The new Rockwood Filling Station Neapolitain Pizzeria opened Wednesday evening on University Dr. sandwiched neatly between Q Shack and Nana's. Yes, Scott Howell is behind it. So is the former Nana's bartender John. I love Scott Howell. He can cook. John is really great too. He was my favorite bartender in town. Now he is my favorite pizza guy. I'm sure the front of house will be excellent in John's capable hands.
Opening night for a restaurant is crazy for everyone involved, and I had a front row seat at the bar. They don't have a liquor license yet so everyone was drinking water or tea or BYOB wine. The old filling station that was also a dry cleaners has been transformed into a darling place. The floors and bar are poured concrete. The walls are a warm yellow beige with bright things on the walls. A large glass wall separates the kitchen from the bar, so it's easy to see the pizzas being made and put into the giant pizza oven. The oven, according to the menu, is over 700 degrees hot, and I was worried someone might get burned! Scott was there making pizzas. He looked focused and happy from my vantage point.
The vibe was good. While I'm sure it was stressful, all of the staff seemed happy and enthusiastic.
I was not really hungry but I felt I must try a starter as well as a pizza. I had the baked meatballs for my starter. Now the menu doesn't say this but the meatballs are made with pork, beef, and duck. DUCK. Duck meatballs! Yum. The meatballs were perfect in every way and served in a simple but flavorful tomato sauce. Run to get some.
I ordered the white pizza for my dinner. It was topped with ricotta, fontina, caramelized onions, and spinach. It needed salt and some garlic. John told me they were working on getting the seasonings just right and the need for more salt was common feedback opening night. The pizza crust was fairly thin, which is how I like it, and ever so slightly burnt around the edges. I look forward to trying the other combinations like the veggie pizza, the pizza margherita and the eggplant pizza.
I kept an eye on everything that came out of the kitchen. The salads looks delicious and I cannot wait to try the antipasti platter. It featured what looked like roasted peppers, proscuitto, cheese, olives, and a deviled egg. I saw milkshakes, ice cream and cannoli go by. Every plate that went back into the kitchen looked licked clean. I took home leftovers, but I would have eaten every bite had it not been for stuffing myself with meatballs. Meatballs with duck!
I must try the cannoli. Not only is cannoli one of my favorite desserts, but also cannoli is a good indicator of a restaurant's attention to detail. Yes, it all hangs on the cannoli, but that's another story.
Give the place a few weeks before you go. Once the staff settles into a routine, the liquor license shows up, the salt and pepper shakers arrive, the cash register software becomes familiar to all, and the flavors and seasonings get adjusted, this place will be great.