I'm sure many of you have heard of "shake-n-bake," but does "take-n-bake" ring any saliva-inducing bells?
A popular concept out west since the early '90s, when franchises like Papa Murphy's got its start, take-n-bake pizza is a 100 percent American, entrepreneurial twist on this ever-popular, now international food.
And it's now available in Charlottesville at the brand-new Superstars Pizza on Emmet Street next to the Tavern. Superstars debuted Friday, March 11.
Restaurant owner (this is not a franchise) Ned Sinnott, who started the original Superstars in Richmond 10 years ago, says he got the idea while living (and skiing) in Colorado.
"Take-n-bake is everywhere out there, and I figured it couldn't fail in Virginia," says Sinnott, a UVA alum sporting a skier's tan from a recent Colorado vacation.
So how does "take-n-bake" work? Well, you pick from a selection of white, red, and pesto pizzas like the Virginian (bbq chicken, red onions, cheddar, cilantro), Rockefeller (spinach, bacon, smoked oysters, cheddar), and Pesto Panache (homemade basil pesto, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, feta, oregano), and they prepare it fresh before your eyes (or you can call ahead).
You take the (thin-crust) pizza home on a special baking sheet along with 12-minute baking instructions.
"Last night a take-n-bake customer called to tell us she's never had a better pizza in her life– not in Italy, not anywhere," says manager– aka Doctor of Doughology– Frank Knight, glowing with pride. "Our ingredients are so fresh."
When I ordered a slice of mushroom pizza for my three-year-old, Knight held a handful of freshly sliced 'shrooms in front of my face for approval, his zeal reminiscent of market produce vendors I've met in Italy.
For those who want immediate gratification, Superstars also offers a full "pizza-by-the-slice" menu as well as five salads (Greek and Thai with homemade dressings– Caesar, ginger-lime-peanut, roasted red pepper vinaigrette) and 10 different subs. Catering is also an option.
Though simple and somewhat small, Superstars is fresh, bright, and decidedly modern. Brushed aluminum chairs, natural wooden tables, light-and-dark wood floors, and large white pendant lamps hanging from a bright orange ceiling add a sorely needed touch of new-style to this otherwise visually tired block.
A brand new, terracotta-colored cement patio in front awaits tables, umbrellas, and potted plants. Outdoor seating should be available come spring, whenever spring decides to come...
Mona Lisa's lessons
Speaking of pizza, did you know that Mona Lisa Pasta on Preston now makes pizza to-go in their Wood-Stone oven? Flavor combos include a few tempting twists on Italian classics like "quattrro formaggi" (four cheeses), "pizza Margherita" (fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, marinara, pine nuts, and basil) and "pizza di Parma" (prosciutto di Parma, Reggiano, mozzarella and provolone cheeses and marinara sauce).
Not just a pizza-oven, Mona Lisa's Wood-Stone will also be used to roast a "honey and spice-rubbed salmon" and bake a pine nut tart at a special series of spring cooking classes taught by Jim Winecoff of Mona Lisa and Terre Sisson of Charlottesville Wine and Culinary.
The $45 demo classes are offered on March 30, April 12, and April 27 and menus range from "Citrus and Poulet" to "Fantastic Meatless."
Since we're on a home-cooking theme, I should mention that Sisson, an expert in the arts of fine home-cooking and food-wine pairing, can also organize and host a cooking class dinner party for you and six or more of your food-loving friends. Sounds like delicious fun to me. Check out wineandculinary.com for more details.
"Superstar" Ned Sinnott serves up take-n-bake pizzas on Emmet St.
PHOTO BY CHRISTINA BALL