Saturday, October 10, 2009

Return of the Purple Garlic

The title of Best Pizza In Town is back where it belongs, on Austin Highway at Rittiman Road. And no, I don't mean the Pizza Hut there, I mean the place next door, the revived Purple Garlic.

The place started, the first time, years ago, maybe in the early 90's? I don't know; we discovered it one Thursday night (I don't actually remember that, but we used to have a group called the Thursday Night Supper Club, so it stands to reason), and tried it, and really liked it. Maybe they use a little garlic in the crust; I'm going to say that's what it is, but there has to be more to it than that.

Over the next few years I think I tried about every combination they offered, and loved them all. The pizzas are all thin-crust, none of that faddish deep-dish stuff for these people. And unlike every other pizza place I've ever been to more than once or twice, the pizza at the Purple Garlic was perfect every single time.

Then, tragedy struck. The owner got divorced. Apparently -- this is what I heard, anyway -- she got the business and the name, but he kept the recipes. (I'm guessing that the recipes were his before they got married.) She kept the place open for a while, but it was no good. We tried it a couple of times then, and stopped going. Then, a year or two later, we heard the place had re-opened out in the 'burbs; we tried it there, but apparently (again, I don't really remember) it wasn't worth the drive. We took our business to Volare's, on Broadway in Alamo Heights, which was very good pizza, and which would usually deliver to our house, sometimes without argument. But Volare's prices went up a couple of times, and the shop changed hands, and things were just never as good as before. Where we used to get pizza 3 or 4 times a month, we stopped eating it altogether.

Years passed, and then we both discovered, independently but at about the same time, that the Purple Garlic was suddenly back in its old location, next door to Pizza Hut (which drains off all the customers who wouldn't know a decent pizza if it was wrapped around their faces, still hot from the oven). Can this be, we wondered, the real Purple Garlic, restored to life after its long illness?

Why, yes it can! And it is, it is! Mark Cerroni, the man with the secret recipes, has bought the name back from his ex-wife, and re-opened in the same place he used to operate. He has a partner this time, a familiar-looking man whose name has slipped my mind. The partner seems to be the house oenophile, and he plays the role of Public Face, greeting the customers and checking on how things are, working the room in a casual, friendly, informal way, putting everyone into a mellow mood; kind of like your Aunt Mary during family get-togethers, but without the scolding.

They've opted, this time, for a cross between table service and counter service: they give you a menu, you take it to your table, decide what you want, then place your order at the counter. They bring it out to you. With the wine stash off to one side, and the fountain drinks off to the other, and people generally uncertain about the logistics of ordering, it makes for a little confusion at the register. I reckon they'll work that out in time. But otherwise, it's great having the Garlic back where it belongs.


Cerroni's Purple Garlic on Urbanspoon

8 comments:

  1. I love the Purple Garlic. They have the best Pizza, actually everything is great. I did go to the one at 281 and Thousand Oaks but love that the new location is so close to home. If you like fresh homemede food you will love this place. Give it a try.

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  2. Has DOUGH PIZZERIA been demoted ?

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  3. I haven't been to Dough Pizzeria. I've heard good things about the food, but the impression I've gotten from reading reviews and talking with those who've been there is that the atmosphere is too 09-ish and the food is more trend than tradition. Some day I'll try it and of course pass judgment, but I'm in no hurry.

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    1. Tried Dough Pizzaria Napoletana in January 2011. It's very good — I'd say even better than Purple Garlic overall. But it's also a very different type of restaurant. Not formal, but much less casual than Purple Garlic. Dough is the kind of place you take the girl you want to impress; Purple Garlic is the kind of place you take the girl who already knows what you're really like.

      My review of Dough is at http://thecurmudgeoncomments.blogspot.com/2011/01/say-no-more-dough-pizzeria-napoletana.html

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  4. New to town, been here about 3 weeks. Discovered your blog and decided to try one of the places close to my place. It's a Friday evening so I thought pizza is the way to go. Went to the Purple Garlic and, man-oh-man, was it good! I get your issues with salads and mouth sizes. I tried the caprese skewer and, while it tasted very good, the slices of tomato and the chunks of bread were humongous even for my big mouth. The pieces of garlic bread had just the right amount of buttery garlic flavor and the rest of the ingredients were fresh. The pizza was to die for, just like what I got back on the East Coast. Tried the tiramisu and it was good; not the best I've ever had but certainly far from the worst.
    Staff was friendly and attentive; the young lady who took my order at the counter (really want to thank you for that piece of information in your blog, otherwise I just would have sat at a table and probably waited a long time before becoming frustrated and leaving) and brought out the food (Hannah, I believe) did a great job. I will DEFINITELY be a regular here!

    Eric

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    1. Always glad to hear that my opinionated ramblings in this blog are useful to somebody. I wonder where on the East Coast you got pizza like the Purple Garlic's, because sometimes I go up that way and would like to try it myself.

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    2. Try "The Comet" in DC on 16th St. Pizzas are great there. Unfortunately Guy went there and did a piece and then it got a little to popular for me. My personal favorite, probably because it was close to where I lived, is the Stained Glass Pub In Silver Spring, MD. The place has been there forever (at least it seams that way!) You probably wouldn't care for the atmosphere since it's a dive kind of place but the pizza is really good. Finally, there is Ledo's pizza. I know it's become a chain (somewhat local to the DC area) but their pizza is pretty good too.
      There are also lots of little pizza joints in South Philly that are pretty good; Cacia's and Porter St. pizzeria come to mind.

      Eric

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    3. Thanks. Sadly, I do on occasion get to DC; at least now I'll have a recommendation on something to do that doesn't involve moral turpitude. South Philly has so far been outside my ambit, but one never knows.

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