Local Restaurant Review – The Tuscan Oven

10 Feb

Pizza is so delicious. Crispy crust, tangy sauce, and gooey cheese. Mmm. Good pizza is one of my favorite things.

Thankfully, there are several restaurants in town that have fantastic pizza. One of my favorites is the Tuscan Oven. Mr. Parker and I went to the Tuscan Oven fairly early in our relationship and we had one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had in my life, no joke. Not only was it delicious, but it was no more expensive than a takeout or delivery pizza you’d get from a national chain for a MUCH better pie.

The pizzas are literally baked in a wood-fired brick oven that’s visible from most tables in the restaurant. You can also dine at the pizza bar, which provides a close-up view.

The decor is sort of classy casual, and fellow diners were dressed in everything from suits to jeans.

We chose the Abbondanza, which has sausage, pepperoni, capicolla ham, and bacon. Tuscan Oven’s pizzas come in 10″, 13″, and 15″, and we picked the 13″, thinking we’d both get plenty of pizza, plus he could take the leftovers to work for lunch. We were right! The medium Abbondanza runs about $15. We ended up taking two slices with us. Had we unlimited capacity stomachs, we probably would’ve finished it.

I ordinarily prefer pizzas that have veggies or interesting toppings like artichokes, but I’m glad we went with Mr. Parker’s Abbondanza selection. The meats were flavorful and the cheese was abundant. The crust might be my favorite part, though: it’s light and crisp on the outside, and just slightly soft and chewy on the inside. It isn’t too dry or too bready or too spongy. It is perfect.

We returned to the Tuscan Oven last Friday, February 4. The place was packed and we had a 20 minute wait. First available seating was at the pizza bar. I wish we would have waited a few extra minutes for a table, because dining at the bar wasn’t the best experience.

We didn’t have a view of the oven because the lid of the topping cooler was propped up in front of us, and we were sandwiched between two other pairs of diners. It was difficult to have a conversation, we had hardly any space for our plates and drink glasses, and we were near the kitchen door and the entryway, so people were constantly walking behind us.

Our server also stood behind us to take our orders, which was odd. She stood behind us and reached between us to give us or food and drinks, too, which was uncomfortable. I realize the place was very busy, but I was sitting on the corner and she could’ve stepped to the side and at least made eye contact with us. I was afraid to turn my head to look at Mr. Parker for fear a hand holding food or a drink refill would come shooting between us.

While I had initially planned on having a glass of wine, the frenzied pace made me reconsider and I went for a Diet Coke instead. Mr. Parker had Dr. Pepper. Our waitress refilled Mr. Parker’s several times and ignored mine. I guess it must be nice to be so handsome, eh? (Or maybe have it be assumed you’re the one paying the bill and thus determining the tip.)

I ordered a Caprese salad, which looked beautiful and had great flavor but was freezing cold. I had to let it sit for a few minutes before it was even room temperature enough to eat, and by then our pizza was there, and we had no room for anything.

We had been looking forward to enjoying some wine, pizza and a relaxing Friday night conversation, but that’s not what we got. Service was fast – very fast. We had our drinks and my salad within minutes, and our pizza was ready perhaps 5 – 10 minutes after we sat down.

We picked the Abbondanza again, which was just as phenomenal as the first. I spent the entire next day regretting my idea for Mr. Parker to once again take the leftovers to work for lunch. 🙂

We each had time to eat a slice before our check was being presented and we were asked if we wanted a box. Guess we weren’t getting dessert! I definitely felt rushed. I don’t expect to occupy seats for two hours, but I definitely don’t want my meal to be shorter than the time it took to get a table. It wasn’t just us; our server attempted to present the check to the couple next to us only to be met with protests of “But we’re not done!”

In addition to pizza, the Tuscan Oven offers a variety of salads and pastas. Their full menu is here. Although we didn’t have the relaxing pizza date I was hoping for, I do highly recommend the Tuscan Oven. I would suggest visiting on perhaps a Thursday evening and choosing a table instead of the pizza bar. That way, you’ll have adequate space, be able to make eye contact with your server, and enjoy a more relaxing experience.

I don’t think the imperfections we experienced are typical of the restaurant, and they definitely weren’t serious. We understand that when establishments are incredibly busy, it becomes difficult to do everything perfectly. Their pizza is still excellent. We will absolutely be back.

4801 North 9th Avenue Pensacola, Florida 32503

Open Tuesday – Thursday, 11 am – 9 pm Friday and Saturday, 11 am – 10 pm

http://www.thetuscanoven.com

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