The pizza mural beckons. (Photo: Staff)

This week, I visited the new Southside Pizza at 612 E. Main St. 

For a few days this week, I was graced by the presence of Timothy Donohoo, a UTC communication student who was job shadowing me. A part of my job is eating at restaurants, so I asked him to join me for a Date Night Dining adventure at one of Chattanooga’s newest establishments. 

Owned by the same people who brought us Slick’s Burgers, Southside Pizza has been open since Oct. 9. Guests will find New York-style pizza slices—thinner, bigger slices—as well as salads, subs and plenty of beer.

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In other words, Southside Pizza is my kind of place. Timothy and I were hungry and ready to try some gourmet slices.

Atmosphere/service
We visited at about 11:45 a.m. on a Wednesday to find a relatively quiet restaurant. Any concerns about not being able to find the place were quashed when we noticed the enormous pizza mural beckoning us to eat there. Seriously, the mural isn’t edible, but the featured pepperoni slice looks as if you could walk up and take a bite. I often fantasize—and have a recurring dream—about diving into a vat of warm pizza while nude, so this mural stirred some strange emotions. It’s evocative and serves as a pizza siren for casual passersby.

The outside porch is filled with large picnic-style tables for street-side dining. Timothy said he thought the outside environment “held a certain hipster vibe to it,” but that the interior “felt like an Italian-owned pizza joint from up North.” My thoughts immediately went to the West Coast and memories of a recent visit to Tony’s Pizza Napoletana in the North Beach area of San Francisco. Southside Pizza is kind of like a version of a slice house, a place where you can walk up anytime and get a slice or two, a drink and be on your way. I enjoyed the vibe.

The porch is the place to be at Southside Pizza. (Photo: Staff)

We were greeted by a man with a Slick’s Burgers shirt (in case anybody didn’t know about the partnership) and a glass case full of traditional New York-style pizzas. That person turned out to be co-owner Eric Taslimi. Above our heads, a menu offered a breakdown of each pizza’s ingredients, plus a list of other items, such as the “Gabagool” sandwich (Italian meats, kind of like a much better version of the “Vito” from Jimmy John’s) and the curiously terrifying bucket of “balls and gravy.” You can get a half-bucket of said balls for $10 or a full bucket for $18. A bucket of meatballs is kind of a hot thing right now in New York City.

Timothy and I ordered a few slices, sat down at a picnic table (inside) and waited for our slices.

The “Bianco” (left) and “Spicoli” slices. (Photo: Staff)

Food
Pizza by the slice is a great way to try a few different kinds. It also makes for a quick meal because the pies are already cooked and waiting for you in the window. Both Timothy and I enjoyed the presentation of the pies—something you don’t get at other pizza restaurants in town.

“The pizzas displayed on pans for customers to gawk at gave a sense of a pizza bakery of sorts,” Timothy said. “‘Pizza pie’ has never been more accurate.”

We each ordered the same two slices to compare and contrast the flavors. The first was the “Spicoli,” a simple, hearty pizza slice with sausage and cheese. We also ordered the “Bianco,” a white sauce-based pie with fresh mozzarella, Parmesan, dollops of fresh ricotta (a real treat and rarity in Chattanooga) and parsley. Our slices arrived quickly, and Taslimi offered to enhance our slices with more fresh Parmesan and/or hot pepper oil.

Timothy said the oil “absolutely made the dish … giving everything it touched a spicy greasiness” that we both loved. He preferred the Spicoli because it “had meat,” and I think I preferred the Bianco because of the creamy, salty ricotta dollops. Neither of us was disappointed with either slice, though. We both agreed the crusts were perfect. Timothy anthropomorphized the slices by saying the crusts “knew when to be soft and knew when to be hard.”

A proper New York-style slice should be foldable (these were) and the crusts crunchy and hollow. We could’ve eaten another slice, but we didn’t have the time. I also didn’t really need to eat more than two slices because I’m not a bear packing on pounds for winter hibernation.

The Spicoli pie. (Photo: Staff)

I look forward to trying Southside’s other slices, such as “Margherita” (as old-school as it gets), “Tartufo” (mushrooms and white truffle oil), “Firestorm” (spicy meats and honey drizzle) and “Big Papa” (all the meats). Southside also offers “The Anchovy” for adventurous eaters out there. It contains anchovies (of course), roasted garlic, capers, fresh mozzarella, green olives and olive oil. Check out all the slice combinations here.

Our meal was about $17 before tip. We each had two slices and a soft drink.

Would we go back?
I enjoy Slick’s Burgers, but it’s not my favorite burger joint in town. Southside Pizza is a bit different, as it should be, but the compassion, focus on quality ingredients and casual atmosphere are evident. Timothy and I talked about the growth of Main Street in just the past decade. As a native of Cleveland, he was always told about how dangerous the area was. And now, in 2017, there’s a casual pizza joint, a burger joint and a great hot dog eatery (Griffin’s) all nestled together in the “dangerous” part of town. Like it or not, Southside is the place to be, and Southside Pizza is a great addition to the area. I’ll be back.

The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.

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