An extremely dreary Sunday afternoon in the River City and Lynda and I were in search of really good pizza. The previous Friday I had sent Lynda an IM describing the Stuffed Mushrooms ($7.99) from Impellizzeri’s Pizza on Bardstown Road; so it was off into the showery, cold afternoon to get some ‘shrooms and pizza. (I’ll share the ‘shroom details and a picture with our readers in a few minutes.)
Impellizzeri’s had long been a favorite of ours since we had moved to Louisville some 8 years ago. The problem was, the restaurant was extremely tiny, well beyond cozy and often terribly smoky and the parking lot could be a major pain to get in and out of, especially on a weekday evening. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how one looks at it in hindsight, they closed their doors; leaving us with one less option for finding a truly great traditional pizza — as opposed to BoomBozz’s gourmet pies — in the Metro area. Finally, after an interminable hiatus, my friend Mike informed me a few months ago that Impellizzeri’s had moved into bigger digs a bit farther up Bardstown Road toward town. A bit longer drive up Restaurant Row — a dozen LONG blocks — but if the food is as good as it used to be, well worth the longer trip.
Now several months later, we had returned to see how they were doing. We don’t think they have any on-site parking of their own, so we parked on the street a couple doors past the restaurant and strolled back. They now occupy a brick building that is set at an odd angle at the corner of Bardstown Road and Edgeland Avenue. The angle is beneficial as it allows for a front patio with six umbrellaed bistro tables, which not surprisingly, were unoccupied with the temperature hovering around 39° and a cutting wind blowing down the street. It is an attractive old building on the outside and it looks like they put in a lot of work on the interior, which is 4 or 5 times larger than the old place and now has separate bar area. The decor is typical for an Italian eatery, with vinyl checkered tablecloths adorning the tables and booths, but there was no Italian soundtrack coming over the speakers. Queen’s We Are The Champions, Cream’s Strange Brew or Jefferson Airplane’s Somebody To Love may not exactly be standard pizzeria fare, but it wasn’t playing all that loudly, so it will do — besides, I am getting a little tired of Sinatra and Dean Martin when we go out for Italian. There are also several large HDTV monitors hung strategically around the dining room and tuned to various football games (fall Sunday afternoon, what else?), but these were mercifully muted.
When we entered, Benny Impellizzeri, the owner was there to greet us warmly as we passed through the vestibule into the restaurant. We were seated at our booth and our waitress was there instantly to take our drink orders — a couple of tall Diet Pepsis ($1.99 each). After a short perusal of the menu, we decided on a couple of appetizers and a pizza. Since this was to be meal so I could write this review, we knew we were going to have a lot of leftover food and it looks like we got two more meals out of it.
Lynda had been drooling (figuratively, folks) since Friday for an order of those Stuffed Mushrooms ($7.99) I mentioned earlier, so she ordered those for herself. Actually, I don’t mind the flavor of mushrooms, I don’t really care to eat them because of their texture, so she had these all to herself. These were fresh mushroom caps that had been filled with garlic butter and homemade Italian sausage, smothered with Mozzarella and Romano cheeses and baked in a oval dish. Our waitress told us there were 5 or 6 mushrooms in an order, but it appears there were 8 or 10 large ones in Lynda’s order. It arrived at the table, bubbling like crazy, very fresh from the oven, with the cheese lightly browned to a golden blush on top. Lynda said they were just wonderful, but that they were swimming in a little too much liquid, which she had the waitress drain off when she boxed the leftovers at the end of the meal.
For my appetizer, I ordered the Bread Sticks ($5.99). Since Lynda loves these as much as I do and because it is fairly large for an appetizer, she had to help me with this order. They brought out this large pizza pan with six large bread sticks swimming in a sea of garlic butter, with a dusting of Parmesan cheese and oregano on the bread. The bread was so hot I had to transfer the first couple of bread sticks to my plate with my fork. They must grab the orders straight from the oven and bring them to the tables at a dead run — my back was to the kitchen, so I didn’t see them coming. Wonderful pieces of hot bread to dip in garlic butter. Bread Nirvana!
We decided to get a medium (14-inch) pepperoni thin-crust pizza ($14.99) for the main course. I don’t think we have ever had their thin-crust before, but I know that I would pit their Sicilian Deep Dish against the best of the deep dish pizzas you find in Chicago — and I have eaten a lot of them up there. Their thin-crust has much more in common with the pie you commonly hear call a New York or Brooklyn pizza, rather than the strange creations on cracker bread that Pizza Hut or Papa Johns calls a thin-crust pizza. The crust, though very thin, was soft and quite pliable, almost foldable like a New York-style pizza and if we had opted for a large (16-inch) would have no doubt been foldable. It was also pleasantly chewy, yeasty with a caramelized aftertaste that a good pizza crust should have. The sauce was more like tomato paste, rather than the watery sauce you get most places, with a full-bodied, herby spiciness that will, without question please discriminating adult palates, but isn’t quite sweet enough I am afraid for most kids. Paper-thin slices of pepperoni sit upon a thick layer of cheese. Unlike a lot places, these pepperonis had not curled up into little bowls that filled with grease that rendered out of the little discs during the baking of the pie. This was an almost grease-free pizza, which is very unusual for a pepperoni pie. As they took the pizza out of the oven, it had received an ample dusting of Parmesan cheese and herbs and had been once more rushed, steaming to our table.
Our service was quite good with our waitress being right on top of things without hovering over us in an annoying manner. The restaurant was moderately busy when we arrived and was filling up pretty good toward the end of our visit, but the noise level never really got so bad that we had a bad problem with hearing one another, although I have heard that they can get some rowdy bunches in there on busy night and we might run into a problem then. While we will continue to patronize BoomBozz because they are close enough that I can yell in, rather than call in an order and they also serve a different type of pizza, I would have to say that Impellizzeri’s is my favorite pizza restaurant in town. They may be just a little on the high side as to their prices, they are quite generous with their portions — each of the appetizers would be fine for 4 people.
I would really like to try out one of their Italian Hoagies ($7.99-$8.99) or a Pasta dish ($6.99-$11.99) on a future visit. If you have a hard time getting away from surfing the web or are pathologically bound to your work, they do have free WiFi and it was very fast on our iPhones. They also started offering delivery a couple of months ago, but I doubt we can bribe them into delivering anything out 15 miles to us. Sigh.
As we were leaving, Benny Impellizzeri was once more at the door to wish us a pleasant evening. It certainly had been a pleasant dining experience.
10 of 10 stars.1381 Bardstown Road