Restaurant Review: A First Look at Pizzeria del Corso
There's been some buzz on one of my favorite local websites Sheepshead Bites, about a new sheriff for one of the local pizza joints, Del Corso. The new owner Nino Coniglio, 24, is reviving the tradition of pizza tossing by allegedly attracting customers with his acrobatic dough spinning. It’s a sport he knows well as Coniglio was a triathlon-winning member of the U.S. Pizza Team.
I've been to the restaurant twice, but didn't see any pizza tossing at either visit. Am I missing something? I didn't really care about the show - how is the food?
On my first visit a couple of months ago, a companion and I entered just as Del Corso was closing for the night. They graciously opened up the back dining room and served us a great pizza. Allthou the dough can use some salt, I was intrigued and pleased enough by the tastes to plan a repeat visit.
My wife, daughter and I went there on a recent Saturday night for dinner. We didn't have pizza, as my daughter had pizza for lunch that day, but choose to focus on the main menu by sharing the various appetizers.
We had the Fritto Misto, lightly fried calamari and baby shrimp, which was outstandingly light and grease free allowing the flavor of the fish to shine. This was served with an very garlicky tomato dipping sauce. Lovely.
Then we had the Meatball Al Sugo which was an incredible dish of flavorful lightly seasoned meatballs of multiple sizes in a completely different tomato sauce with large pieces of fresh basil. I don't usually like restaurant meatballs. I find them to be completely under seasoned and tough. Here, they were just like mama used to make except there was no consistency to size. Some meatballs were the size of golf balls, others like dimes.
Next up was an eggplant dish of which I can't remember the name, it's not on the internet menu but is on the regular menu at the restaurant, that consisted of layered slices of un-breaded and un-fried eggplant, tomato sauce and store made mozzarella. I'd love to describe the taste of this dish, but we inhaled it. It was that good.
This was followed by one of the specials of the day - a handmade gnocchi with arugula and an Italian "meat sauce". This was simply outstanding. Tender gnocchi, fall apart meat and mushrooms in a wine enriched gravy. It was rich, thick and surprising light. This needs to be on the menu every night.
The plates went back to the kitchen looking as if we licked them clean.
We finished the meal with a dessert of fresh zeppolies topped with warm nutella and powered sugar. Need I say more?
While the food was outstanding, the front of the house service was a bit lacking. We arrived around 8:30 on Saturday night and the back dining room was almost empty with only two tables occupied. A cute Russian hostess greeted us and told us to sit anywhere. We chose a table in the back which was set with four plates but no silverware.
As we settled in a waiter, who had an accent I couldn't place, came and filled our water glasses and dropped off the menus. I asked if there were any specials and he said, "He's going to tell you," pointing to a man in a stained t-shirt and jeans drinking wine and laughing with a group of friends at the next table.
A few minutes later the man came over and leaned on the wall next us and began to rattle off the specials. He didn't introduce himself or explain why he was telling us the specials instead of the waiter. He returned to the table where he was sitting while we made our choices.
As we were deciding, a basket of warm bread was dropped on the table with a bowl of olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping. In a few minutes, the man returned and took our food order.
The food came very quickly, but I was disappointed to see that none of the dishes included any serving utensils as we made it clear to the man that we sharing every dish. We also had to request our own forks and knifes as none were delivered with the food.
Later while we were eating the hostess asked if everything was alright, I didn't understand her and she was clearly annoyed that I asked her to repeat herself. I then asked for some grated cheese and she returned with a large bowl of cheese, clearly too large for a single person, again without any sort of serving utensil.
At one point in the meal the hostess, the waiter and the until now unseen bus boy came and asked if everything was OK, all within 10 seconds of each other. While I'm glad to see the staff looking out for us, the timing of this made the service appear clumsy and untrained.
As the plates were taken away, the man, who by now I recognized as the chef from his appearance on the video above, came and asked if we enjoyed the food. We told him we did and I asked about the meat in the gnocchi dish. When he revealed it was oxtail my wife was stunned that she loved it. I have eaten oxtail since I was a child, but it was one of those foods, like liver, kidney, tripe, etc that my wife would never try due to some squeamishness on her part. The chef laughed and said that was why he described the dish as having an Italian "meat" sauce. Too many folks are oxtail phobic until they try it.
Pizzeria del Corso easily has some of the best Italian food I've had in a long long time, but it needs to step up on the little things to become great. The front of the house service needs to pay attention to the details that could make Pizzeria del Corso a dining destination. On the tables were small votive candles, which remained unlit, as did the candle in the men's room. There is a tile missing on the men's room floor that was missing on my last visit over a month ago. The chef, needs to introduce himself to the customers and needs either a chefs coat or an apron. The stained t-shirt just doesn't cut it.
And finally, if Nino Coniglio's claim to fame is being a triathlon-winning member of the U.S. Pizza Team, he needs to be attracting customers with his acrobatic dough spinning! Don't loose the focus on the food, but put on the show! An empty dining room on Saturday night is not a good sign.
Even with these growing pains I'll be back and I'm recommending this place to my friends and to all of you here on the blog, because after all, you are all my friends!
A big thanks to Ned Berke over at Sheepshead Bites for the video.