Much has already been written about Community Pie and their Neapolitan pizza since they opened their doors recently on Market Street. It has becoming de rigueur when opening a Neapolitan pizzeria in the U.S. to import large wood-fired ovens from Naples, stock your pantry with imported specialty ingredients from all over Italy, and enumerate your bona fides to the press for that much-needed buzz that new restaurants crave like a Kardashian craves attention.
Community Pie’s owners, Mike and Taylor Monen, have done just that by importing Italian Marana Forni ovens, a pantry full of beautiful Italian ingredients, and have taken a serious attitude toward detail when it comes to getting their pizza in line with the requirements set down by the American branch of the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana (a sort of Neapolitan pizza police).
It should be obvious at this point that Community Pie is not pumping out $5 utility pizzas or delivering munchy anecdotes to UTC dorms. When these pizzas hit your table you immediately realize that this is a fork-and-knife situation. Neapolitan-style pizza is a bit wet in the center by design, so don’t act like a philistine and send it back thinking it’s undercooked. This also isn’t Pizza Hut, so don’t walk in expecting cheezy-stuffed crusts or crazy bread either.
Instead, the pies on their menu range from a classic tomato, basil and fresh mozzarella Margherita to the more creative Duck Confit pizza that delivers a delicious combination of confit duck, smoky turnip greens and potlikker reduction, sweet oven-dried tomatoes and fresh mozzarella.
The duck pizza is good, but the Pork Confit pizza is great. Slow-cooked pork shoulder on a thin layer of house-made San Marzano tomato sauce with fresh basil, smoked and fresh mozzarella, and a spicy kick from imported Italian Calabrian peppers will make you want to vandalize a Papa John’s for crimes against humanity.
But let’s be honest, no amount of culinary navel gazing or obscure imported ingredients are going to cover for the fact that sometimes you’re just not in the mood for pizza. In fact, I can easily see myself coming to Community Pie for the appetizers, toasts and drinks more often than for pizza, in spite of how much I loved that Pork Confit pie.
I intend to meticulously work my way through the apps, toast and drinks sections of their menu as part of my plan to replace my after-work gym time with after-work drinks-and-food time. They say that nothing tastes as good as being thin, but “they” obviously haven’t tasted homemade ricotta cheese.
Yes, you read that right, Community Pie makes their own ricotta, which they use to stuff Kobe meatballs or serve straight on a plate drizzled with local honey. The Kobe meatballs are not dense or greasy and that little ball of ricotta in the middle adds a creamy contrast to the beef, fennel and house-made tomato sauce. I recommend going easy on the sauce so it doesn’t overpower the wonderful meatball and ricotta taste.
Community Pie’s toasts are a sort of crostini/bruschetta made of grilled Niedlov’s bread with a variety of toppings including Mushroom and Cream, Caprese, and my personal favorite, Truffled Eggs and Speck. Speck is a very thinly sliced ham, like prosciutto, but it’s smoked and has mild hints of juniper berries. The egg salad has just a whisp of white truffle taste that creates a nice flavor bridge to the smokiness of the speck and the grilled toast.
When it comes to drinks, Community Pie has an impressive selection of beverages from high-gravity beers to PBR, Chattanooga Whiskey to a delicious house-made Limoncello, but tucked away in a corner of the menu are a selection of “drinking vinegars.” These lightly carbonated drinks come in several varieties, such as Strawberry Basil and Cucumber Lime, and carry none of the sour vinegar taste you would expect; rather, the astringency is mellowed by the soda water and flavor of the fruits used.
I was a bit skeptical when I heard that another pizzeria was opening downtown, but Community Pie has made me a believer and even a fan. Now I wonder what kind of pizza goes with Limoncello?
Community Pie • 850 Market St. • (423) 486-1PIE • communitypie.com
Chef-musician Mike McJunkin eats pork confit for breakfast and once auditioned for Billy Idol. Think about THAT and “like” him at facebook.com/sushiandbiscuits.