By Anna Jones
Vinnie Van Go Go’s – Savannah, GA
When I’m craving some good ol’ fashioned pizza and beer, which, admittedly, is quite often given my affinity for this dynamic duo, only one place will do: Vinnie Van Go Go’s.
Vinnie Van Go Go’s pizzeria is a tiny little joint haphazardly stuck on the end of City Market in downtown Savannah that serves some of the best pizza in town. Piping hot pies the size of kitchen tables are slung out of wood-fired ovens so fast and so hot you have to duck to avoid catching a pizza saucer in the face. Unpretentious, welcoming and delicious, Vinnie’s never disappoints and is always a good decision.
Specializing in New York-style Neapolitan pizza – my favorite – Vinnie’s makes its precious, light-yet-substantial dough fresh each night to feed the hungry masses of Savannah the following day. Despite its wide variety of pizza, between my husband and me, our order stays the same. For starters, we order one pitcher of Bud Light (which comes iced-cold in a plastic pitcher, like any self-respecting Bud Light should) and a Spinach salad, which is a surprisingly fresh and delightful mix of spinach, white onions, black olives, banana peppers and tomatoes with Italian balsamic dressing on the side. And for goodness’ sake, don’t forget to add the feta cheese.
After a few sips of our frothy light beer, we then get down to business. For our pizza, we order one large pie with pepperoni, spicy Italian sausage, mushrooms and onions. A few more sips of beer and bites of our salad and the steaming pizza is served in front of us. It’s at this point when drooling is almost inevitable, if not encouraged. The aroma of the enormous, steaming pizza is intoxicating – a heavenly compilation of melted cheese, the golden grease of which glints in the moonlight, browned sausage and toasted crust is the reason people should write love songs. Add a few hits of grated parmesan and red pepper flakes and let the feeding begin. Heed this warning though – because this pie is so large and so tasty, make sure to leave some to take home – do not, I repeat do not, eat the entire pizza. You’d never want an overly full stomach to erase the sweet memories of the pizza’s succulence.
Vinnie’s takes no reservations and accepts only cash, so proper preparation is required. In other words, make sure to stop by the ATM before going and, if you plan to eat there at 7PM on a Friday night, plan to wait. Order a beer to-go from one of the many bars surrounding the joint to make your wait time fly by. And I promise it’s always worth the wait.
The Florence – Savannah, GA
Undoubtedly one of my most favorite restaurants in Savannah is The Florence. A member of the Hugh Acheson-empire, The Florence specializes in creative Italian cuisine that changes with the seasons and availability of fresh ingredients, and serves up some seriously delicious pizza. Its Neopolitan-style pizza (there seems to be a trend here) is a crispy, doughy pizza that is punctuated by the bright, fresh tomato sauce and myriad of toppings arranged on each tasty pie.
My personal favorite is the Lorraine, a layering of ricotta cheese, hearty meatballs and Calabrian chiles, which are scrumptiously spicy peppers that add great flavor to the pizza, a compliment not commonly bestowed upon most hot peppers. The crust is perfectly crunchy yet delicate with pillowy bubbles accenting the edge. Order some extra marinara if you’re in to dipping – you won’t want to waste a bite of this dish. Another go-to is the Pepperoni pizza featuring the cheese of all cheeses, burrata, tomato sauce, more cheese (mozzarella this time), and of course, pepperoni. A sure-fire favorite, this one will please even those picky eaters.
But wait – let’s not forget about the calzone. An approximate 14 inches in length, this baby is stuffed full with meat, those spicy Calabrian chiles, ricotta and mozzarella cheese, basil and marinara sauce and then wrapped like a perfect little package by a crispy golden crust. And because it’s so big, sharing this crazy calzone is a not-so-crazy idea.
Besides the fantastic food, the atmosphere is something to write home about, too. With towering ceilings, industrial lighting and intimate seating, there’s a hum about the restaurant that is welcoming and exciting. Top it all off with a bottle of wine from their extensive wine list (divided into regions of Italy, of course) and you’ve got yourself a perfect Saturday night.
EVO Pizza – Charleston, SC
By Ashley Zink
EVO Pizza in North Charleston is a bit off the beaten path in terms of Charleston dining destinations, but it’s well worth the drive. Located on North Charleston’s main drag, Montague Avenue, the eight-year-old beloved pizza spot is known for its focus on local produce and purveyors, ever-changing menu, and neighborhood vibe. The pizzas, of course, are the main attraction, but the sides and salads are a close second. Dining with friends who aren’t huge fans of pizza? No problem. The rotating salad selections, epic macaroni and cheese, and snack plate featuring delicious bites like house made pimiento cheese and fresh chow chow are enough to satisfy just about anyone.
Chef Blake McCormick’s Neapolitan-style pizzas are a thing of beauty, with crusts that are a perfect mix of light and chewy, and blistered to perfection in EVO’s wood-burning oven. Pizza toppings vary by season, but the Pork Trifecta – with house made sausage, pepperoni, bacon mozzarella and parmigiano reggiano – is a perennial favorite. The mushroom and Havarti pizza and pistachio pesto pizza are also menu staples.
EVO’s local focus extends to its drink selection as well. Its six taps pour brews from local breweries like Westbrook, Palmetto, Holy City, and Coast, and they also serve a diverse list of bottled and canned beers. Wine drinkers, don’t panic – they do carry a few of those as well – but no liquor license means you won’t find any cocktails on the menu.
The next time you’re in Charleston, make the quick drive up I-26 to North Charleston and Montague Avenue. Put your name on the list at EVO, ask the bartender for a local beer recommendation, and rub elbows with locals from all corners of the city as you wait for your table. The food is worth it – trust us.
Good pizza is hard to find. Especially when you are a Jersey girl whose entire childhood (and majority of her adult life) included the incomparable indulgence of real New York City pizza. You know the kind – the thin crust, fold your slice in half, and let the grease run down your arm pizza.
Well, that pizza, the pizza of my formative years, is not so easy to find in South Carolina. Some say it’s the water. Some say it’s the culture. I don’t know what it is, but I have been on a decade-long search for the answers of where my favorite pizza is. However, I’ve found one that fits the bill in Bluffton, it just requires me to look past my Jersey memories to appreciate the amazing pizza in front of me.
Pour Richards – Bluffton, SC
Here, I always belly up to the bar, easily the best seats in the house, and with a view of the open kitchen, it is easy to plot a plan of attack. Some say Pour Richards is a great bar with a killer menu. Others tap it as the best bakery in Bluffton, which just happens to serve dinner too. And there are those who followed Chef Richard Canestrari from his longtime stint at Hilton Head’s 211 Park to his own place. It’s these multiple storylines that make Pour Richards so relevant and your dining experience so interesting. It can be anything you want it to be. And depending on the bartender, if you’re lucky, you get dinner and a show. Literally.
First, I start with a wedge salad – dubbed the “Not-so-Classic Wedge” – a dish for which I consider myself a connoisseur. Serve me up some bacon and blue cheese atop a fresh pyramid of iceberg lettuce, tomatoes and sweet onion and I’m smitten. The crunch-plus-cheese combo is such a winner, and Pour Richards does it right, every time. But in accordance with its name, this wedge also piles an unconventional mix of egg, avocado and croutons on top, smothering in buttermilk bleu cheese dressing. It’s dynamite, in my expert-wedge opinion.
After the salad, it’s pizza time. At Pour Richards, pizza is dubbed flatbread, and cooked in a fabulous wood-fired oven. You literally get to watch the cheese bubble from your seat at the bar. Much to my pleasure, they change up the topping combinations often. Sometimes you’ll see a simple margarita flatbread, or the more adventurous bacon and eggs. It is the combinations of (sometimes crazy and mismatched) ingredients that make this a top pick. My favorite is the duck and prosciutto topped with goat cheese and caramelized onions. As a side note, I first fell in love with Chef Richard’s warm goat cheese bowl at 211 Park years ago, and I’ve been hooked on the fromage find ever since. I am pretty sure the flatbreads are made to share, yet I am not embarrassed to say that I always eat the whole thing. I’d recommend you do the same.
To top it all off, Pour Richards offers a great selection of wine, which we all know is a wonderful companion to a good pizza. I’d recommend pairing the duck and prosciutto flatbread with a light pinot noir – perfectly balanced and delicious.
Even though it’s not the greasy, cheesy mess that I know and love from my Jersey home, if I’m forced to eat a flatbread at Pour Richards, I guess I can do it.