurant gave us an excellent vantage point onto the bar as well as the kitchen. It also allowed us to move around quite a bit… at the same time the table allowed us to host a series of meet and greets with various passersby.
Upon looking at the drink menu, I was happy to see Tecate beer listed and ordered one up. My friends ran the gamut of wine, beer and drinks. The exotic drink menu is pretty intense and can be a tad overwhelming if you’re not used to hanging in places with resident mixologists. Thankfully bartender Jon Karel stopped over to our table to make a couple of suggestions. He pointed out a selection called Aviation, which consisted of gin, dry vermouth, Crème de Violette, lemon juice and maraschino liqueur (photo). That sounded fine to me.
While we sampled a couple of the cocktails, we placed an order four very different pizzas – one for each member of the party. The choices that we opted for were the Margherita with buffalo milk mozzarella, the Potato Rosemary with pecorino Romano, and the Bianco with ricotta. We also decided to go with one of the specials – a pizza with goat cheese, micro basil, onion and prosciutto. As much as we enjoyed the selections off the menu, the special was the biggest hit and was gone in seconds. I found that the light and airy crust was the real winner. I am pretty finicky when it comes to crust and felt that Vera’s was cooked to perfection. That’s a good thing, because when it comes to ‘Neapolitan urban Italian’ pizza, the crust is just as important than the toppings, if not more. To learn about the history of Vera and its style of pizza, click here and here.
The atmosphere at Vera Pizzeria is a home run. By the time we had finished our dinner the place was packed, but for some reason it didn’t feel too crowded. Normally when I see a throng of people in a restaurant I turn the other way. In this case we decided to stick around for an after-dinner drink. Jon Karel (not in photo) was putting on a show behind the bar (only a drummer could shake a cocktail like that) and the crowd was loving it. We managed to score the window table as soon as it became available and watched the activity at the bar. Towards the back of the establishment the open kitchen allowed us to see the chefs in action. As the chefs cooked away, the bartenders shook, rattled and rolled out my next selection called the Earhart. While the Aviation had been at first bitter and then sugary-sweet, the Earhart (Luksusowa potato vodka, Elderflower liquor, fresh squeezed lemon juice, seasonal berry puree and mint) was surprising flavorful without being too fruity. It was also quite beautiful… a sea of purple with a perfectly positioned mint leaf floating on top. The drink was a big hot with the table.
Vera Pizzeria is as cozy as the neighborhood. It’s friendly and lively and serves up quality food and drinks. If you’re looking to impress a date, it’s romantic without being over the top. Every neighborhood should have a place like this. I feel fortunate that it happens to be around the corner from my house.