Pizza e Vino
31441 Santa Margarita Parkway
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688
Katie's sister and brother in law, (Sara and Kevin), were nice enough to take me and Katie out for an early birthday dinner. After very little deliberation we decided on heading over to Pizza e Vino. This tiny eatery right near the lake in Rancho Santa Margarita has gotten a lot of buzz for their pizzas. In fact, by some they have been crowned best pizza in the OC. So needless to say, I was excited to try it out.
Pizza e Vino is a pretty small place. They have maybe twelve tables inside, and about ten outside on the heated patio. We arrived at 7 on a Thursday night and were sat immediately. The restaurant was pretty busy. The atmosphere here is subdued and dark. The menu is what you would expect, very pizza oriented. They feature a few appetizers, a few salads, one pasta dish a night, and about twenty or so pizzas.
The pizzas at Pizza e Vino are crafted like those in Naples, Italy. Their red sauce is created by using tomatoes from Mount Vesuvius, the flour for the dough is imported from southern Italy, and the pizzas are baked in a wood fired oven at 850 degrees. Let's find out if all of this extra work makes for a better pizza.
But first, before we get to the pizzas, both Katie and I wanted to try their salads. I had the Caesar salad above. I liked this salty salad. It came out nice and chilled, but more croutons on this would have made it better. Katie had the House Salad. This mixed green salad came with carrots, tomatoes, cannellini beans, and balsamic vinaigrette. Katie really liked the beans in this salad, because they made for a nice texture.
I know I promised you pizza, but as usual Sara did not want to cooperate when she ordered the Pasta Special of the day. This night it just happened to be angel hair pasta served with tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and Parmesan cheese. Sara said, "this was delicious". I had a bite of it and I would have called it plain tasting, but made with fresh ingredients. This is something I would see on a menu and would never order. I need a little more complexity to my pasta dishes.
Finally we come to the pizzas. Up first was Katie's choice, the Pesto Pizza. The toppings on this, "no red sauce" pizza included chicken breast, goat cheese, oven dried tomatoes, mozzarella, and of course pesto sauce. Katie found the chicken to be tender, the crust to be really nice and chewy, and flavor here to be abundant and mellow. I had a small piece of her pizza, and felt that she was right on about all of her claims. Not to ruin anything, but I would say this was the best pizza of the night.
Kevin, the real traditionalist amongst us ordered the Pepperoni Pizza. This also came with mozzarella and pepper flakes. Kevin felt that the pepperoni was saltier than normal, but he liked that the crust was thinner than other pizzas, so it was not too heavy. One thing he noticed, that I did as well, was that the pizza was soggy in the middle. Not sure why this was, maybe it was the way it was cooked, but it was noticeable on my pizza, as well as his.
I had a hard time choosing my pizza, and after some deliberation I went with the Salsiccia pizza. This came with mozzarella, fennel sausage, oregano, and chili flakes. This was basically like the pizza I had at Pizzeria Ortica. The sausage was good, but they were not very generous with it. The rest of the pizza was a little plain tasting. The menu said there were chili flakes on this pizza, but I did not sense any.
For dessert the four of us split a Chocolate Cannoli. I had never had a chocolate cannoli before, and I actually liked this a lot. I think I liked this because of the filing. It was not so cheesy, like some cannoli's can be. This might have been due to it being a chocolate cannoli. I definitely could have eaten a few more of these.
So is Pizza e Vino the best pizza in the OC? Simply, no it is not. I would classify their pizza as fancy pizza. So far my favorite fancy pizza is still Pizzeria Ortica. The crust here was not as flavorful, and the toppings did not pop with flavor. The sogginess in the middle of the crust also concerned me. The service when we were here was average. I was still happy to try this place though, and it was a great birthday dinner. Thanks Kevin and Sara. You guys are the best.
Out of five ink pens, (because the city of Rancho Santa Margarita is the longest city name in California, and you would go through lots of ink pens to write out your address if you lived there), five being best to zero being worst, Pizza e Vino gets 2.5 ink pens.
For more information on Pizza e Vino, click here: http://www.pizzaevino.net/