Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Sergio's Pizza Restaurant

A pizza joint is one of those places where a customer should feel comfortable, basking in the aromas of cheese, sauce and crust. It's sort of like that feeling a man gets when he struts into the neighborhood barber shop, takes a seat in the barber's chair and is immediately at ease. Apparently, Sergio's Pizza Restaurant caught wind of this whole neighborhood thing a while ago. Sergio's is "every man's" place. Now, this isn't to say that women don't enjoy a good slice of pizza every now and again, because we do.

As luck would have it, Sergio's caters to the everyday people—fire fighters, office workers, cable installers, nurses, policemen—all of whom were enjoying a hearty lunch during my first visit to Sergio’s. It's a blue collar haven, a place to go to get a good meal at an obscenely affordable price.

Aesthetically speaking, Sergio’s Pizza Restaurant is very ordinary and mundane. There are no crisp fancy table linens, no sparkling crystal that catches the rays of the sun just so, and no genteel hostess to flash a plastic smile in your direction and say “This way to your table.” In fact, when we walked in, a woman loitering around the cash register waved her arms in a "Welcome to my kingdom" gesture and said “Seat yourself,” which we did.

The look of the menu is unpretentious, but don't let that inconsequential simplicity be your barometer of what the food will taste like. Since it is a pizza restaurant, the first item listed is, well, pizza. If you plan to order a pizza but don't see a particular topping that you want on the pizza, be sure to ask your waiter/waitress about it because they just may be able to provide it for you. When we first sat down, a basket of warm bread and butter was placed in the center of the table. I couldn't tell if the bread was fresh baked, but it was tasty.

It was fairly cold outside at lunch today, so I wanted something to warm my insides a bit. A tasty bowl of hearty and robust tomato soup with big chunks of tomatoes and herbs that you could actually see would have gone down the pipes splendidly. Unfortunately, the soup of the day—the only soup on the menu—was chicken and rice. Guess which soup I chose? Not wanting to dilly-dally, both my husband and I ordered a small pizza. I opted for a white cheese pizza and added chicken, spinach and onions, while Maarten salivated over a chicken and mushroom pizza. When asked if they have thin crust pizza, the waitress replied that they only have one crust, which is that of a pan pizza.

There wasn't much to do while waiting for our cup of soup to arrive. I guess I could have imagined hopefully that someone was in the back of the kitchen busying themselves with chopping fresh celery, onions and carrots, then tossing it all into a pot of steaming chicken stock loaded with rice and fresh cooked chicken, then letting it slowly simmer to perfection. Hey, one can dream.

Maarten and I were caught up in animated conversation when the waitress brought both pizzas to the table with a flourish. "Here it is!" She announced this like she was showing off a new car to the winning contestant on a game show.

Somewhere from deep within my core, a low rumble worked its way up from my gut to my throat and, finally, whooshed out of my mouth. "Whoooooa!" What a good looking pair of pizzas. I guessed the small sized pizza to be 10" in diameter, which was more than enough for me (unless I was feeling particularly greedy, in which case I would need two, perhaps three). The crust, although not thin, wasn't an extra thick monstrosity full of air pockets and devoid of flavor. This was a good thing as I really wanted to fill up on actual pizza rather than be subjected to the severe tummy swelling that can sometimes accompany an abundance of crust. A white cheese pizza is my preference over a tomato sauce based pizza, so my choice appeared to be a perfect one. Sergio's was very generous with the toppings and, instead of getting tiny bits of chicken shrapnel, the pizza was loaded with chunks large enough to choke on, as well as a liberal helping of spinach (although my initial thoughts were that the spinach was frozen and not fresh, a suspicion which my palate later confirmed). Nonetheless, that first bite sent shockwaves through my mouth as the ripples of flavor coursed over my tongue. When I was finally able to wrangle in the long string of cheese that was threading from the plate to my mouth, I sat back in my chair and sighed. It was good.

Since mushrooms and I aren't on speaking terms, I didn't want to go anywhere near Maarten's pizza, but I have it on good authority—namely his—that the pizza was very good. He did note, however, that, like the spinach on my pizza, the mushrooms weren't fresh and likely came from a jar. Still, the combination of cheese, chicken and mushrooms made for a very delectable looking pie.

I really didn't know what to expect from Sergio's Pizza Restaurant. In fact, the melancholy mood that I was in before heading there was enough to push all other extraneous thoughts—even food—out of my head. So Sergio's turned out to be a nice surprise. This could very well be my go-to place for good pizza and a tremendously reasonable price. And who knows? Maybe next time I'll try the cheese ravioli, or lasagna, or chicken breast parmigiana, or souvlaki chicken (no...they're not limited to just pizza).

Would I recommend Sergio’s Pizza Restaurant? This is definitely a place to try, and I wholeheartedly recommend it, especially if you’re looking for someplace with a laid-back attitude.

Is Sergio’s Pizza Restaurant a good value or do you need to take out a loan to eat here? This has turned out to be one of the best values I’ve come across in Stamford thus far. By way of example, a small Hamburger Pizza is only $6.00, Baked Manicotti will set you back $7.00, and a glass of house wine (Burgundy, Cabernet, White Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Merlot, Chianti or Chablis) is a mere $2.75.

What about atmosphere and ambience? Sergio’s is very basic, no-frills dining that has a definite neighborhood, “where everybody knows your name” feel to it. During lunch, there wasn’t any loud and obnoxious music spilling through the speakers; in fact, I never noticed overhead speakers, but that’s not to say they didn’t exist. Overall, Sergio’s is a comfortable place to grab a bite without feeling all eyes are upon you.

Sergio's Pizza Restaurant
Sergio's is so no-frills that they don't have a website or a menu on the web.
985 East Main Street
Stamford, CT 06902

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