Two free glasses or wine or beer per customer is a great way to get diners into a new restaurant, and that's exactly what Zavino is doing until their liquor license comes through. The little bit of money they lose on beer and wine will be more than compensated by the repeat business they're sure to get, because they're making some great pizzas in a snug and charming little corner pizzaria and wine bar on one of Philly's hottest restaurant rows.
Seating is tight at Zavino's window tables and serpentine marble bar, so go during off hours or before the rush. While the owner is pleasant in assisting both customers and servers, his added body in the already cramped interior is unneeded. With a corner location there are sure to be sidewalk tables added when the weather warms up, which may alleviate the crush.
Similar to Stella, Starr's new Pizzaria off South St., Zavino's menu is small and focused with small plates of antipasta, cheese, cured meats, salads, and vegetables. Zavino also features some larger entree specials.
And, of course, there are the pizzas. The pizza oven at Zavino is gas with fruit woods tossed in, but still kicks out a crispy pizza with nice blistering. Four out of seven of Zavino's 12-inch pizzas (all priced $8-$13) are vegetarian.
The roasted butternut squash at only $5 still seemed a little skimpy for what it was - 5 or so cold slices of sweet balsamic glazed roasted squash topped with a smattering of arugula and three shavings of Pecorino. I don't see them pricing this dish at $3 or $4, so...here's where they make some moolah. Tasty enough starter, though.Mushrooms are a favorite pizza topping of mine, so we choose The Kennett with bechemel, Claudio's Mozzarella, roasted onions, and a mix of oyster, crimini and shiitake mushrooms.
Ooh, bechemel sauce on pizza is so good. At first I was hoping for a little more onion/herb/garlic pop, but then, thinking back on all the mushroom soups I've eaten when I lived in Kennett Square (the pizza's namesake and source of the mushrooms), the creamy and mildly musty pizza captured those soups perfectly.
Compared to Stella's pizza, I found Zavio's pizza a smidge thicker (but by no means thick-crusted), a little crispier and not suffering as much from droop when a slice was picked up. I would not be able to declare a winner between Stella and Zavino without having pies from both pizzarias in front of me, and even then I think it would be a draw, not to mention completely useless unless you're a pizza übersnob. Nothing wrong with having good pizza in two different parts of town.
For some, this is all you need to know: you're far less likely to dine amongst families with children at Zavino than you are at Stella.
A slice of chocolate pear cake (picture was so poor it wasn't worth including) in a pool of chocolate sauce and topped with a dense whipped cream was fine, but nothing to write home about. Before ordering dessert, remember that some of the best gelato in the country is right across the street at Capogiro.
112 S. 13th St., Philadelphia, PA 19107