Cross-posted from Calgary is Awesome.
Chef Mario waving at me as he runs out to deliver some gelato to a customer eating in their car
A few weeks ago I started noticing the sign tacked onto the little white, brick building on 1 Ave NE as I drove to and from B.'s house. "Chef Mario - Opening Spring 2011"
Chef Mario... Isn't that the guy who drives the pizza van? B. and I had tried calling him once last summer, but he was unfortunately tied up at a catering gig. Last Friday, Pimento's finally opened, and as I drove my usual route, I could see through the windows that the building was *packed*, with people spilling onto the streets.
As I drove by the restaurant a few more times, I became more perplexed. Did that sign really say "Pizzeria Cones"? Was Pimento's now in the pizza and gelato business? Finally, B. and I headed down for supper yesterday to see what the new Pimento's was all about.
As we entered the *tiny* space (it's standing room/takeout only), Chef Mario was manning the counter by himself while another customer who had eaten there nearly every day since the restaurant opened (he turned out to be a high school friend of Mario's) helped us navigate the menu. While B. and I had intended to share a pizza, we learned that Mario's classic combinations (plus a new one called "Una" with apricots and brie) now came in the form of "flowers" and "cones", thanks to fancy machinery imported from Italy that shaped the dough into a trumpet-flower-shaped single serving, or a longer, narrower cone, respectively. The flowers and cones are placed on custom racks and baked in a state-of-the-art oven, also from Italy. Currently, only the "flowers" are available, but Mario hopes to perfect and roll out the cones by next week. Non-pizza fillings are also available.
B. ordered the Capricciosa ("cabbage patch") while I went for the classic Pimento's. Both flowers were topped with a green olive and a cheese-filled pepper.
B.'s Capricciosa was topped with bocconcini, prosciutto cotto, mushrooms, artichoke and black olives on a simple tomato sauce. B. enjoyed his flower, but said the flavours didn't quite excite him.
The same tomato sauce serves as the base for the Pimento's, which is loaded with provolone, bocconcini, prosciutto cotto, peppers, onions and Italian sausage. I loved the stringy provolone and mild, tender sausage.
We both agreed that the flower shape made eating the pizza quite convenient. The thin crust has a nice balance between chewiness and crispiness, but lacks the char that some may have become familiar with, now that there are so many Neapolitan-style pizzerias popping up around town. You'll have to eat these fast as the crust does become a little soggy in the middle with all the toppings. But the best part comes after you've eaten around the round part of the "flower" and get to the cone in the middle - the crust is a little thicker here so it doesn't get soggy, and some of the warm filling has slipped into the centre. Yum.
B. and I can't wait till the cones come out, because we are imagining that the entire "pizza" is just going to be this good, warm cone part.
While we waited for our pizzas to cook, Mario talked us into trying one of his "dolce" flowers, which are the same shape as the pizza flowers, but with a flavour and texture reminiscent of a sugar cone. They come filled with housemade gelato (right now it's lemon) or Nutella. Since I had a brick of a camera with me (my "tiny" GF1 is currently cruising the Mediterranean with B.'s family), Mario invited me behind the counter to watch him make the whole shebang - first he spreads around some soft, lemon gelato, nestles in a piece of Lindt milk chocolate, then dabs on some whipped cream, before finishing it off with a sprinkling of pistachio.
This was so yummy - both the gelato and cream were light and airy, with a touch of bright lemon flavour, going well with the crunchy cone and pistachios.
Pimento's has been a Bridgeland/Renfrew establishment for many years, first in its former location on General Ave, then in its roving pizza van, and now its current incarnation. For those who loved the van, Mario still uses it for catering. I'm hoping for warm summer nights so we can walk down to Pimento's, then sit outside on the stoop or across the street on the benches, downing our pizza cones.
814 1 Ave NE
Calgary AB T2E 0C1
Cash only. No orders by phone.