Saturday, February 14, 2009

Superior Supino

It's no secret: I love pizza. I had been eyeballing the recently opened Supino Pizzeria in Eastern Market for some time, but had never got up the gumption to go. Independent pizzerias are so hit-and-miss, and I already had my other favorites. Until I was told that it was the best pizza in the city, and even though that seemed to be a tall claim, I was much more inclined to investigate.
Supino Pizzeria inhabits a very visible spot on Russell Street in the heart of Eastern Market. Nestled between an Ethiopian eatery (supposedly quite good but seemingly never open) and a Coney Island, and across the parking lot from R. Hirt, Cost Plus Wine Shop, and Vivio's, you really can't drive into Eastern Market without taking notice of it. The interior is small, with a few tables set up for people to dine in, though they must still place their orders at the counter, most likely with owner Dave Mancini himself or one of his friends.

Don't be surprised if, when you call to place your order in advance, you overhear "Hey, Dave, how much is a [insert name of pizza here]?" Dave Mancini is always in the back making pizzas, hands covered in flour, but quick to hastily wash them off to take your order, ring you up, and hand you your freshly-made pizza. On multiple trips I've observed apparent friends of Dave's hanging out and keeping him company (and also answering the phone for him!), as well as people stopping in for a bite to eat after work and enjoying Dave's outstanding pizzas in his completely relaxed and unfussy dining area.

Dave is always quick to greet customers coming in--even if he is busy prepping multiple orders--and is warm and friendly towards every person who walks through his door. I find the pizzeria a welcoming, inviting place that feels very "homey," a place where friends and neighbors can go to sit and visit ("chew the fat" so to speak), where everyone is treated like family.

Dave named the pizzeria after his father's hometown in Italy and treats it very much as the hometown-style family restaurant that would exist in a small Italian village where everyone knows everyone else and all are out to support each other. The casual, welcoming attitude is infectious and patrons can't help but to leave with a smile on their faces.

Which is to say nothing of the pizza itself: I'm not even remotely exaggerating when I tell you that this is hands-down the best pizza in all of metro Detroit. Pies are a little pricey at $10.00-$17.00 (average), and bear in mind that one 10'' is just enough for one person, but the higher cost buys higher quality and you get what you pay for at Supino.

I started with an Affumiciata ("Smoky") Pizza--smoked prosciutto, roasted garlic, mozzarella, smoked gouda, and ricotta. Out of all my trips here and the different pizzas I have sampled, this is still my standout favorite. The flavors are beyond compare--the salty, smoky prosciutto tempered by the slightly sweet roasted garlic, then taken to new heights with the rich and pungent gouda offset by the mild, creamy ricotta...each bite is a burst of strong yet complementary flavors, and no two bites are the same. Typically when the flavor of a pizza is inconsistent (I've made reference to the "gobbing" of ricotta cheese before), I would consider it a fault. But for this pizza it is a strength, as the number of different flavors at play have the chance to take centerstage, one bite at a time, and not one of these impressions on the tastebuds wasn't a pleasurable experience. Of all the different menu options, this is probably the one that most closely resembles something you would find in Italy, and it was absolutely divine.

On other trips I sampled more of the "classics:" the Margherita Pizza, made with fresh basil, mozzarella, tomatoes, and parmigiano, as well as the all-time king, Pepperoni. The Margherita Pizza was almost as fantastic as the "Smoky;" large pieces of freshly cut basil play on the tongue with the juicy diced tomatoes and tangy parmesan-mozzarella blend. This is another pizza full of wonderful flavors, though not quite as life-altering as the "Smoky." The Pepperoni Pizza I found a little disappointing, only because of the excessive greasiness of the pepperoni used. The flavor of the pepperoni itself was perfectly spicy, but the grease was off-putting and soaked through to the bottom of the otherwise flawless crust.

Ah, but the crust: this is what makes Supino superior. The hand-made dough is a perfect balance of crispy and tender and chewy and dense and easy to tear. It is also as full of flavor as the toppings on the pizzas themselves--savor the crust and taste notes of extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, and high-end organic flour. The crust is as much a sensational experience as the rest of the pie, and all compliments to Chef Dave for his expert dough-making. Your pizza will come out of the pizza oven cooked perfectly and without any burning or charring--no small accomplishment there, either--and the shape will be lopsided and uneven, the true sign of a hand-tossed crust.

Other menu options are small but attempt to cater to other tastes--there is a salad and a pasta option, as well as a dessert. I sampled the dessert, called "Crespelle" (Italian "crepes"). The Crespelle dessert consists of two house-made crepes made with sweetened ricotta, chocolate sauce, and roasted pistachios. The crepes were paper-thin, doughy but perhaps just a little too doughy, and the ricotta was quite a bit of ricotta. If the proportions were better balanced, the flavors would have worked well, but as it was I had a big floppy crepe about to burst with ricotta cheese. Fair enough, this is a pizza place after all; for dessert crepes I'll just stick with Bucharest Grill or Good Girls. This in no way alters my opinion of Supino's superior pizzas, or Dave Mancini's embracing rapport with his clientele.

Though they might not consider themselves a "gourmet" pizzeria, they are more gourmet than most of those that claim to be. South Beach Pizza Bar might have the chic ultralounge interior, but their pizza cannot even compare. Taste is great, but it's just not Supino. When you're willing to sacrifice atmosphere for quality food and know the value of paying more for better product, Supino is your pizza joint.

Supino Pizzeria is open Tues.-Thurs. 11:00AM-8:30PM and Fri. & Sat. 11:00AM-10:00PM. Call 313-567-7879 to place your order. Pizzas take about 20 minutes to cook. You may also order individual slices, lunchtime only.