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M’Tucci’s Kitchina – Albuquerque, New Mexico

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Sometimes the spaghetti likes to be alone..”
Stanley Tucci as Segundo in Big Night

With a name like M’Tucci’s Kitchina, you might wonder if the Italian restaurant on the intersection of Coors and Montano is named for Academy Award nominated actor Stanley Tucci. After all, Tucci co-starred in Big Night and Julie & Julia, arguably two of the very best food movies in recent years. The “Kitchina” part of the restaurant’s name is obviously a whimsical play on “cucina,” the Italian term for kitchen, but is spelled more similarly to Kachina, the Hopi ancestral spirits. In any case, if the amusing name and fun, casual ambiance doesn’t hook you, the food certainly will.

Step into the expansive dining room and the playfulness hinted by the restaurant’s name continues. Our immediate impression was “Laissez les bon temps roulette” (let the good times roll) as in New Orleans Mardi Gras. That impression was gleaned from the colorful Mardi Gras-like masks on several walls and a life-sized alligator on another. Then there’s the pergola–large enough to accommodate a table of four–with an ominous lizard crawling down the roof. There’s something to pique your interest everywhere you turn.

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The main dining room at M’Tucci’s Kitchina

The colorful masks (which are easily mistaken for those widely seen in New Orleans) are Venetian, a staple of the Carnival of Venice. The alligator…well, he’s there because co-owner Katie Gardner likes him. The chandeliered pergola is designated for feting guests celebrating a special occasion. When we commented on the restaurant’s “wildly eclectic ambiance” Katie explained that she’s a wildly eclectic person. She’s also very experienced in running successful restaurants, having owned eleven of them along with her husband in New York City…and to paraphrase Frank Sinatra, “if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.”

Succeeding where other restaurants have failed will certainly be a challenge. M’Tucci’s is situated in the digs formerly occupied by The Mill of New Mexico, Tomato Café and Spinn’s Burgers and Beer. It’s a tough location exacerbated by the fact that its storefront, while facing heavily trafficked Coors Boulevard, is obfuscated by distance, traffic flow and other shops. A very active Facebook presence and (mostly) glowing reviews by print and online media (including Cheryl Alters Jamison for New Mexico Magazine) have helped tremendously, but word-of-mouth from satisfied guests (especially those returning) is a major catalyst for drawing new guests. In October, 2013, scant months of its July launch, M’Tucci’s finished as runner-up in the Alibi‘s Best of Burque Restaurants  as the “best restaurant on the west side.” 

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Borlotti White Bean Soup

Katie and her husband Jeff Spiegel moved to Albuquerque, his hometown, in 2007. Eventually they started to miss the hustle and bustle of the restaurant business and launched M’Tucci’s Kitchina in July, 2013. The “M’Tucci” in the restaurant’s name is in honor of Richard Matteucci, a friend of Jeff’s. A framed black-and-white photo of Jeff, Richard and an unidentified frolicker celebrating a (very) good time hangs among the bric-a-brac. You’ve got to love an owner who shares in his fun.

While the ambiance bespeaks of fun and whimsy, the menu includes some seriously good dining options, some heretofore unseen in the Duke City. It’s impossible to pigeonhole this modern contemporary Italian restaurant which offers playful takes on classic dishes as well as a bit of local flavor (it’s virtually impossible to have a menu in New Mexico without red and green chile). Six Neapolitan-style pizzas are prepared in a wood-burning pizza oven. The bar menu, which varies daily, includes tapas-style small plates.

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House bread imported from Kansas

The visionary behind the menu is John Hass, executive chef and member of the restaurant’s ownership triumvirate. John’s interpretation of traditional foods often involves their deconstruction, refining and reinvention. You’ll still recognize the traditional dishes with which you’ve grown up, but they might not be exactly as you  John is already so highly regarded that he was named “best chef” runner up in the Alibi‘s Best of Burque Restaurants 2013.  Traditional items he prepares might not be exactly as you may remember them. They’ll be better! The ricotta stuffed cannelloni dish, for example includes both marinara sauce and New Mexico red chile which is why it’s sub-titled “Enchiladas Italianas” on the menu.

5 October 2013: You won’t need cold weather to luxuriate in the warmth and deliciousness of the Borlotti White Bean Soup, M’Tucci’s answer to the seemingly de rigueur pasta fagoli. This superb soup is constructed from Haas-made (get it?) sausage, arugula, carrots and fennel in a steamy chicken broth with just a sprinkling of Parmesan. It’s Italian comfort food at its finest even without pasta or tomatoes. The Borlotti white beans are terrific with a “meaty” flavor, creamy texture and nary a hint of sweetness. The sausage is a bit coarse, but has excellent fennel enriched flavor. A bowlful will cure whatever ails you.

Fried Brie   crispy brie cheese, apples strawberries,  mixed greens, grilled baguette, pomegranate glaze

Fried Brie
crispy brie cheese, apples strawberries, mixed greens, grilled baguette, pomegranate glaze

Fittingly, the house bread comes from America’s breadbasket. That’s one of the nicknames for the state of Kansas which is renowned for its high quality wheat production. It’s an excellent bread! A basketful of the staff of life includes six lightly toasted and buttered baguette slices. A hard exterior crust belies a pillowy soft inside with plenty of air holes. It’s the type of bread for which you risk filling up quickly, but can’t stop eating because it’s so good. 

New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells laments “Menus shouldn’t need explanation. Menus should BE the explanation. That’s the point of writing things down.”  In far too many restaurants, you practically need a degree in Egyptology to understand the hieroglyphics placed in front of you.  As creative as they are with food, many chefs lack creativity with words.  This translates to overly confusing, overly wordy menus.  Kudos to Chef Hass and the M’Tucci staff for publishing menus diners can actually understand.

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Fauxpaccio de Barbabietola Arrostite

19 April 2014: One of the most exquisite appetizers on the M’Tucci’s menu is the fried brie.  Call it a finely choreographed symphony of simple flavors which go so well together.  A wedge of soft brie is sheathed beneath a crisp, light, golden crust.  It’s intended to be spread onto thinly sliced, pomegranate glazed grilled baguette.  From there you’re on your own.  You can then add crisp apple slices, strawberries and even mixed greens, a brie sandwich of sorts.  The warm silkiness of the brie amplifies the tanginess of the apples and strawberries and the bitterness of the greens.

5 October 2013: One of the more interesting items on the Antipasti menu is the quaintly named Fauxpaccio de Barbietola Arrostite.  Fauxpaccio is obviously a play on the word carpaccio, (thinly sliced or pounded thin meat or fish) while Barbietola Arrostite is an Italian terms for roasted sugar beets.  The menu had me at Fauxpaccio.  Served in a dinner plate, it’s a beautiful dish: roasted yellow beets shaved supermodel thin and as gold as New Mexico foliage in autumn, pickled red onion, goat cheese and a pile of arugula all lightly drizzled with a vinaigrette. It’s a marvelous contrast of ingredients with varied flavor profiles and textures, all thoroughly enjoyable.  A few days after having this wonderful appetizer we learned that it is no longer offered because, for some reason inexplicable to me, it just wasn’t selling.  Grrrrr!

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Pan Seared Duck Breast with creamy polenta, braised kale, caramelized onions, cherry balsamic reduction

Some Italian restaurants segregate their menus into Antipasti, Primi and Secondi, loosely translated to appetizers, first course and main course.  M’Tucci’s also includes a Pizza menu, offering some six pizzas, including gluten-free options.  Portion sizes will make it a challenge to order one from each menu then expect to have dessert, too.  The Secondi menu, available during dinner hours, is replete with proteins (rotisserie chicken, fried fish, duck breast, braised tripe, Kurobuta Pork and ribeye).  Some of them are  also available for lunch, too. 

19 April 2014:  One of the most ambitious items on the menu is the Risotto Del Giorno, a daily risotto special featuring seasonal ingredients.  Even the most intrepid of chefs avoid risotto because it’s easy to make simple mistakes that ruin the dish.  You’ve got to admire Chef Hass’s gumption.  He doesn’t just prepare risotto on special occasions, he’s got the temerity to offer it every day.  If the seafood risotto is indicative of his mastery of this oft-intimidating dish, I’ve got to visit more often.  The triumvirate of mahi mahi, shrimp and mussels in a sumptuous and rich saffron sauce was absolutely perfect.   The saffron imparts the color of a sunny disposition and a uniquely umami quality.  The seafood is fresh and delicious.  The rice is a smidgeon past al dente, a textural success.

Seafood Risotto

Seafood Risotto

5 October 2013: Much as we admire the monogamy of ducks, it’s hard to resist the beautiful feathered waterfowl when it’s on the plate and it looks so inviting.  The pan-seared duck breast with creamy polenta, braised kale, caramelized onions and a cherry Balsamic reduction is so good, it’ll mitigate any guilt we might feel.  The duck breast is perfectly prepared and sliced thinly.  The end pieces are slightly crispy.  The polenta, often a “take it or leave it” dish is definitely a “take it” at M’Tucci’s.  It’s creamy, light and fluffy and it inherits additional flavor from the braised kale and caramelized onions which blanket the polenta.  If polenta is an oft unappreciated dish, kale is often disdained, even by foodies.  This kale might win over some converts. 

19 April 2014:  The two culinary feats I have yet to master after five decades on Planet Earth are using chopsticks and twirling spaghetti around a fork.  Because of the latter, my appreciation for pastas other than spaghetti has grown tremendously.  For fork challenged diners, a great alternative to the confounding, long, thin strands is the pappardelle noodle, a ribbon pasta easy to work with.  M’Tucci’s Pappardelle con Salsiccia, a ribbon pasta with sausage is an exemplar on how well this noodle works, both from a functional as well as an esthetic perspective.  This dish showcases the Haas made Italian sausage, a medium coarse blend flavored with fennel.  My Kim says it’s of Chicago quality, a huge compliment.  A delicate sauce imbued with braised kale and Pecorino lend more than personality to this winner of an entree.

Ribbon Pasta with Sausage (Pappardelle con Salsiccia) - Haas made Italian sausage, braised kale, pappardelle pasta, pecorino

Ribbon Pasta with Sausage (Pappardelle con Salsiccia)

5 October 2013: The lunch menu includes aptly named sandwich called the AL-BQ Italian Beef, Chef Haas’s interpretation of the Italian beef sandwich held sacred throughout Chicago.  The sandwich is named partially for Al’s #1 Beef in the Windy City and of course, for Albuquerque.  The thinly shredded roasted beef, giardinera and Italian beef au jus  on an Italian hoagie roll make it Chicago while green chile makes it Albuquerque.   Frankly, we enjoyed the AL-BQ Italian Beef more than we did the sacrosanct Italian beef sandwich at Al’s #1 (although Al’s does pack quite a bit more beef into its sandwiches).  So do a number of transplants from the City of Big Shoulders.  For additional authenticity, ask for your sandwich to be served “wet” (as in immersed in the au jus).  It’ll render your sandwich falling apart moist, but that’s why forks were invented. 

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AL-BQ Italian Beef

10 October 2013: In recent years, Albuquerque has experienced not only a pizza resolution, but an evolution of its pizzas.  Almost every purveyor of the pie now offers a pizza or two sans tomato sauce and we’re all the better for it.  Of the six pizzas offered at M’Tucci’s, only two of them are made with tomato sauce.  The Alla Campagna starts with a beauteous golden brown crust topped with goat cheese, caramelized onions, rosemary, pancetta and Balsamic glaze.  The crust is a little thicker than some Neapolitan-style pizzas, especially the cornicione (an Italian term for the “lip” or puffy outer edge of the pizza) which is thick, soft and chewy.  It’s also delicious with the flavor of freshly baked bread.  The Alla Campagna’s ingredients provide wonderful taste contrasts which not only make it an interesting pizza, but a delicious one.

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Alla Campagna: goat cheese, caramelized onions, rosemary, pancetta, balsamic glaze

According to the M’Tucci’s Facebook page, an ancient proverb once declared that if four or more desserts gather in one place, at one time, you will have the power to change the world. Whether or not that proverb rings with truth, one thing is for certain: desserts at this fantastic new Italian restaurant are fantastic. That’s courtesy of pastry chef Eric Moshier who was named America’s best new chef in 2000 by Food& Wine. With that type of pedigree you know the desserts are going to be spectacular.

5 October 2013: Desserts aren’t only spectacular, they’re inventive–some of the Duke City’s most  unique and uniquely delicious pastries.  The most inventive might be the Twinkie L’Italia which Cheryl Alters Jamison described as “zeppelin size fantasy of sponge cake with a cream-and-white-chocolate center under candied pecans and a caramel drizzle.”  Fantasy is right!  This is a terrific dessert.  So is the Cannoli Di Sicilia (crispy cannoli shell, sweet ricotta filling, chocolate chips) with tantalizing citrus notes. 

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Dessert: Twinkie L’Italia and Cannoli

10 October 2013: Another transformative dessert is the Crostada De Limone, a lip-pursing lemon tart as artistic and beautiful to ogle as it is to eat.  It’s one of few lemon tarts in the Duke City that’s actually made well in that it doesn’t reek of artificial ingredients and flavors.   The lemon is actually allowed to taste like lemon, not artificial in the least.  It’s the type of lemon dessert you might find in Florida.  

The restaurant’s coffee is made by Villa Myriam Specialty Coffee, a start-up franchise owned and operated by Juan and David Certain.  The hand-picked Colombian Arabica bean is hand-roasted in Albuquerque.  It’s an excellent coffee, best described on the Villa Myriam Web site: “A very intense fragrance and aroma with an exotic flavor and a medium to heavy body, very balanced cup with a strong character and very pleasant after taste. With nutty cacao and hints of caramel smokiness notes. With the richness and flavor that makes Colombian coffee famous.”

Lemon Tart

Lemon Tart

You can never have too many good Italian restaurants in town. It’s a bit early to tell, but with a formula that includes great food and great fun,  M’Tucci’s Kitchina has the right stuff needed to succeed in a tough market.

M’Tucci’s Kitchina
6001 Winter Haven Road, N.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 503-7327
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 19 April 2014
1st VISIT: 5 October 2013
# OF VISITS: 3
RATING: 24
COST: $$ – $$$
BEST BET: Twinkie L’Italia, Chocolate Cannoli, Borlotti White Bean Soup, Fauxpaccio de Barbabietola Arrostite, Pan Seared Duck Breast, AL-BQ Italian Beef, Alla Campagna Pizza, Crostada de Limone, Seafood Risotto, Pappardelle con Salsiccia


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M'Tucci's Kitchina on Urbanspoon

EVO – North Charleston, South Carolina

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EVO (Extra Virgin Oven), one of the very best pizza restaurants in America

America is a pizza obsessed nation.  Ninety-three percent of us consume at least one slice of pizza per month and collectively, we each eat some 46 slices of pizza per year.  According to Pizza Magazine Quarterly, the pizza industry’s number one business magazine and web site, there are nearly 70,000 pizzerias in the United States (or about as many pizzerias as Santa Fe, New Mexico has residents) to sate our love of pizza.  Almost two-thirds (or about 46,000) of those pizzerias are independently owned and operated.

With such a large number of pizzerias serving the pizza loving public, creating a list anointing the best pizza or any number of best pizzas in the country is an audacious endeavor (just try picking the definitive pizza in the Duke City).  Even defining the criteria for designating the best pizza is a plucky proposition considering the tremendous differences in style between purveyors of the sacrosanct pie.  In September, 2012, The Daily Meal recruited an august panel au courant with all things pizza and asked them to compile a list of the best pizzas across the fruited plain. After much deliberation and trimming, five spots were allotted to each of seven regions.

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The EVO dining room

Because the list of America’s thirty-five very best pizzas includes such paragons of pizza perfection as Pizza Mozza (#25) and Pizzeria Bianco (#26), two transformative pizzas reviewed on this blog, the list has great credibility with me.  Charleston’s contribution to the list is EVO which was rated number thirty-two on the list, placing it in very exclusive company.  Now, Charleston is world renowned for its incomparable Lowcountry cuisine and some of the best seafood in the country, but pizza?  

Yes, pizza and it’s not solely the Daily Meal who holds EVO in such high accord. In 2011, USA Today asked local experts to name just one great pizza parlor in each state and the District of Columbia.  The one pizza from South Carolina singled out was none other than EVO.  Not to be outdone, the Food Network’s Cooking Channel highlighted EVO’s Pistachio Pesto Pizza as one of the ten best pizzas in the fruited plain.

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Perhaps the reason EVO is so highly regarded is because it subscribes to many of the tenets which make Lowcountry cuisine so highly regarded.  That means seasonal produce from local farmers to give its guests a fresh and fabulous farm-to-table experience.  A whopping eighty-five percent of the locally sourced ingredients come from within a twenty mile radius of Charleston. Reading the ingredients on the salad menu is like perusing the vegetable line-up at a farmer’s market.

EVO, which isn’t Rachael Ray misspelling one of her cloying catchphrases,  actually stands for “Extra Virgin Oven. EVO’s pizzas are prepared in the namesake wood-fired oven which renders a perfect Neapolitan-style crust, thin and light yet formidable enough to hold up against a cheesy blanket and generously applied ingredients.  At 800 degrees, your pizza is ready in less than two and a half minutes.  The cornicione, an Italian term for the “lip” or puffy outer edge of the pizza is soft and chewy. Best of all, the pizza has the flavor and aroma of just baked bread with the char marks aficionados love.

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Assorted housemade pickles, bread, housemade pimento goat cheese

EVO eschews the rubbery out-of-a-bag glop the chains use, preparing and pulling their own mozzarella twice daily.  The pizza dough is also made twice a day and all breads are baked on the premises (or rather in the EVO bakery directly behind the pizzeria).  All soups and sauces are prepared slowly and with a lot of care and attention.  Add the term “house-made” to describe the restaurant’s sweet sausage, aioli and dressings.  You can taste the difference.

If freshness has a flavor, you’ll find it in a steaming bowl of EVO’s roasted carrot, ginger and apple soup garnished with toasted pistachios and creme fraiche.  If she-crab soup wasn’t already the signature dish of Charleston, this soup would be a good candidate for that distinction.   It’s an absolutely delicious soup.   The combination of roasted carrots and apples makes sense in that the carrots provide a pleasant sweetness and the tangy apples serve as a bit of a foil for that sweetness  The ginger lends just a bit of assertiveness while the ground toasted pistachios provide a savory quality.  Texturally, the soup has a thick, creamy but not gloppy consistency.

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Pork Trifecta: Red Sauce, Housemade Sausage, Pepperoni, Bacon, Mozzarella, Parmigiano-Reggiano

My week-long visit to the Charleston area left so many aspects of Lowcountry cuisine unexplored that another visit or more is a must.  It took a visit to EVO for me to take in two other Southern staples: housemade pickles and pimento cheese, an appetizer served with the restaurant’s fabulous bread.   The housemade pickles include pickled green tomatoes and fresh cucumbers, both of which are spectacular.  Pickling isn’t necessarily intended to render vegetables lip-puckering tart.  Mission accomplished. Both tomatoes and cucumbers are crisp, fresh and pickled just enough to accentuate their natural flavors without obfuscating them.

Even better is the housemade pimento cheese.  If South Carolina’s nickname wasn’t “The Palmetto State,” it should be “The Pimento State.”  Pimento cheese is revered in the deep south, but nowhere more than in the Carolinas.   Although Cheddar is the traditional foundation for most pimento cheese spreads, EVO occasionally throws a curve ball by using goat cheese to which “personality” is added via cayenne pepper and finely chopped cherry peppers (pimentos).   The pimento spreads easily on the bread, but if you eat the entire loaf, you may not have room left for the pizza.  That would be criminal. 

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Sprecher Root Beer served on a Mason jar

As chronicled in my review of Melvin’s Legendary Bar-B-Q,in South Carolina pork is king.  That doesn’t apply solely to barbecue.  EVO’s signature pizza is the magnificent Pork Trifecta, so named because it’s  topped with housemade sausage, bacon and pepperoni, three ingredients only a cardiologist (and the Child Bride) wouldn’t love.  This is pork candy for the rest of us, the true trifecta of porcine perfection and it’s better than I could possibly describe it.  Available on an eight- or twelve-inch size, it’s also topped with red sauce, the house pulled mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano, all in perfect proportion.

Whether or not EVO belongs on the pantheon of America’s thirty-five very best pizzas is debatable. It’s certainly among the five best pizzas I’ve ever experienced. So many great pizzas, so very little time…that’s the problem with trying to rank and rate the very best.

EVO
1075 E Montague Ave
North Charleston, South Carolina
(843) 225-1796
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 17 April 2014
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: 24
COST: $$
BEST BET: Pork Trifecta; Roasted Carrot, Ginger and Apple Soup; Assorted housemade pickles, bread, housemade pimento cheese

Evo Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Davido’s Pizza & More – Rio Rancho, New Mexico

Davido's Pizza at its new Rio Rancho home

Davido’s Pizza at its new Rio Rancho home

Some might call the American Realty and Petroleum Company (AMREP for short) a pioneering visionary for its early 1960s purchase of over 50,000 acres on the dusty Sandoval County plains that are now Rio Rancho.  Others use different–and not necessarily as complimentary–adjectives to describe the land speculator whose clever marketing attracted hundreds of New Yorkers (among others) to the then untamed western fringes overlooking the Rio Grande. 

They came because Rio Rancho was a “lucrative investment” with half acre lots going for under $800 in the 1960s. They came because Rio Rancho offered “fishing, camping, swimming and golfing in a place where the sun shone 360 days a year.” They came to live in an area which sloped “among the greenest, most fertile valleys in the world.” 

The pizza oven at Davido's

The pizza oven at Davido’s

Middle income retirees from New York initially made up a significant percentage of Rio Rancho’s population, earning the community the sobriquet “Little New York.” The nickname is still bandied about even though Rio Rancho’s population is comprised of people from all over the country.  In its first decade, the fledgling newcomer became the sixth largest city in New Mexico and by 1990, the census indicated the city had grown to more than 32,000 residents. It grew by almost 20,000 residents by the millennium and as of 2009, is already the third most populous city in New Mexico.

Demographically, the City of Vision has become younger, and while it still attracts retirees, its growth is primarily attributable to first-time buyers moving to Rio Rancho for the quality of life advantages it offers (even without fishing and camping). Among the most apparent vestiges of the New York lifestyle in Rio Rancho is the sheer number of high quality pizzerias, many of them which launched years after the peak migration of New Yorkers.

A slice of cheese pizza with green chile

A slice of cheese pizza with green chile

In New York, pizza is practically a religion with nearly than 1700 restaurants in “Metropolis” containing the words “pizza” or “pizzeria” in their name. Not even in terms of per-capita can Rio Rancho boast of such pizza prominence, but it can sing the praises of  highly regarded New York style pizzerias  Sal-E-Boy’s Pizzeria and Venezia’s Pizzeria as well as a very popular gourmet pizza interloper, Turtle Mountain Brewing Company and Dion’s, a local chain.

Add Davido’s Pizza & More to the list of Rio Rancho pizzerias with a claim to the New York pizza heritage. The family patriarch (not named Davido) is indeed a transplanted New Yorker though it is his daughter and son-in-law who own and manage the restaurant. The restaurant opened in April, 2008.  Davido’s was initially situated just about as far north as you can go in Rio Rancho before you’re on Santa Ana Pueblo. It made Placitas, Bernalillo, Santa Ana Pueblo and northern Rio Rancho happy that they no longer had to order pizza  from nearby chains Pizza Hut, Little Caesar’s and Domino’s.

A Meat Stromboli from Davido's in Rio Rancho

A Meat Stromboli from Davido’s in Rio Rancho

In February, 2013, Davido’s moved to a more centrally located location in Rio Rancho. Now situated on heavily trafficked Southern Boulevard, Davido’s now occupies the space previously occupied by Dagmar’s Restaurant & Strudel Haus and prior to that Rocco’s Pizzeria.  All vestiges of Dagmar’s are completely gone.  In terms of ambiance, you can probably describe Davido’s as “utilitarian.”  With only one two-person table for diners to sit, it’s designed as a take-out and delivery operation.  Utilitarian does not, however, mean impersonal.  Davido’s remains a family-owned, family-operated restaurant run by a very nice family which appreciates your business.

The “more” in the restaurant’s name includes five different salads, sandwiches (6-, 9- or 12-inch), stromboli and calzones. The appetizer line-up features bread sticks, cheese bread sticks and wings. For dessert there is cheesecake, chocolate cake, cannoli, fruit cup and tiramisu.  Pizzas come in three sizes–12-, 18- and 24-inches. Features pizzas include the Mexican (refried beans, green chili, mozzarella, Cheddar, lettuce and tomato), the Hawaiian (Canadian bacon and pineapple), the Greek (garlic sauce, spinach, mozzarella, black olive, red onion, artichoke hearts, feta), BBQ chicken, veggie and even a Pizza Bianca (no red sauce).

Lasagna

Lasagna

No pizza menu would be complete without a pizza adorned solely with cheese. Some purists will argue that the crusty canvas needs no other topping.  Davido’s cheese pizza is very good. Sauce is slathered on generously, but not so much that it overwhelms the rest of the pizza. The crust is chewy and pliable; you can easily fold it over vertically the way some New Yorkers like to eat their pizzas.

A combination pizza I recommend with great enthusiasm includes green chile, black olives, sausage, white onions and garlic. Davido’s uses a garlic paste instead of minced garlic, but it’s got plenty of garlicky zest. The green chile would barely register on any piquancy scale, but it has a nice flavor. The sausage has nearly as much piquant bite as does the green chile.

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Italian (prosciutto, capicola, salami) Sandwich

Right out of the oven, the crust has the intoxicating, memory-triggering aroma of baked bread. The edges are thick and have plenty of air holes, but what they have most of is the flavor of bread just out of the oven. There’s relatively little black char on the bottom of the crust.   It’s a good pizza  Rio Rancho will love and for which Placitas pizza aficionados such as my friend Dave will drive just a bit further.

5 April 2013: They’ll also love the Stromboli, an Italian turnover stuffed with various cheeses, vegetables and meats.  Carnivores will gravitate to one called simply “Meaty” because that’s what engorges its golden sheened crust.  The meats include pepperoni, salami, Italian sausage and spicy ground beef topped with melted mozzarella.  Omnivores who like a lot of vegetables with their meats will enjoy the Italian Stromboli which is stuffed with finely chopped green pepper, white onion, black olive with capicola and ham.

Pizza Pinwheels (cheese, pepperoni)

Pizza Pinwheels (cheese, pepperoni)

5 April 2013: The menu also includes several pastas: spaghetti with bread (to which you can add meatballs), ravioli, fettuccini Alfredo (to which you can add grilled chicken), lasagna and baked ziti.  The lasagna portion is large enough for two, not that you’d want to share.  It’s layers of pasta, ground beef and melted mozzarella slathered with a rich, red sauce.  The ground beef is nicely seasoned and the sauce straddles a fine line between sweet and savory.  It’s a surprisingly good lasagna considering it won’t be quite as oven warm when you get it home. 

27 April 2013: Sandwiches for all weather are a popular draw.  Summertime means cold sandwiches such as the Italian (prosciutto, capicola, salami) which is available in six-, nine- or twelve-inch sizes.  Sandwiches are crafted with lettuce, tomatoes, provolone and your choice of mayo, mustard or Italian dressing and a bag of chips.  The Italian is terrific and it starts with an excellent bread canvas.  The bread is soft and chewy, more than formidable enough to hold in all the flavors.  In the winter, you’ll want a hot hero: meatball, chicken parmesan, sausage parmesan, eggplant parmesan or sausage, peppers and onions.  The hot heroes are available only in six-inch size.

New Mexican Cheesesteak Sandwich

New Mexican Cheesesteak Sandwich

27 April 2013: Michael Gonzales, the affable owner of Cafe Bella and a classically trained chef with serious kitchen cred, is a huge fan of one of the smallest items on the Davido’s menu.  That would be pizza pinwheels, an appetizer available in quantities of six or twelve.  Pizza pinwheels resemble cinnamon rolls, but instead of icing, these scrumptious spirals are “iced” with tomato sauce and cheese.  As with much of the Davido’s menu, what makes these special is the delicious bread on which they’re made.  These soft pinwheels are absolutely addictive. 

12 February 2014: One of the highlights of serving as a judge at the 2014 Taste of Rio Rancho was the opportunity to sample some of the City of Vision’s very best foods, some of which were new to me. At the risk of losing my impartiality, one of my very favorite entries was the New Mexican Cheesesteak from Davido’s. “What,” you ask “is a New Mexico cheesesteak?” It’s essentially a Philly cheesesteak on a tortilla with the uniquely New Mexico touch (never mind what the mayor of Denver says) of green chile. More than the sum of its components, it’s sheer deliciousness: lean beef, ribbons of not-quite-caramelized onions, fragrant green peppers, molten white cheese and pleasantly piquant green chile. The tortilla is bursting at the seams with a moist, flavorful Cheesesteak our state legislature should consider for candidacy as the official New Mexico state sandwich.

Philly Cheesesteak

Philly Cheesesteak

12 February 2014: In addition to the New Mexico Cheesesteak, Davido’s offers a Philly Cheesesteak that hearkens back to the days of its predecessor tenant, Rocco’s Pizza. Call it heresy if you will, but Davido’s Philly might be better than Rocco’s. I can only say “might be” because my Kim would only give me one bite of her sandwich. The most obvious difference from Rocco’s is the moistness and texture of the beef. Where Rocco’s used waifishly thin shaved beef, Davido’s slices its beef into strips, retaining moistness and flavor. The creamy white cheese is rich and unctuous, so much better than the Cheez Whiz you’ll find on South Philadelphia’s mean streets.

Davido’s Pizza & More has given Rio Rancho residents another New York inspired pizza and so much more restaurant to call its own.

Davido’s Pizza & More
2418 Southern Blvd
Rio Rancho, New Mexico
(505) 234-6955
Web Site

LATEST VISIT: 12 February 2014
# OF VISITS: 9
RATING: 20
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: Cheese Pizza (by the slice), Pizza, Cannoli, Meat Stromboli, Italian Stromboli, Lasagna, Italian Sandwich, Pizza Pinwheels, New Mexico Cheesesteak, Philly Cheesesteak 

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