Since it opened in May, Pizzeria Mezzo (half pizza/half "BBQ") has become the go-to spot in Wakefield for a casual supper for summer visitors, South County locals, URI students, and everyone in between. The "BBQ" is in quotes because the offerings are charcoal-grilled kebabs, not the low-and-slow cooked meats of barbecue from the American South. This is, after all, an Italian-American's interpretation of that menu item, but it's a fabulous dinner by any name.
Because owner John Russo has garnered a fan base for his Go Pasta! deli next door to the new pizzeria, friends of mine had been eagerly awaiting the opening of this eatery, and they weren't disappointed. When other unsolicited recommendations for Pizzeria Mezzo's food reached us, it was time to check it out.
On a recent weekend evening, the place was packed with hungry patrons, and some of the newly hired young staff were hard-pressed to keep up with it all. But Russo was omnipresent, overseeing every table, keeping things running smoothly. The restaurant seats approximately 32, plus six stools at the bar and four in front of the pizza makers (a great view for kids).
The coal-fired oven was hopping with pizzas of all kinds, and I was also in a good position to watch the young fellows assembling and baking them. They are all quick and energetic, doing their best to keep a good pace going.
That evening, we wandered to the other half of the menu, however, choosing "bourbon turkey tips" ($7.75) for Bill and chicken breast kebabs ($7.50) for me. Each dish was served with two slices of bread (baked each day in the pizza oven and delectably chewy) and a salad. As my Italian-American foodie friend noted: "basic iceberg, cukes, tomatoes — which is the real Italian deal — not mesclun!" My New Jersey half-Sicilian-American mate concurred.
Both sets of kebabs were expertly cooked, moist and flavorful on the inside, a bit of smoky char on the outside, with the additional kick for Bill of the bourbon marinade. We were given olive oil with parmesan and herbs in it for the bread (none of those cold butter pats).
On our second visit, we had to have the antipasto ($13.95) and a pizza ($10.50-$14.75). The former is also "the real deal": cooked and marinated veggies, including sautéed zucchini slices, broccoli rabe, mushrooms, roasted red peppers, and two batter-fried baby artichokes ("Mezzo style"). Only on the edges of this sample plate were four small wedges of provolone and two twirled pieces of "coppa" or capicolla, a dry-cured cousin to prosciutto that Bill pronounced "unusually tasty."
But, ah, when the pizza came — we chose a roasted red pepper with ricotta and mozzarella ($12.95), with half also adorned with slices of Ligurian pepperoni — the phrase "I'm in heaven" issued more than once from across the table. We both loved the flavorful sauce, enhanced by green and red roasted peppers; the very thin crust with slightly blackened edges was also quite good.
Other pizza choices include prosciutto, arugula and fontina; rabe, roasted garlic and mozzarella; or cheese and anchovy. The most popular, the requisite tomato and cheese, has imported pecorino romano and, as do all of the pizzas, a spritz of olive oil on top, Russo explained to us. He noted that some customers travel from Providence for the white clam pizza.