9 May 2011
Average Cost ($8-$14)
Jones Valley/Hampton Cove
4 out of 5

Melanie’s Take

I love cheese; I mean, I really love cheese. As a result, I’ve always fancied pizza as well. Any vehicle for melty cheese is a friend of mine. A couple years ago, Shane and I discovered a spot in Hampton Cove that served up award-winning pizza. We’re not just talking your local small town newspaper “award-winning” pizza, but nationally recognized pies. Each time we return to Tortora’s, we’re reminded of why the awards were given.

For our meal, we decided to share a large pizza that we ordered 1/2 Bennie (mozzarella, chorizo, pepperoni, bacon, pepperoni) and 1/2 Supreme (mozzarella, tomato sauce, pepperoni, Italian sausage, ham, salami, red onions, fresh mushrooms, black olives, and green peppers). We were dining just a few days after people were attempting normalcy after the devastating April 27th tornadoes, and the place was absolutely booming with business. Although most people had to wait more than usual for their food, it seemed that no one was impatient or rude. Perhaps we all shared a new perspective on how little it matters to wait for pizza when your neighbors have lost homes and lives.

When the pizza did arrive, it was absolutely delicious. The crust at Tortora’s is neither thin nor thick, and its taste is unlike any other pizza I’ve had locally. It reminds me of a few I’d had in Rome. I especially enjoy the toppings that always seem fresh and a bit more adventurous than the norm at a delivery joint. A perfect example of this is their award-winning pie, “The Sydney,” which has a cacciatore base and is topped with mozzarella, chorizo, sautéed cherry tomatoes, caramelized onions, bacon, and fresh basil. It remains my favorite. If you haven’t made it out to Tortora’s yet, be sure to make a point to. You won’t be disappointed.

Shane’s Take

You know that lump that showed up in your stomach when 9/11 happened? Well, that same lump came back to those of us untouched by those tornadoes that hit our beloved community a couple weeks ago. Trying to soothe that lump and make life feel somewhat normal, we made a quick visit to Tortora’s for some good eats. We’d been there a few times before, so we didn’t hesitate to drive across the mountain following a quick call to ensure they were open.

Despite being terribly busy, our service was excellent. Upon arriving, we waited for a few minutes at the hostess’s booth, but it was obvious that many people were looking for a respite and that the hostess was earning every dollar. Likewise, our waitress seemed exhausted and frazzled, but she remained jovial and earned bonus points (as always) by offering a refill in a to-go cup. I do wish she had visited our table more frequently, but she was working hard, so I didn’t sweat it.

1/2 Bennie, 1/2 Supreme Pizza

We waited an unusually long 35 minutes for our pizza, but it arrived hot and looking delicious. The crust, which is Tortora’s pride and joy, had a nearly-perfect texture and flavor. The chewiness of the crust, which is what wins pizza battles in my mind, was just right: I would put the dough between my teeth, pull gently, a little more, a little more, and—pop!—it would let go just before I would chalk it up as tough. The flavor also was good (with a touch of sweetness, but none of the outright sugary flavor you get at Papa John’s), but it was charred a bit more than I prefer. The toppings also were excellent. I particularly enjoyed the kick of the charizo, which was complemented well by a few shakes of red pepper.

As in times past, the atmosphere of the store was relaxing and pleasant. Although it’s often crowded and noisy, I always feel at ease in the Tortora’s store. Mind you, the store clearly is designed to be comfortable and safe to well-to-do suburbanites, which really hurts my counterculture sympathies, but I’m not confused about who I am and what makes me comfortable. So, as I’d done before, I just sat back and guiltily enjoyed my fashionable Hampton Cove dining experience.

It’s hard to go wrong with Tortora’s. The atmosphere is pleasant, the food is delicious and inventive, and the service is excellent, even on understaffed nights. Plus, it delivers some nice local r-and-r on a night when local dining is exactly what I want and what the town needs. I recommend it.

Final Thoughts:

  • This is not the place to go for a $5.99 large two-topping pizza. 8″ pies run about $15, and 16″ pies go for about $25 each, so you may have to raid the month’s entire Domino’s allowance for a visit. On occasion, it’s worth it (even for tightwads like me).
  • The calamari is good, but it unfortunately doesn’t beat the off-the-chain Carrabba’s squid.
  • Other than the price, this is a family-friendly place.
  • If you’re adventurous, try “The Sydney” as Melanie recommended. It’s unusual but very tasty.
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